Happy Birthday to the GREAT New Yorker HARVEY KEITEL : in my eyes he’s up there in the top 20 actors of all time, displaying passion & energy in some of my favorite films of all time : I remember watching Harvey give a powerhouse of a display for a young Scorsese in Mean Streets alongside De Niro and after watching realising this guy is gona be the new Brando, of course his collaborations with Marty are incredible and some of his best work but for me My top two Keitel performances both came in 1992 and both exploded from the screen like a stick of dynamite, Mr White in Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs and of course his raw and disturbing LT in Abel Ferrara’s no nonsence Bad Lieutenant : for me Keitel stands tall with the greats of film, his performances have been varied and most of all consistently GREAT : Happy 82nd Legend !!
A kid who was once celebrated in his local town, given the key to the region and free Ice Cream for life for solving local crimes is now 31, he has low self-esteem, his popularity has decreased and has become the butt of most jokes, but then a chance arrises from a client who’s boyfriend was murdered and it’s upto The Kid Detective to solve his first real case : ORIGINALITY in film is rare these days so when a movie comes out that truly blows your socks off with it’s dark humor, wild and WTF scenario’s and a new take on the private detective in small town USA then you have to pay attention, you have to rewatch it as the film’s that bloody good and then you have to find some way of telling your family and friends… “listen, this may not conform with some of your believes, it may embarrass, it will make you laugh and it will certainly make you feel uncomfortable, but hell The Kid Detective is certainly worth the watch” : what struck me most about Evan Morgan’s movie is it’s serious story arc about murder, kidnapping and adults abusing their power, it’s told with humor that’s close to the bone as you follow young Abe Applebaum through his days of youth, happiness and town stardom to this washed out, guilt ridden 31yr old who’s self pity and attitude makes you question everything about him, as the story unfolds you find yourself not agreeing with alot of his choices but somehow your still rooting for him, cheering him on nevertheless : I felt Adam Brody is outstanding, for me it’s his best role yet and along with Morgan’s original and edgy script, enjoyably quick pace, perculiar town’s folk and the flashbacks of a young Abe solving petty crimes that’s cute as a button The Kid Detective is one of the brightest films to hit our screens this year : it’s BRILLIANT ★★★★½
An ex-private investigator is hired to look into a suspicious death in the town of Wander : First film I’ve seen by Canadian filmmaker April Mullen and hopefully not the last : WANDER is one of them small town, nothing is quite what it seems type of movie that I found engrossing from the start, those early scenes of conspiracy theorists Arthur played by Aaron Eckhart and his faithful sidekick Jimmy played by old timer Tommy Lee Jones sat in the desert recording their latest deep web podcast that goes out live under the stars had me hook, line and sinker : with his bushy beard, big wide eyes and a limp Aaron Eckhart gives Wander it’s beacon, a lighthouse of a performance that shines throughout, he shows us the pain and trauma of his character who was once a family man, had everything going for him until a car accident kills his young daughter and leaves his wife in a comatose state : Arthur now lives in a camper van in the desert, in the middle of nowhere and spends his days looking after his dog Charlie, pod-casting with Jimmy and visiting his wife in a nursing facility…. one day he receives a visit by a women who wants to aquire his services as a Private Investigator, hiring him to look into her daughter’s suspicious death and so starts the domino effect, paranoia blurred with reality…. Arthur is down the rabbitt hole and he’s scrambling to get out : Wander is one of the better movies to come out of this crazy year, a small time GEM that’s well directed by April Mullen, well acted by it’s superb cast and has some beautiful New Mexico photography, it’s 90mins of character driven intrigue that delves into mental illness, the feeling of loss whilst touching on government cover-up, conspiracy and murder : ENJOYED very much ★★★★
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 ★★★★
Yesterday we lost a giant in Daria Nicolodi : her contribution to the horror genre and Italian Cinema can only be described as immense : her legacy will live on through her work, starring in films such as Deep Red, Tenebrae, Opera, Paganini Horror and Inferno and her partnership with horror maestro Dario Argento she also co-wrote Suspiria and provided the voice of Mater Suspiriarum, Daria also wrote the Argento classic Inferno : her work has played a huge part in me growing into the Cinephile I am today and my enjoyment of her work will continue to play on until I too find myself in the arms of whatever comes next RIP x
