Oggz

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Reviews

High Anxiety
(1977)

Largely tedious
Some films are better confined to a distant memory and not revisited in adulthood, because the risk of disappointment can be all too great. When I was a young teenager I thought this was simply the funniest movie ever made, but if we examine, for instance, the first three gags - the handing of the sick bag to the stewardess (mildly amusing), the screaming umbrella woman (contrived) and the toilet exhibitionist (downright tasteless), we'll get the exact scope of jokes which Brooks is serving throughout, and that's all before the opening credits have even finished. The film continues on in this wobbly, half-baked manner, where only a third of gags hit the mark, and even that's being generous. All of the scenes involving professor Little Old Man are just annoying, and Brophy's don't fare much better. It's left to the women to save what they can from this mess, and it's due to the combined talents of Kahn and Leachman that the film is not completely unwatchable. Hitchcock was probably way too polite to say what he really thought of his "tribute", but at least we get a few glimpses of California as it was in the 70s which can never be a bad thing. Only to be watched when you're thirteen and still impressionable.

UFO
(1970)

Wigs in space
Apparently everyone's childhood favourite - mine too - UFO still holds up exceptionally well in terms of what it delivers - which is unadulterated, cheesy space opera nonsense with a lot of style and attitude. The show is quite obviously being held together by Ed Bishop, a competent performer who swims really well in soapy material such as this - he gets his tone just right, much like John Forsythe would do years later in "Dynasty" playing Blake Carrington. Bishop's bleached blonde hipster haircut-come-wig practically forms the basis for the entire colour scheme of the show - all silvery greys with accents of warm oranges, pastel blues and, believe it or not, even the dreaded brown looks good in its many shades here. There's a bit of hilarity too - those see-through fishnets and hairy nipples on display are a hoot, just as it is to watch how the amount of blue eyeliner grows on Michael Billington over the stretch of the show. Elsewhere you have Gabrielle Drake's terribly posh accent to enjoy, as well as a plethora of other stunningly pretty women everywhere you look, all impeccably made up, coiffed and lacquered. Also there's something reassuringly comforting in the endlessly repeated stock shots of the Interceptors taking off and disappearing behind that ridge - and still they look to me like kitchen appliances of some sort. The ever-so-sophisticated Hammond-driven theme is by the old pro Barry Grey, as is the rest of the score - all very atmospheric with loads of spacey vibraphones and Ondes Martinot on cue. And there you have it - the look and the sound of the show are still by far its strongest points, perfectly encapsulating the chic times in which the show was made. Perfect for a cozy binge.

The Pale Horse
(2020)

Like a well oiled machine
The way to get the most out of Christie's TV adaptations in this century is to just sit back and enjoy the ride without asking too many questions. You can get lost in the fabulously atmospheric period settings, stunning location work, glossy production values, fluid camera, gorgeous photography, the only-just-slightly exaggerated costumes and make up and, most notably, first class hamming from the whole ensemble. Here you should watch out for Sean Pertwee and Claire Skinner, both in smaller roles. She's been fun to watch since "Brass Eye", and it's always a joy to see Rita Tushingham. Kathy Kiera Clarke is more than effective as one of the witches, but really this is Rufus Sewell's show, he commands the screen with excellent support throughout from Scodelario, Lloyd-Hughes and an almost unrecognizable Carvel. The music is good, with the exception of Satie rendered in a very old-fashioned, almost Chopinesque way and the sound editing and post production are first class. Therefore, a lot to enjoy here with a drink or two - this is British period TV export product at its best.

