True Romance


Viewed – 21 July 2021 Blu-ray

In the early to mid nineties, one name seemed to reignite cinema as we know it and seemed to make movies exciting again. That name was Quentin Tarantino. At the time his movies, both those he directed and the ones he simply wrote, influenced me in my own writing. Most notably this lovers-on-the-run thriller from 1993. Directed by the late Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) this tells the story of Elvis-obsessed Clarence (Christian Slater) who after falling for newbie call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) decides to confront her pimp, Drexel (Gary Oldman) to reclaim her belongings … yet after the meeting goes horribly wrong, Clarence comes into accidental possession of a suitcase full of cocaine.

This is shot with Scott’s distinct style; smokey interiors, sunsets, garish colours and soft focus. Something he put to great effect in movies such as Top Gun and The Last Boyscout. He’s also a great fit for Tarantino’s snappy, pop-culture filled script, helping to get the most out of a colourful cast, which also includes Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken and even a stoner cameo by Brad Pitt. There’s many stand-out scenes here, such as the now iconic Sicilian scene between Walken and Hopper, many quotable lines (“I like you Clarence, always have …always will!”), and even side characters seem to jump off the screen. However, I’ve always felt the movie is held back a tad by the fact Clarence comes across as a bit of an asshole sometimes. It also didn’t feel right how easily Alabama dismisses certain crazy things Clarence does. Yet as an unconventional love story, and despite their flaws, I still found myself liking these guys.

Like Natural Born Killers, Reservoir Dogs etc, at the time this came under fire by the censors for its violence, and yes it’s violent (especially the Tony Soprano vs Alabama scene) but it’s all larger than life, and by today’s standards – rather tame. Yet this is still one of Tarantino’s most entertaining scripts, and remains a nineties classic well worth your time.

The newly restored 4K release from Arrow Video is a difficult one to judge. Mostly due to Tony Scott’s directing style which delivers an overly soft, yet noticeably grainy image. The HDR implementation does seem to bring out the colours, and overall detail is good, if not exactly reference quality. Soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is crisp, and the various scenes involving music really deliver (Drexel’s club especially). Extras are plentiful, many of which are carried over from the previous Blu-ray, including deleted scenes, interviews and four commentaries, from Scott, Arquette & Slater, critic Tim Lucas and most notably one by Tarantino himself. New to this version are additional interviews with behind the scenes crew members, co-stars and fans of the movie. We also get art cards, a detailed 60 page booklet, double-sided poster and deluxe packaging.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

Easy Rider


Viewed – 10 October Blu-Ray

Everyone knows the song… ‘Born To Be Wild’ by Steppenwolf – it’s probably the most famous thing about this 1969 classic road movie, and along with its cast of Hollywood rebels like Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson – the movie was destined for the history books. Yet does it deserve to be there? Fonda & Hopper play Wyatt and Billy, two bikers travelling across America to New Orleans to watch the Mardi Gras festival. Along the way they bump into hippies, smoke a lot of pot, annoy the locals and muse on life on the road.

Get your motor running…

There’s no real story here. It’s just two guys driving around, not really encountering much of significance, doing drugs and meeting folk. In fact I found it rather boring. I’ll admit some of the outback scenery is beautifully shot, the camera work is occasionally creative, the soundtrack has some memorable songs and Fonda & Hopper (who also directs) are likeable. An appearance by Jack Nicholson is a fun diversion but short lived and the ending pretty much makes everything that comes before rather pointless.

It’s frustrating as this is regarded as a classic, but there I found little evidence on screen to support that status. I’d heard it was one of a bunch of movies made outside of the ‘Hollywood system’ and is clearly all done on a shoestring budget – which I can appreciate, but when the movie looks like it barely has a script, I have to ask … why bother?

This release, from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection boasts a decent, newly restored image quality, that whilst grainy is colourful and has depth. The movie is presented in DTS HD Master Audio in both 2.0 and 5.1 options, and there’s also an uncompressed mono soundtrack. Dialogue is generally clear and the various music cues sound great. Extras as with many Criterion releases are plentiful: two documentaries, footage from Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper’s appearance at Cannes, as well as trailers. The cream of the crop though is two commentaries, one from Dennis Hopper, the other from Hopper, Fonda and production manager Paul Lewis. The release also comes with a fold-out booklet with a new essay from Matt Zoller Seitz. Pretty great for a movie that has a fascinating history which for me was more worthwhile looking into than the movie itself. This release is therefore a must for fans and probably still worth picking up for enthusiasts of cinema history. Yet, if you’re neither I’d give it a miss.

