On her Birthday I’m remembering the beauty and talent of 30s Icon JEAN HARLOW who starred in films such as The Public Enemy alongside Jimmy Cagney, Frank Capra’s 1931 comedy Platinum Blonde, alongside Clark Gable in Red Dust, Howard Hughes war drama Hell Angels, Victor Fleming’s romantic comedy Blond Bombshell and her delightfully funny turn in Dinner at Eight : although Jean was taken way to early she made her mark in Hollywood as one of the funniest, sexiest and sweetest actresses of her era…. she was born on this day in 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri and was the first movie actress to appear on the cover of Life magazine : Jean Harlow made 36 movies and appeared alongside Clark Gable in six of them, she died aged 26 whilst making the 1937 movie Saratoga in which her last line spoken was “Good-bye” : her Hollywood star can be found at 6910 Hollywood Blvd….
A drifter is tricked into a taking a job at the now condemned Willy’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become a fight for survival, can the Janitor make it out alive? : ANYONE and I mean ANYONE who does not like the Kevin Lewis picture WILLY’S WONDERLAND needs to take a good look at themselves, maybe start by rewatching the movie and then indulge a little and start putting tongue in cheek in your daily Cereal : I mean what’s not to like when watching the rather awesome NICOLAS CAGE dancing whilst playing a pinball f##king game and then beating the holy shit out of a bunch of totally insane animatronic teddy bears including Ozzie Ostrich and Gus Gorilla in a rather crazed family play setting? : and as we’ve seen before Cage is not only a terrific actor but one cool dude and his character in Willy’s Wonderland who’s known as the Janitor does not utter a single word, instead he just guzzles these canned drinks to a timer set on his watch, cleans out the trash and switches his tees everytime he goes on a killing spree : the soundtrack by Émoi is pretty darn great, the supporting cast including Emily Tosta are superb and the film’s untamed, non-stop action is creative & plentiful : so if your looking for Cameron Poe Cage, Castor Troy Cage or even Benjamin Franklin Gates Cage then I’m sorry to tell you all three are either in Hibernation or Dead so you’re going to be very disappointed this is Bat Shit Crazy Cage who just loves nothing more than serving up some kick ass justice in small town who knows where : an instant cult classic with an 88min runtime that just flies by…. please please sanction a sequel…. I WANT MORE ★★★★½
Bill O’Neal infiltrates the Black Panther Party as an informant for FBI Agent Mitchell and J. Edgar Hoover : I didn’t know much about the Hampton story going in so Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah was as much of a history lesson as it was a fine slice of character driven, tense & moving story telling that is brilliant from it’s start to it’s unsavoury finale : along with it’s score, Chicago location and a rather brief yet compelling performance by Martin Sheen as Hoover, I’m still gushing over the intensity level that Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield brought to their respective roles, both actors are captivating on screen and how about the wonderful Dominique Fishback as Hampton’s girlfriend WOW what a strong & sensitive part she plays in giving heart to this true story set in the late 60s where there’s no real winner and the outcome was inevitable : I don’t know how much of King’s story is how it went down but the gunfight at the chapter office with O’Neal sneaking away, the scene in the car with O’Neal being interrogated by two BPP members suspicious of his antics and that sureal, heart stopping moment when Hampton and his Panthers meet with the Crowns are amongst the many highlights of this tremendous biopic : a MUST watch ★★★★
Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul : Saviour Maud….. YIKES !! from those traumatic early shots of Maud sat on the floor with her hands covered in blood to that unthinkable, unforgettable beach scene SAINT MAUD is one of the more haunting movie treats I’ve seen in years : the direction and psycho religious script by Glass is quite something and it’s dark shadowy, neon lit imagery that’s shot in and around Scarborough really does match the director’s tone and vision, for me reminiscent of some of the scenes out of Bigelow’s Near Dark, the mood is muggy yet essential and it’s ultimate effect is utterly unsettling : Maud played by Morfydd Clark goes all Annie Wilkes in her obsession with Amanda who’s played by Jennifer Ehle : suffering from a past trauma Maud is unstable, her belief in this holy possession driving her forward is exhilarating yet chilling and having the pleasure in watching Morfydd Clark for eighty minutes inhabit and capture this darkness is a vision in itself : so movie fans if you love a slow burn horror with scenes of cockroaches, bloody images, levitation, visions of christ and death by scissors then Saint Maud the film debut of Rose Glass will tender your every needs ★★★★½
Two Cops track down a serial killer in California in the early 90s : Possibly my favorite movie sub-genre is the cat-and-mouse cop thriller, I just love them and when you throw together a crazy good 30yr old script by John Lee Hancock, an edgy, moody atmosphere that’s nail biting and character driven and three stonking good performances from Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto you have what I believe is one of the best adult themed cop thrillers in years : if your a fan of the action genre and like your finale spoon fed with a definitive resolution then I’d give it a miss, as the title refers it’s THE LITTLE THINGS in the movie that drive this thriller, quieter moments such as the moment Deke’s played by Denzel talks faith and breakfast with Rami’s Jimmy on the bridge over looking the latest crime scene, the emotion of Deke visiting his ex wife, Leto’s brilliance as his character Sparma teases Jimmy played by Malek in the desert and my favorite scene when Deke’s breaks into Sparma’s home looking for a clue is pertinent, gripping and well played by Denzel and Rami : I’ve watched the movie twice now and I’m still undecided whether they got the right guy, so much depth and baggage with each character, it’s just one of those movies that in ten years time will be hailed a classic ★★★★½