Hush
(1998)

Push, Helen, PUSH!
It isn't good camp because it takes itself way too seriously. Jessica Lange, realising there isn't really much to act here, abandons herself to the role - she is off the hook but in a predictable, calculated, artificial, stilted way. In fact none of the performers can be faulted much, they all do what they're told to do but the whole thing just collapses under its own perceived weight. And yet, the showdown between the two women is surprisingly lukewarm and flat - a couple of needles and that's it. For this kind of stuff to work, there needs to be real malice, secret poisoning, mental torture, gaslighting, suffering, the whole bucketload of existing cliches. Also, the victim needs to be barely alive at the end and the perpetrator a truly loathsome villain. The film chickens out of all that and falls flat on its nose. There's much better stuff in the same vein out there, if that sort of stuff floats your boat.

De behandeling
(2014)

Very enjoyable but also dodgy
Geert Van Rampelberg's screen presence certainly holds your attention. In fact, he carries the film on his shoulders throughout and is the main reason why everything works, he is so right for the part and he plays it with gusto which is almost excessive in places but not much. He is also supported by an ensemble which looks very committed and by a production team who knows what they're doing. The trouble I have with all this is the following - the script is derivative in that it's clearly taking a lot of cues from more famous movies such as the Hannibal Lecter films ("The Biter" is one such obvious cue) and is written in a way which suggests that it was meant to top the horrors by making the circumstances even more sordid - let's see, what could that be, how about fathers being forced to rape their sons while their mothers are watching? And bingo, your script is practically writing itself and it's sure to be "edgy". If you can buy into all this you have yourself a very fine and diverting movie here with a lot to enjoy - great acting, dense atmosphere, excellent direction. Top marks for everything but in the end it's "yeah right".

Suspiria
(2018)

Arse-numbingly flat
Ten minutes into the film I'm left with three main impressions: firstly, the booming Goblin soundtrack of the original film might have been annoying and silly, but here we get Thom Yorke sounding like Sinead O' Connor wailing "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" with similar effect but with no drum loops to at least tap your foot to. The music will continue throughout in this moribund minimalist piano arpeggiato fashion that was already dated 20 years ago. Secondly, where Argento oversaturated his colours beyond all measure (with memorable effects to his film), here the producers decide to suck all life out of photography, so we get a good glimpse at a depressing Berlin Cold War winter twilight rather until we're grey in the face ourselves, the overall feeling akin to watching everything through an aquarium of dishwater and just as exciting. Thirdly, Alida Valli is sadly missing - instead we get Tilda Swinton looking rather bored and artificial as she prattles on about dance and movement. I'm sure she could play King Kong convincingly if she chose to but that's beside the point. The point is - the film is incredibly slow and drab with vast sections of unsubtitled German dialogue (tough crap apparently if you're not a speaker), and more than once you wish for Argento to burst in and inject some much needed fun and style into the witchy proceedings. Instead, his whimsical script, which suited the original film as he envisaged it, here gets whipped up into an insipid soufflé of baroque proportions, killing all else in the process. You can safely give this one a miss, nothing much to see here, the three stars earned are for the correct look of the period and not much else.

Dementia 13
(1963)

Short and sweet
Ever since I first saw this as a child on TV, remembering it most vividly for its manic, harpsichord-driven score, I've been sneakily admiring Coppola's first born, even though it was born in little more than rags. However, notwithstanding the non-existent budget he makes good use of Luana Anders (who sports a bigger, lighter shade of blonde than Janet Leigh - and gets dispatched at roughly the same median time in the film). There is a Mrs Bates too in this one, only this time she's alive and freaking out over her long dead daughter (played by the very capable Irish stage actress Eithne Dunne). The Haloran Castle stands for the Bates mansion (the accompanying pond and its hidden secrets included) and there are many other similarities between the two films, including some less than subtle Herrmann whiffs in the score. However, the grainy, dark BW photography doesn't have to try very hard to be atmospheric and even spooky, and at a very short running time of one hour and a quarter, it's all over before you realise how whimsical and undercooked the whole thing is. Not even close to the master, but a fun try nevertheless.