Verdict:

(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


Viewed – 13 January 2018  Blu-ray

I’ve always been a casual fan of director Tobe Hooper’s notorious 1974 vision of terror… it’s a very raw and unrelenting experience that certainly leaves a mark.  This 1986 follow up, further more unavailable for years in the UK reunites us with the cannibalistic Sawyer family as a Texas Marshall (Dennis Hopper) tries to track them down, thirsty it seems for revenge.  Meanwhile a plucky radio DJ becomes embroiled in the hunt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

There’s certainly a more tongue-in-cheek tone to this and it only marginally works.  It gives an already crazy concept an even nuttier vibe which came off for me more annoying than scary or disturbing.  The Sawyer family this time around are given a little more character, thanks mostly to Bill Moseley’s deranged ‘chop-top’ and we also see a side to Leatherface I wasn’t expecting.  Add to this a volatile, unhinged turn from Hopper who’s character is rather cartoonish but still entertaining.  The big let down acting wise is Caroline Williams as radio DJ ‘Stretch’ Initially she seems interesting, spunky and a good heroine … but then becomes scream-queen and oh boy, was she annoying!  I’ve watched my fair share of scream queens and this one, was so over the top I was quickly hoping the Sawyer family would just end her. 

Gore hounds are only slightly catered for, despite the presence of effects artist Tom Savini… so we get a skinned face and some chainsaw meets guts stuff, but not much else.  Overall the movie isn’t as visceral or effectively disturbing as either the original or the remake … but as a frantic, crazy ride this still entertained.  Considering this sequel’s reputation though, I was expecting … more.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video boasts a detailed, clean and vibrant picture and even though the soundtrack is only the original 2.0 stereo it’s sharp and very effective.  The disk itself is packed with extras, with ‘It Runs At Night’ a six part documentary, and we also get several interviews with cast, crew and horror critics.  Add to this two commentaries (one with director Tobe Hooper and another with Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini) making this deluxe treatment for what is otherwise a fun if forgettable entry in the franchise.

Verdict: 

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Scenes that make the movie


I’ve been thinking about this idea for a post.  Ten memorable scenes from some of my favourite movies of all time, or simply great moments that make a particular movie going experience stick in my head.  This may become a continuing series as I recall other great moments…but for now, here are ten stand out moments from great movies:  Minor spoilers.

Akira

Teddy bears & hallucinations.

Akira Gif

As a telepathic Kaneda post-brush with an infected child of the Akira experiment, recovers in hospital, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations where teddy bears and toys comes to life as his powers start to manifest in horrifying ways.  One of the defining moments of this complex and ground-breaking Anime.

An America Werewolf In London

Stick to the road

AAWIL Moores

Two back packers after stumbling into local watering hole The Slaughtered Lamb are ushered back out into the night, with simply the warning of ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moores’ – which they subsequently ignore and are soon stalked by a blood thirsty werewolf in John Landis’ still superb 1984 horror classic.

Blue Velvet

In Dreams

Blue Dean

Amateur detective Kyle MacLachlan gets a little too close to nut-job mobster Dennis Hopper who takes him for a visit to his cross-dressing neighbourhood friend Dean Stockwell, who lip-syncs to Roy Orbinson’s timeless classic in possibly one of David Lynch’s most freaky and brilliant scenes.

Boogie Nights

Disco montage

Boogie Nights

As former nobody Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) rises to infamy in the seventies porn movie industry, we are treated to this fabulous disco montage, cut seamlessly with various shots of Dirk ‘in action’ or receiving awards and culminating in a wonderfully choreographed dance number with fellow stars Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly) and Roller-girl (Heather Graham).

Eyes Wide Shut

The secret sex party

eyes wide shut

Only in a Stanley Kubrick movie can a high society sex orgy come across as creepy and surreal.  The master film maker in probably his most misunderstood work, presents the viewer with a secret society that Tom Cruise manages to sneak inside of and witness the debauchery of most-likely high profile dignitaries with various high class call girls.  All to a haunting, incredibly eerie score.