Number 3 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : When a 12-year-old girl is possessed by a supernatural entity, her mother seeks the help of a priest to save her : Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, The Exorcist came out in 1973 from filmmaker William Friedkin who also directed The French Connection & Sorcerer amongst others : I don’t think there’s ever been another horror movie about possession that’s even come close to scaring me half as much as The Exorcist still does, the way Friedkin slowly tells us the story of Chris MacNeil an actress and her 12yr old daughter Regan entwined with Father Karras who’s struggling with the loss of faith & loss of a loved one is not only compelling, but adds so much depth to the film and it’s characters, so by the time the possession truly takes hold of Regan and her bed starts rocking, head starts spinning and the vomit starts flowing the fear factor has already set in, your pulse is racing, your breathing has become shallower & you start burying your head in your hands in an attempt to hide from this devilish force of intimidation : I revisited The Exorcist two days ago and apart from the shocking possession scenes that include Regan violently masturbating with a crucifix, spider crawling down the stairs, forcing her mother between her legs & her head spinning 360 degrees there are also so many terrific sub-moments, I really loved the excavation scenes, the sound, color and imagery is so haunting during this beautifully shot opening to the movie, watching the broken Karras visit his mother in the hospital is emotionally draining, the subliminal hidden image of the demon shown during a scene with Ellen Burstyn really caught me off guard again and the scene with Lee J. Cobb’s brilliant Lieutenant is questioning Chris at her home is captivating, “can I have your autograph” really was a lighter moment : Jack Nitzsche’s score flows through the film better than most in it’s genre, it’s haunting and memorable and adds greatly to the films atmosphere and considering it’s low budget the film really come through with it’s creepy special effects that haven’t aged one bit : I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better performance by Ellen Burstyn the way she portrays being the helpless mother is phenomenal, Jason Miller is the embodiment of a broken priest and considering his limited screen time previous to this film was outstanding, Max von Sydow plays the elderly, tired yet commited Father Merrin wonderfully well but it’s Linda Blair as Regan who you will remember when think about this film, her vulgar, unpleasent display whilst being possessed by the devil is something to behold : The Exorcist is not for the faint hearted, it’s an unforgettable, multi layered horror movie that contains one of the most horrific final acts in cinematic history ★★★★★
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 ★★★★★
Number 5 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : The film follows a group of friends who fall victim to a bunch of psychopaths whilst travelling to visit a family grave : The very first adult horror movie I watched was Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE : I was twelve years of age and I remember sneaking over a friends house, inserting this battered video tape and being terrorised by these cannibalistic serial killers led by Gunnar Hansen’s terrifying Leatherface and the house of horrors he lived in : I’ve since watched Texas pretty much every year since and although it’s suprisingly not that bloody it’s the look of authenticity of what takes place in that farm house, especially the infamous dinner scene that really did a number on me : watching Marilyn Burn’s Sally tied to that chair screaming hysterically, the extreme close up of her twitching eyeball, the manic laughing of the depraved family sat around the table and the total insanity of what’s happening is incredibly unsettling : it’s the only horror movie on the list that makes me feel queasy, uneasy & downright afraid right from the gecko, from the creepy hitchhiker & his antics, the bringing down of Grandpa played by John Dugan and that hammer scene to Pam played by the brilliant Teri McMinn who stumbles into the room full of feathers & bones mostly human but some are animal, the camera taking us on a tour of the carnage that Pam sees before her, the big chicken housed in the smallest of cages, the skulls & tools that were used to mutilate it’s victims, this is nasty, unflinching horror at it’s sweet mercy best : due it’s very low budget the cast was mainly unknown and Gunnar Hansen wore the same Leatherface outfit for the film’s four week shoot, the lack of a score as such and Daniel Pearl’s low angle, handheld at times raw photography gives The Texas Chain Saw Massacre it’s realism and makes Tobe Hooper’s influential horror one of the fines low-budget exploitation movies that’s ever been ★★★★★