The Wrong Man
(1956)

Darkest Dreaming
In one of his most unsettling and ominous psychological dramas, Hitch decides to throw at us all we deserve and make us feel very uncomfortable indeed. Fonda is a true quiet gentleman, plays double bass in a NYC club, his wife is actually more adorable and beautiful than they come in magazines, and their relationship with their two boys seems genuine and affectionate. They seem to be a truly harmonious, loving family, not too well off but managing. Hitch makes us get a good glimpse of that before everything is torn apart in one evening, in a way which is not only menacing and foreboding to the extreme but progressively gets much worse, almost suffocating the viewers themselves in the process. It really is up there with Hitchcock's best films, where he allows us to have a peek into one of his own darkest nightmares and he does that most efficiently through those sudden POV shots - the handcuffing business, the prison cell, the sight of other prisoners' shoes etc. He forces us to identify not just with Manny, but with his own inner mind. Herrmann's sparse, subtle score knowingly colours the film in just the right shade of bleak. A must see - and once you do, you'll realise why Hitch originally wanted Vera Miles for "Vertigo".

Eyes of Laura Mars
(1978)

Disco Giallo
Provided you're stoned enough to get past the opener, which is a genuinely execrable power ballad belted out by Babs (who nearly ended up starring in this), you'll find that it's always fun to watch Faye Dunaway freak, and this was apparently the dress rehearsal for the soon-to-be hellraiser that was Mommie Dearest. Dunaway however retains a great deal of cool while she emotes and hyperventilates as Laura Mars, so it's not all in vain. Tommy Lee Jones is also quite good - he gets his tone just right, and the leading couple is well supported by some reliable pros (Auberjonois, Douriff, who also take on their roles with just enough playful cheek). New York never looked filthier in a better way, the photo session sequences are a hoot in themselves and it's all laced with disco smashes of the day. Competent enough direction by Irvin Kershner moves proceedings ahead at a brisk, if very predictable pace, so the end result is a slice of watchable, cheesy, almost nostalgic giallo fun.

Queen Bee
(1955)

Abject dreck
If it weren't for the camp appeal, there would be precious little left to enjoy in this mid 50s Crawford vehicle, pretty much made to her own all-round specifications. You wouldn't be to blame if you scoffed a little, given that "Queen Bee" blaringly reveals our Joanie dabbling in total rubbish almost a whole decade before "Strait-Jacket". But while the latter resulted in a thoroughly fun, enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek affair, in this one Crawford is so constantly in our face with her faked lofty mannerisms and her all-too-careful diction that soon it all congeals into one big overfried cheeseball that's painful to watch and even deadlier to swallow. Her entourage is even worse, headed by the insufferable Lucy Marlow - she gets a well deserved slap across the chops, so there's at least some temporary relief for the audience. John Ireland looks like he's stoned on autopilot, Betsy Palmer has the good taste to remove herself from the picture at the earliest opportunity and the children are extra annoying. The photography is fine as are the sets, the music is sweet to the point of vomit and, oh dear, some of the dialogue they have to chomp through has to be heard to be believed. Watch it repeatedly if you're a Crawford queen, otherwise you've no business here.

Psycho
(1998)

Just ill-advised all around
Decided to give this another chance almost twenty years later, this time with the idea of giving it an evaluation that's as detached as possible - but that in itself isn't possible. You try to watch with interest but soon you become annoyed - for instance, you follow Anne Heche as she tries to dissociate herself from Janet Leigh's performance. And she does strike some interesting and certainly different notes - she handles the scene with the state trooper almost better than Leigh, but then goes and ruins it all by rolling her eyes or pulling up a face at just the worst moment. Her performance is at best very uneven. Vince Vaughn's is a lot more grating, he has none of the subtlety or inspiration of Anthony Perkins and, again, trying to do things differently from him, comes across as misguided and artificial, his nervous little laughs not helping in the process. Much as he tries, Master Bates he simply ain't.