One day on vacation with his wife Scott Carey gets exposed to a mysterious cloud of radiation and insecticide, six months later he starts to shrink, the doctors are helpless and Scott finds himself spiriling downwards into a world of unthinkable madness : Every year I submerge myself in the classic scifi of yester-year, and in my opinion they don’t come much bigger or better than the 1957 Universal Picture The Incredible Shrinking Man : the movie is a tremendous adaption of Richard Matheson’s 1956 novel The Shrinking Man and is brought to the screen by the master of 50s science fiction Jack Arnold who previously directed three gems of the era 1953’s It Came from Outer Space, 1954’s atmospheric Creature from the Black Lagoon & the scary 1955 gem that is Tarantula : although each of these are classics in their own right I just felt The Incredible Shrinking Man has this captivating aura surrounding it, a quite stunning movie with mind boggling & creative effects that are unbelievable, I can only imagine what it was like to sit in a movie theatre in 1957 watching Scott start to shrink into his new world of danger and uncertainty, it must have been watched with wide eyed terror : the acting in the movie is top notch too with Randy Stuart & April Kent catching the eye but it’s a terrific, athletic turn by Grant Williams that makes you believe, reminding me of a young Burt Lancaster with those scenes in the basement which were shot on Stage 12 of Universal Studios being quite unforgettable as Scott fights off floods, starvation and a deadly black widow spider : the end to the movie left me cold, it’s one of those scenes you want more from, your left saddened by what transpires but are ultimately in agreeance that it could not of ended any other way : rewatching some of the CLASSIC universal stock from the 50’s makes me wish I was from that time, an era full of ICONIC science fiction horror that opens up your imagination & consumes you with excitement and wonder : so if you’ve never delved into the past for your movie fix then what are you waiting for? start with Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man and you can thank me later….. ★★★★★
A young woman seeks vengeance against those who committed an unforgiveable act to a friend from her past : Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut Promising Young Woman is one of the most relevant, impactful and though provoking movies that I’ve ever seen : WOW the colors, the quaint coffee shop and the Britney Spears vibe HOOKED ME and it’s darkness and originality and that devistating final act that really caught me offguard, that left me fighting for breath, cold and SPEECHLESS : with iconic roles in her rear view mirror such as Irene in Drive, Daisy in The Great Gatsby and Cathy in Never Let Me Go Carey Mulligan never ceases to amaze me with her ability to make a character her own and in Cassandra she teases, she smiles and ultimately destroys you with her actions and although the film has some flashes of humor and lighter romantic moments such as Mulligan & Burnham singing along to Paris Hilton’s Stars are Blind in the convience store it’s the way the film delivers it’s key moments such as when Cassandra visits Dean Walker at the school, a squeaky bum scene delivered with the impact of a freight train, I was like WTF hands to the mouth whispering to myself she’s not has she? and that cafe scene with Madison and what follows, Alison Brie is growing into quite the actress and what follows is truly terrifying yet rewarding in a bizzare fuck you sort of way : LOVE Jennifer Coolidge & Clancy Brown who are PERFECT as the parents and Laverne Cox is fabulous as Cassandra’s friend and boss at the coffee shop but essentially Promising Young Woman is all about Carey Mulligan and it’s WICKIDLY good story about ACCOUNTABILITY ★★★★½
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 ★★★★
A devout community suffering from a plague is torn apart by a beautiful young woman and the forces of witchcraft and possession : I do love me a good folk horror movie, with the likes of Witchfinder General, Blood on Satans Claw, The Witch amongst my favorites in the genre, films that oooze the occult, darkly bewitched by supernatural elements, carry the stench of an evil force fighting against or part of a religious group and there usually set in some sort of rural farm community or isolated island in the middle of nowehere : Thomas Robert Lee’s The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is another such movie, one that evokes a slow burn foreboding with flashes of unsettling scenes alongside it’s dark and eerie setting : the story in the movie is fine but does get a bit messy in parts and some it’s characters are a little underused but nevertheless there’s a trio of very strong performances from the likes of Catherine Walker who plays Agatha, Catherine was excellent in Liam Gavin’s very scary horror movie A Dark Song, Jared Abrahamson who was last seen in American Animals and Jessica Reynolds in her movie debut gives a haunting painful display as Audrey : I really felt for poor Bridget in the movie played by the wonderful Hannah Emily Anderson, she first looses her child and then this hideous curse is placed upon her to devistating effect, the tooth scene, shaving blade and that moment with the sheep is very upsetting : the idea of transporting Audrey in a box as not to be seen by the towns folk was terrific, as was the idea of Agatha’s land only producing crops, I also found the film’s sets and lighting superbly effective throughout : so overall if your a fan of these slow building, folk horror movies then The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw will thrill and chill your bones : LOVED IT ★★★★