Ava is a deadly assassin working for a black ops organization, taking on high profile hits. When a job she’s given goes horribly wrong she is forced to fight for her own survival – Tate Taylor has sharpened his filmmaking skills with 2011’s THE HELP, 2016’s thriller THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and last years horror MA so I was more than excited and slightly intrigued to see how he faired with his first foray into action films : having watched both movies in recent weeks I found AVA more enjoyable than The Old Guard (which I did enjoy) It’s just that AVA packed the sharper bite, the pace was better and the action scenes were gritty and uncomplicated with Stephen Goldblatt the DP contstantly working his magic with each shot : I also enjoy seeing an actor a little out of their comfort zone so watching Jessica Chastain take on this troubled assassin in a lead kick-ass action role was rather fun, of course Jess looked great and the role was certainly no stretch : AVA is packed with delicious fight scenes with Colin Farrell involved in more than one titantic tussle with the hotel room scene nearing the end of the movie one of my favourites : also there’s this terrific supporting cast with John Malkovich as Ava’s handler, Common (a little under used in my opinion) as the ex-boyfriend, Geena Davis and Jess Weixler as Ava’s mum & sister respectively and Ioan Gruffudd & Joan Chen in small but scene stealing roles : the film’s story follows a familiar path, betrayed assassin seeking justice (so there’s nothing new on that front) but if like me your a sucker for action movies that use less brain power, entertain with a fiesty lady holding the reigns to boot then Tate Taylor’s AVA won’t disappoint ★★★★
ps…. a little bit of trivia for you: the film and lead character was originally titled EVE but for some unknown reason the studio changed it to AVA
ROSY : Jess Manafort
Stacy Martin, Nat Wolff, Johnny Knoxville & Tony Shaloub
Interestingly ROSY came totally out of the blue having not seen a poster or watched a trailer and sometimes these little things make a movie more fun and certainly more interesting (not knowing what is coming) – So without spoiling things Jess Manafort’s directorial debut is pretty bizzare yet it somehow manages to captivate, from it’s haunting score that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Woody Allen pic to it’s slow burning narative and wonderful performances from it’s cast – Nat Wolff gives a career besty playing Doug a guy with a few bolts loose who lives on his own but he has a plan and this plan involves Rosy an aspiring young actress played by the wonderful Stacy Martin who gives a GIGANTIC performance that’s sexy, funny and downright crazy – Rosy’s coming together with Doug is alarming, yet by the end of the film you start to think that there’s some chemistry between them (well I did anyhow), everything about the films premise is not quite right but somehow it works and it’s filmmaker Jess Manafort deserves the plaudits for not only her direction but for an exciting, original script – absolutley superb ★★★★
For those of you who follow me on social media or read this movie blog you will know by now that I adore Ridley Scott, his movies and all things Alien but in recent years I have been quite vocal on this legendary directors fall from the dizzy heights of yesteryear to churning out such ordinary movies, average affairs such as Robin Hood, The Counselor, Exodus: Gods and Kings and the pretty dismal Prometheus – I am so conflicted, the one side of me is so grateful to this legendary filmmaker for giving us so many iconic movies but the other side keeps asking the question “why does Ridley Scott continue to direct such sub par movies? take a leaf out of Tarantino and Cameron’s book, maybe direct a film every few years instead of every year?” it’s my opinion that these films will only tarnish his brilliant reputation – I really had hoped that Ridley had turned the corner back in 2015, I absolutley loved The Martian with Matt Damon this was a real return to form from a director in need of some resurection so when it was announced that a new Alien movie was in production a sequel to the dreadful Prometheus nevertheless I was pumped, excited and looking forward to maybe a new chapter in this great series of scifi indulgence…..