It all just about holds together until we get to that shower murder, and that's where things turn from dull to downright atrocious - the scene looks and sounds just bad, silly, inept, even unintentionally funny. Those strings that used to rip right through you with every stab now sound like whining kitten. And because the scene is so klutzy and flat, devoid of any energy or viciousness, nothing that succeeds it works any longer, as the film is hopelessly thrown out of any balance just dragging on and on. By the time two Boogie Nights stars hit the screen as Lila and Arbogast you're already hitting fast-forward, only to be disappointed again at the next stop.

I usually like Van Sant quite a bit and I adore Hitchcock, but emotionally they can't compete in the same league and sometimes bad and ill-advised is just bad and ill-advised. If the point of the whole enterprise was to demonstrate that works of art cannot be replicated even when they are duplicated, the end result is very costly in that it is superfluous, redundant and ultimately disposable.

Psycho
(1960)

Mean Strings
How do you write about, let alone review something that's been picked apart and assembled again, stretched into 24 hour performances by lesser artists, copied, imitated, quoted, spoofed, franchised, and even remade shot for shot? About something that has been appreciated, raved about and even worshipped for nearly 60 long years by audiences, devotees and eventually even critics?

There are reasons for all that. John Gavin may have been wooden but Vera Miles was good enough, Janet Leigh and Robert Balsam were exceptionally good and Perkins was sensational. It was Robert Bloch's best achievement in lurid pulp, Stefano's best screenwriting moment and Hitch was quite literally at the height of his powers. So were his wife Alma and assistant Peggy, who also sensed how times were changing and how the audiences were ready for something never before attempted or seen - a film with moments so pounding and visceral that it would end up changing the entire ballgame.

And then there's the score, equally deeply ingrained on our culture. "Hitchcock does about two thirds of his films - I finish them for him" - Herrmann would say, and it's been true from Harry through to Marnie. This one contains the most famous musical cue of all times and a neurotic, hurtling main title to boot, but it is the slow bits, during which Hitch handles the passage of time, trouble, unease, mystery, suspense and degradation that are just superb, allowing for some of the most exciting moments ever commited to film. Elegant and decidedly modern, all the more lethal for its reduction to a chamber string orchestra, the score is well produced too; loads of sticky reverb and compression were slapped on those ferocious shrieks, making them always sound a bit limp on later recordings - and certainly lacking that thoroughly ripping effect. Luckily, Hitch gave in and went along with his composer.

To wrap it up - the less said about Psycho, the better - and it is best enjoyed in silence and darkness. It has a flaw or two but its unique, darkly unsettling magic speaks for itself even today and it still feels like an exceptionally modern, cool, groundbreaking film. Whatever Walt Disney may have thought of it.

Body Double
(1984)

Spurious drivel
In 1981 Blow Out was released, a very fine viewing even today, and arguably the best of what was seemingly an endless procession of De Palma's Hitchcock homages. Only three years later the most vulgar, unsubtle and spurious of them all comes up in a spectacular, almost unrecognisable downturn for the director.

Purporting to be fun, kinky or even deliberately sleazy, it comes across as none of that but instead painfully uninspired, dull and predictable - and of course yet again massively derivative, to the point where abject boredom sets in. Even some clear mistakes are on obvious display - De Palma utilises a woman who can't act and has to be overdubbed (but looks incredible), Deborah Shelton, for the most part hiding her best feature - her eyes - behind a pair of huge sunglasses, thereby highlighting her less-than-perfect chin. Also he is clean-stealing not just the odd Hitchcock idea here and there, but the entire building blocks, symbols, processes and developments from his idol, all in that same muddled, hasty, ill-advised way, which has a price - the film is littered with quotations and the only thing that's missing from the scene in the tunnel is the actual "Vertigo shot". That's no longer idolatry, it's a rather wretched lack of fresh, more authentic ideas, long after all reasonable tributes have been paid, some of them many times over.