Goodfellas

Paranoia, drugs and guns

goodfellas paranoid

In the final act of the movie an increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta, struggles to juggle family responsibilities with fencing guns for Robert DeNiro and avoiding what he thinks is an FBI helicopter during the day from hell.  Expertly edited for maximum tension and intensity by the grand master Martin Scorsese.

Monsters Inc.

A chase through the doors

monsters-inc

After discovering the main villain’s evil scheme, Billy Crystal’s motor-mouthed Mike and John Goodman’s lovable Sully are chased by Steve Buscemi’s dastardly Randall into the inner workings of the Monsters Inc. facility and through a plethora of doors into the human world.  Exciting, inventive and visually stunning.

Pulp Fiction

Jack Rabbit Slims

pulp gif

In a mob movie with pop-culture quoting wise guys and a soundtrack to die for, who’d have thought one of the best scenes would be a night out between John Travolta’s mob hitman and gangsters-mol Uma Thurman?  Culminating in the world famous Twist Contest.  Sharp dialogue, a highly memorable setting, and an after-math that segway’s into probably the other best scene in this movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Landing

After visiting the final resting place of hundreds of soldiers, an elderly veteran recalls his experience with tears in his eyes – switch to the shocking beach onslaught in Omaha in 1944 as thousands of troops fight against impossible odds.  A stunning opening to one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, with star (Tom Hanks) and director (Steven Spielberg) on blistering form.

Trainspotting

Clubbing to Blondie.

transpotting

Taking a break from ripping people off and doing drugs, Ewan McGregor’s Renton finds himself on a night out with friends, hitting the clubs and listening to Heaven 17 and Blondie (or Sleeper doing a marvellous version of Atomic), where he meets Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and leads to a montage of sex, alcohol and pulse-pounding music in Danny Boyle’s break-out gem.

Do you agree with my list?  Have favourite scenes of your own?  Leave your comments below or link to your own lists…

Ten of the best


Top Ten lists are sort of something I enjoy doing, especially at the end of each year.  But Top Ten Favourite Movies of all time?  Harder.  I used to have a list a while back of which some of the movies below used to appear on.  Yet I gave up putting them in a particular order as they are so different some of them, comparing is impossible.  So find below Ten movies I think have had the greatest effect on me, either growing up, inspiring me (writing, movie tastes) or just hitting me on an emotional level.

fight-club

Fight Club

Made me a big fan of the movies of David Fincher and has arguably Edward Norton’s finest turn.  Style, effects work in a movie that didn’t need it, a great soundtrack, that twist and endlessly quotable.

Gran Torino

Emotional, heart-wrenching, funny, touching with one of Eastwood’s best performances.  The cast of newcomers surrounding him are also first-rate.

gran torino

21 Grams

Complex and twist-filled with three stunning performances (especially Naomi Watts) and a script that is quite literally genius.  Tough going but well worth the journey.

21grams

Pulp Fiction

Possibly still my all time favourite movie.  The dialogue is amazing, funny, very cool and  believable.  The sound track is stuff of legend and performances across the board are superb.

pulpfiction

Leon

Natalie Portman’s debut.  Ice-cool, Gary Oldman’s looniest but greatest villain, Jean Reno as a lovable assassin and Luc Besson on stunning form.

leon

Annie Hall

All of Woody Allen’s best ideas, cleverest dialogue and touching observations rolled into one perfect movie.  Diane Keaton is excellent and Allen has never been funnier.

Annie-Hall

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron fully realising Terminator … stunning effects work, amazing action sequences, Arnie at his best, Linda Hamilton as the most bad-ass female role model since Ellen Ripley.  The ultimate sci-fi blockbuster.

terminator 2

Blue Velvet

Weird but one of David Lynch’s most coherent works, with a great cast (Hopper is just plain nuts) and haunting music and a dream-like atmosphere.  Sexy and disturbing just how Lynch should be.

blue-velvet

Goodfellas

The finest gangster movie ever made, fast, packed with ideas, dialogue, people getting wacked, great dialogue and great performances throughout.  Martin Scorsese at his very best.

goodfellas

The Shining

Stunningly filmed, creepy as hell, scary, with an amazing Jack Nicholson and a true directing auteur in the shape of the late Stanley Kubrick.  The best horror movie ever made?  Quite possibly.

The-Shining