Sadly for me though Alien Covenant was not what I hope it would be, yes it was better than Prometheus (well that wasn’t hard now was it) and yes maybe over the last 10yrs The Martian aside it’s one of his better efforts but overall it was a big screen blockbuster that left me feeling flat, it was way too predictable, contained some shitty CGI that made the overall production feel shoddy and unpolished and although Covenant had it’s moments it’s narrative tried to over complicate things so the reasons why we loved the original movies were lost in this world, a franchise that was slowly becoming more about the androids than anything else – Ridley also thought it was a good idea to go all mystical on our asses so inserted some really strange Obi Wan moments featuring David from Prometheus, living like an old wise hermit in a cave, listening to wind chimes and blowing his flute delivering lines such as “you blow and I will do the fingering” I just found all this mumble jumble embarrassing, out of place and lacking any sort of vision, suspense and was almost laughable at times….
I am not saying that Alien Covenant as a movie is a complete disaster, for me it’s not got that Ridley Scott stamp on it – McBride and Fassbender are both terrific in their respective roles and some of the nice homages to previous movies were great to see but overall Covenant felt like a bad dream a two a penny slasher that felt like a rehash of the original movie that is desperately trying to emulate all the things that worked such as (face huggers, chest bursters, acid for blood and so on) yet delivering it all with no panach and most importantly zero tension, yeah it’s a shit load more violent than it’s predecessors but that’s nothing to be proud about, what made 1979’s Alien so damn good was it’s slow burning tension that’s gnaws away at you but with Covenant you feel nothing – most of the films undoing in my opinion is it’s lack of humanity I felt so disconnected to the crew of the ship, the characters in the movie were not developed enough so when they slowly start getting picked off I actually felt very little for them, I was numb and that overall summed up my experience with this movie at it’s finale – I just hope Ridley doesn’t out stay his welcome and he lets go of the Alien reigns and allows a new filmmaker to bring some fresh ideas to this much loved franchise ……★★★½
War Dogs is the unbelievable true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who somehow manage to land a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan – This film is certainly a change of pace for Hangover director Todd Phillips, War Dogs is peppered with delicious humor, stunning cinematography and genius casting but it’s also a pretty dark, intense picture that will have you shaking your head in disbelief at what actually went on, and although some of the story the film is based around has been slightly changed for movie purposes what actually follows is an incredible ride, a ride that’s not only witty, compelling and utterly riveting but one that’s scary as hell – Overall: to spend nearly two hours in the cinema watching a masterclass in acting by Teller & Hill who seem to effortlessly bounce off each other, their energy electric working that insane, exciting War Dogs script was such a joy – two of my favorite scenes from the movie are when the guys travel to Jordan in an attempt to transport their arms to Baghdad (what follows is not only absurdly funny but it also contains some ass twitching moments), the second scene is when Jonah Hill’s Efraim goes all Tony Montana on some local Miami drug dealers (just one of them magical movie moments where the packed cinema erupts with laughter and you just wish you had a remote in your hand to play that moment back) – I had lot’s of fun watching Todd Phillips War Dogs it’s a gem of a movie and one that I can’t wait to watch many more times ★★★★
Leonardo DiCaprio was born on this day in California in 1974 – can you believe DiCaprio is only 39yrs of age? since his film debut in the scifi comedy Critters 3 in 1991 DiCaprio has established himself as one of Hollywood’s acting Elite, amassing 3 Oscar and 9 Golden Globe nominations – DiCaprio has already worked with the likes of Spielberg, Cameron, Mendes, Scott, Nolan, Eastwood, Tarantino and Scorsese (5 times) not bad eh! – The 3 movies pictured above in my view are Essential Leonard DiCaprio – they’re not only great films but they demonstrate Leo’s acting talent and his willing to portray diverse and interesting characters on the screen – recent performances have seen DiCaprio star as Calvin Candie a ruthless plantation owner in Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s epic remake of The Great Gatsby – later this year reunites DiCaprio for a fifth time with director Martin Scorsese in The Wolf of Wall Street a true story based on the rise and fall of wealthy stockbroker Jordan Belfort, if the trailer is anything to go by then this will be another great Leonardo DiCaprio movie….