The once celebrated Frankie Goes To Hollywood segment today looks really old, out of place, hopelessly staged and just downright fake, as leather clubs looked nothing like that back in the day, most of all because they were overwhelmingly men-only places where men cruised other men. That inconvenience does not stand in the path of our auteur though, so the scene is there such as it is, rather embarrassingly sticking out like a fancy feather on an old hat.

Not even De Palma's usually reliable regulars come out well, even though Dennis Franz tries valiantly but we've seen that exact same schtick many times from him. The brutal drill murder, the one reason why this film exists in the first place, is executed with panache that might be judged as somewhat authentic, but between that set-piece and the final shot of blood pouring down some nice looking breasts, nothing of much interest happens, let alone any real suspense. Still, Raising Cain would prove to be an even worse waste of time. Watch this for the scandalously cheap 80s soft-porn music by Donaggio while Melanie Griffith wiggles her ass, if that's your thing - that just about sums up the whole scope of the film.

Femme Fatale
(2002)

Expected very little, got somewhat more
Ah, De Palma. The other night I watched Sisters for the umpteenth time only to reassure myself of its incredible brazenness - not only are ideas lifted off Hitch but the entire building blocks, and that will always be annoying to varying degrees when De Palma's cinematography is scrutinised. However, what you get during these two hours is a piece of mildly engaging erotic fluff, nonsensical as ever but not without some rewards: firstly, Rebecca Romijn is an unusually photogenic woman, has an interesting and occasionally even stirring screen presence, of which she has more than enough to carry the film comfortably, the camera loving her all the way. Secondly, Sakamoto's score gives the proceedings a little extra class, even though he channels everyone from Ravel and Debussy to (most obviously) Herrmann and even Donaggio. Thirdly, there is a weirdly appealing toilet cruising scene usually associated with gay porn but here given a lesbian chic twist. That's a bit of a hoot, but it somehow works, as opposed to Banderas camping it up which clearly does not. And lastly, it's all filmed in Paris, which has hardly ever been a bad thing. All in all, whenever De Palma is strictly about sex and murder he is never totally boring - and despite its shockingly unimaginative title, this one certainly holds its own better than, say, Raising Cain.

Crooked House
(2017)

Whenever Glenn Close says...
Whenever Glenn Close says "I love you more than you'll ever know" things are bound to end up badly. And they do, in this conspicuously lavish mystery thriller which is well put together but suffers occasionally from some sloppy dialogue editing, revealing that a lot of lines must have been left on the cutting room floor. It's all rather good and wicked fun really, even though it feels like a routine job. Max Irons leads the cast in a role that some years ago would have gone to Jack Davenport, and the production uses his recently beefed up dark good looks to good effect. Some of the cast are experienced Christie actors - Sands, Abbington, Galloway, McKay - they know how it's done and it shows. The youngest two actors are also very good. At nearly two hours long, the ending still feels a little rushed - the way events are being telegraphed for us in the car chase sequence as they happen is a hoot. That's compensated by Gillian Anderson camping around as a boozed-out drama queen, the awkward family dinner scene (there's always one in these stories) and of course the main draw - Glenn Close, who has the misfortune of evoking Cruella De Vil whenever she assumes the British accent. As always, though, she is a delight to watch, her hairdo deliberately coiffed to remind us ever so slightly of Marquise de Merteuil. Other than that, it looks like an expensive show, you'll remember the mid 50s glamour ambiance from the ITV Marple series, and the soundtrack is mostly hot jazz and early rock'n'roll - just check out those vintage cars and turntables which are on display in practically every scene - that's never a bad thing. Watchable.