A woman and two men find themselves on the run in the Irish countryside after a heist gone wrong : OK in this incredibly pc world of ours if your offended by two young English actors in Olivia Cooke and Ben Hardy playing the lead roles in an Irish dark humored heist movie then get over it, Barnaby Thompson’s rollocking new movie is a low budget gem that not only showcases the beauty of Ireland but entertains and will definitely give you a giggle or two : PIXIE is my kinda movie jam, from it’s quirky characters including the typical and not so in Colm Meaney playing the typical Dermot O’Brien and Alec Baldwin who plays the not so typical Father Hector McGrath, both actors look like they had a blast with their small yet pivotel roles and THAT church shootout scene is totally and utterly box office : Ready Player One’s Olivia Cooke plays Pixie the clever manipulative lead in the story who’s out for revenge, cause a little chaos and hopefully nab a ticket to San Francisco in the run in, the fun she has with the two lads Frank & Harland played by Ben Hardy and Daryl McCormack is superb and the scene with the gas attendent is downright hilarious and cute to boot : so if like me you love a good IRISH film, with some gorgeous scenery filmed by John de Borman, a dark & humor filled script by Preston Thompson and yet another devilishly good turn by Ned Dennehy who plays an Irish hitman then you’ll wana check this one out : THUMBS UP from this crazy cat ★★★★
It’s Chicago in 1927 and tension’s are rising as Ma Rainey and her band are about to record a song at a a recording session : Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a sublime character study that delves deep into our history and follows a group of black recording artists and their struggles with religion, race and exploitation : Viola Davis once again shows us why she’s regarded as one of the modern greats, and although the wonderful Maxayn Lewis lends her moaning vocals for Ma Rainey it’s Viola’s appearance and mannerisms that gives life to the Mother of Blues, she truly steals the show with her swagger and those big eye’s staring at those around her, she’s a strong woman and those scenes that involve an altercation with a police officer outside the recording studio, Ma demanding that Sylvester gets paid on his own and that Coca-Cola moment before continuing with her set is testiment to her character and belief : the picture is also a poignant reminder of the immense talent of Chadwick Boseman, his turn as troubled trumpet player Levee Green leaves you cold, a chilling virtuoso that has you pondering what could have been, it’s not really a surprise to anybody that knew Chadwick that he actually mastered the trumpet for his part and what a superb performance he turns in, that moment he tells the rest of the band what happened to his mother is so fierce you could hear a pin drop : the rest of Ma Rainey’s band are not too shabby either, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts who’s roles as Toledo, Cutler and Slow Drag respectively add so much depth and balance to the film’s storytelling and along with it’s fine tuned script written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, costume & set design that adds authenticity and it’s searing renditions of Ma’s songs will make your toes tap & heart sing : overall George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a wonderful picture that doesn’t drag it’s heels with unnecessary narrative yet delivers it’s message and gives us the gift of two incredible performances and a small sample of Ma Rainey’s wonderful tunes ★★★★½
A woman who believes that she will die tomorrow spreads her thoughts to others around her in a small town like a contagion : I’ve seen a bunch of strange movies this year but Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow takes the biscuit : from it’s flashing colors, dreamlike images and a cover of Mozart’s Lacrimosa playing on repeat, Seimetz’s picture is both haunting and strangely captivating as we find ourselves witnessing some highly irregular characters going about their daily life talking about the sex life of Dolphins, wanting to come back from death as a leather jacket and rivers flowing with period blood : I’m not sure I got what the movie was trying to say but it’s cast especially Kate Lyn Sheil who is quite mesmerising as the free spirited Amy, who loves nothing more than pouring out her emotions by the touch of a wall or floor board as she slow dances in her own space and the PJ wearing, confused Jane played by the tremendous Jane Adams makes She Dies Tomorrow insanely gnarly, utterly watchable and without question thought provoking : overall this movie will divide many with it’s unusual plot line, tackling the likes of anxiety, death etc and believe me it’s not an easy watch but as a movie fan I highly recommend you give it a go, it’s original story telling which is rare these days, colors that engulf the screen creating this alternate reality appearance, the fabulous ensemble with Josh Lucas, Chris Messina and Michelle Rodriguez in minor roles and the fact that Amy Seimetz’s talent and voice needs to be explored more in the future makes this movie essential viewing ★★★★
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?