Feud
(2017)

Fabulous
From the moment the fabulous animated main title kicks in - one of the best in recent memory - accompanied by the music which knowingly emulates Goldsmith, Mancini and of course De Vol himself - you just know this is going to be great. And it is. The key word here is good measure - what could easily have become a ham fest and a shriekingly campy affair is in fact so polished and carefully put together that it often approaches serious drama. The controlled, nuanced acting by Lange is a sight to behold, and the moment Sarandon first walks in in full BJ make up is probably one of the most exciting entrances on recent film or TV. Alfred Molina is just splendid as Aldrich, proving yet again what a supremely gifted actor he is. The rest of the cast are quite visibly enjoying themselves, from Tucci and Judy Davis (having an absolute ball flouncing around) to Zeta-Jones' hilariously accurate De Havilland, they're all really quite exceptional. Of course none of this would work without the writing, which is both sharp and subtle at once - the lines sometimes literally dance. I won't even go into the standards of the production design which capture the era with what feels like revelling accuracy. Hardly a flat spot in the first two episodes - this is setting itself up for great acclaim and deservedly so.

Airport '77
(1977)

Drab
This was supposed to be the "serious" Airport instalment. Instead it comes across as dour, so much so that the notion of a guitar-plucking nun would have probably proved a welcome breather (one horrible song is squeezed into this one too though, this time delivered by a blind pianist with a shaky voice which occasionally slips into a rather disconcerting falsetto). Far from it being the film's only problem, Airport 1977 also lacks any of the freshness of the original Airport, unintentional hilarity of the first sequel or the howl-with-laughter-in-disbelief aspect of the Concorde film that followed it. No outstanding eye candy in this one either - Quinlan and Belwood (who?) are certainly no match for the star power of Jacqueline Bisset or Jean Seberg. What we do have here instead is an abundance of putty-coloured and beige decor that is arguably easier on the eye than the raving pink and violet schemes of Airport 1975, but is also that much more lifeless in return. Instead of Gloria Swanson dispensing improvised nonsense to anyone who'll listen, here we get to watch Olivia De Havilland making goo-goo eyes at an alarmingly aged Joseph Cotten. Jack Lemmon and Jimmy Stewart act like it's 1954, Christopher Lee delivers his lines with a distinct look of someone with a poker up their bum, and Brenda Vaccaro takes over head stewardess duties from Karen Black. She isn't flying the plane in this story, but instead gets the commendable task of shutting up Lee Grant in one clean sweep across the chops (while another woman screams "Oh my God, oh my God" hysterically in the background - I reckon this is timed politely by the production team to wake you up should you have dozed off by now). Elsewhere, from Edith Head's costumes (a baffling Oscar nomination if ever there was one) to the score by John Cacavas, everything seems to have taken the turn for the duller compared to the previous instalment. The film is further burdened by an excruciatingly elaborate rescue sequence that's heavy on detail but rather thin on suspense. All in all, it's remotely watchable but way too stodgy and nowhere near as entertaining - accidentally or not - as any of the other Airport instalments.

Poirot: Hallowe'en Party
(2010)
Episode 2, Season 12

Enjoyable enough
Mark Gatiss, who already contributed his adaptation of "Cat Among The Pigeons" to the Poirot series in 2008, has somehow managed to streamline Christie's "Hallowe'en Party" (which in original is a rather meandering and often plodding novel) into a reasonably entertaining, if perhaps slightly rushed televisual ninety minutes. Other aspects of the production reveal a more or less settled Poirot routine, with two notable exceptions - the music, which is unusually bland for the most part, and the casting which is somewhat uneven: apart from Suchet and Wanamaker who glide through their roles as one would expect them to, there are also fine performances here to be seen from Deborah Findlay as well as the underused Sophie Thompson, but Julian Rhind-Tutt and Mary Higgins appear miscast as the pivotal, elaborate characters of Michael Garfield and the girl Miranda - certainly the weaker links in the ensemble. The producers have also invested a great deal of effort into masking some obvious corner-cutting here and there - or is it all just a slightly subdued introduction to the big finale, "Murder on the Orient Express"? We shall soon see. In any case, this mildly atmospheric little piece is enjoyable enough as a Poirot episode, but probably not one of the highlights of the series.

Poirot: After the Funeral
(2005)
Episode 3, Season 10

The villain outshines them all
Some less than inspired opening string music notwithstanding, we somehow know that from the word go this is heading straight for the "big fun" drawer. By the time we observe Monica Dolan (in a truly genius bit of casting) delightfully goofing it up as Cora early on we're already hooked, but it is only later on when she reveals herself in her marvellous screen creation, that deranged, scheming, desperate queen of murder and deceit posing in the guise of the uptight Miss Gilchrist, that she not only effortlessly steals the entire telemovie for herself but quite simply blows off screen anyone who comes near her, including the ever well measured David Suchet who himself seems to be somewhat bedazzled by her acting talents and, very gentlemanly, allows her to take centre stage. Dolan is the true engine of the film and her Miss Gilchrist a genuinely well rounded character in this Christie rendition, helped by a zesty script and the sprightly paced direction - and also by the rest of the cast led by Geraldine James and Robert Bathurst, who all display signs of sympathy for the given material and play with relish accordingly.

The production values are spot on as usual, and if there are any weaker links they might be located in the comparatively substandard music score to the majority of later Poirots, and also perhaps in the lacking of a genuine Italian-born actor for the role of Cora's husband. Other than that, this is an hour and a half of pure televisual delight which is as self indulgent and entertaining as it is lovingly put together.

Giallo a Venezia
(1979)

Adorable trash...
...if for no other reason (of which really and truly there aren't any to speak of unless the trinity of coke, sex and murder is what gets you going) - then for Berto Pisano's stellar, lush, textbook pornographic musical score, all in routinely dizzying major 7 chords, swirling strings and the bop-bop melody firmly rooted in the 60's, already horribly dated by the time this was filmed (late 70's) but very charming and very pleasant nonetheless - for those into that sort of thing - it's a standout winner. What makes this additionally twisted is that the soundtrack is often strangely out of sync with what we see on screen (people are having copious amount of often kinky sex but are also being whipped, stabbed and mutilated to some rather blissful musical sounds, adding to the perverse appeal). The film is certainly a very decadent Eurotrash oddity worth checking out, provided you watch with your ears. And with your brain on leave.

Romeo Is Bleeding
(1993)

Watchable for all the wrong reasons
I really don't think this is a neo film noir masterpiece some would have you believe it is - it's messy, a little unbalanced and plods occasionally, but it does round up a remarkable cast, employs an inspired Mark Isham soundtrack to great effect and has its stellar moments, namely every time Lena Olin, the true engine of this film, is anywhere to be seen on screen, and for that reason only the movie is worth spending time on. She infuses all her scenes with energy which even Oldman has problems keeping pace with and effortlessly steals the entire film, directed to slightly overdo the grind-glass voiced Russian hitwoman Demarkov as a genuinely dangerous yet irresistible psycho bitch from hell. She pulls it off with great panache though and her performance is what you'll remember long after watching the film. Elsewhere, Oldman freaks out convincingly and by the book, Juliette Lewis pouts around in her underwear pulling her usual few faces before she is bumped off to oblivion, while Sciorra and Scheider leave their mark but end up underused in their episodes. An affectionate yet uneven tribute to film noir that occasionally loses its step and spreads itself a little too thin for comfort, but still definitely watchable.

Cord
(2000)

It entertains....but only just
....and that in most part is due to Jennifer Tilly's wildly exaggerated performance - but then she's so hot anyway, check out "Bullets Over Broadway" - she rules. She does what she can (and much more) with a clumsily written character, and so does Gallo. The presence of Bruce Greenwood adds a cheap telemovie feel to this, while Hannah does reasonably well. The story is basically a new go at "Rosemary's Baby" without witchcraft but with syringes, and there's a more than a passing industrial nod to "Misery" and many other better flicks. The film bleeds to its expected end with no particular surprises or excitement. Still, watch it for Jenny....and root for her, she deserves the goddamn baby.

Loverboy
(2005)

The parent trip
An overblown telemovie which would have actually benefited from commercial breaks, if for no other reason than to intercut with any sort of livelier action, of which this feature is in dire deficit. It starts with a vector - the introduction into the story is absorbing enough, and Sedgwick does have a commanding screen presence, her almost Desperate Housewives-like voice over and undeniable sex appeal giving the on-screen action some cooler distance and electricity. The set up is actually reminiscent of a film-noir - we're made to expect some sort of a plot and some veritable action from the heroine. Forty minutes into the film, however, you can't but ask yourself - where is this bleedin' thing going already? Tangential characters come and go yet we're not moving much - in fact we seem to be stuck with Emily and her not particularly escalating madness - not in any real sense, she's just plain nuts from the word go - until the flashback action is tied "neatly" together and we learn that she's decided to end it all for herself and her little brat (who incidentally pulls a hundred too many faces and cannot act at all, ruining every moment of his screen time as well as Sedgwick's entire valiant effort). Annoyingly, we also get to hear a horrendous karaoke pseudo-rendition of John Paul Young's "Love Is In The Air" several times over during the more embarrassing scenes, as well as other loud incidental music which occasionally drowns the whispering dialogue - er, WHAT did she just mumble? - and the only few scenes of real chemistry are between Sandra Bullock and young Emily. That also goes nowhere.

A completely uninteresting story about one sad and lonely but arrogant woman suffering from social maladaption who proceeds to become an unhappy, crazed mother whom you just want to slap in the face and bring to her senses during most of this film's relatively short running time. Unless you recognise yourself in the leading role, or work for the social services, there's no other reason why you should watch this. A very weird screen debut from Bacon the director, I can't say I'll be watching any of his future efforts any time soon.

Midnight Express
(1978)

Brad Davis, Giorgio Moroder and Alan Parker
No matter how many times I've watched this, I invariably shake like a leaf for Billy Hayes as Alan Parker makes us follow him through the passport and customs control in the film's majestic expository first minutes. And I always hope against hope that he'll make it to that aircraft and fly off with his loot. But no - each and every time, they get to him, he raises his hands in the air and that precise moment Giorgio's electrifying pads kick in like a tidal wave.

Proceed through for a disturbing, serious, harrowing, multi-layered mega performance by Brad Davis, a sadly missed icon if ever there was one, impeccably directed by Alan Parker and beautifully coloured by Giorgio Moroder at his big screen best. And yes, "The Chase" is in there - ever heard the 12" version on a dancefloor? You must.

This film plays hardball with you and will inflict psychological pain on you like you'll never forget. Fantastic.

Flightplan
(2005)

Starts quite well but loses the marbles halfway through
In this pale attempt at re-hashing "The Lady Vanishes", things go off to an interesting start, in that the direction sets up a very unusual, solemn mood, the atmospheric Berlin (and, according to the credits, Leipzig?) locations doing their bit. In fact, visually the whole film is a treat, with well thought production design/art direction and an incredibly elastic and elegant camera work. Sadly, not even such a pretty airline crew nor the sensational aircraft interiors (presumably they thought of the new double decker Airbus, haven't they) can do much to elevate an intolerably contrived plot and bring it within the realms of probability. Besides, the totally miscast Peter Sarsgaard, a man with an already very unpleasant face, does the worst John Malkovich impersonation on record, his speaking voice inexplicably breaking here and there as if he's holding back the tears or something - or is it acting?? Bleurgh. Foster is the star of the show though as the action woman (she really should do a comedy film for a change and lighten up, she looks so downtrodden all the time), and Bean, Beahan and Christensen use most of their limited screen time making up for a very sexy looking airline crew. Even a therapist is on board - but blink and you'll miss her - an unusually haggard-looking Greta Scacchi. An expensive and visually stylish bimbo of a film, with clumsy Hitchcock aspirations - good for a forgettable one night stand, but leave the brains at the departure gate, and don't ask too many questions about the plot.

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