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Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. (15.)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne and Dennis Hopper. 183 mins. Available on a 4 disc Blu-ray set. Details here
I don't quite know what Apocalypse Now is any more – 40 years on its relevance to Vietnam is fairly tentative – but I do know, with depressing certainty, that absolutely nothing released this year is going to have even half the impact that this has on a big screen. Or a little one.
Being John Malkovich (15.)
Directed by Spike Jonze.
Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place and Charlie Sheen.
2019 has not been a good year for films. In fact, it's been a wholly terrible year for films, a what-is-the-bloody-point-of-it-all year for films. It hasn't even been a very good year for 20th anniversary re-releases of films, considering 1999 was probably the last year that could be described as a great year for films. It was the year of, among others, Fight Club, Magnolia, Blair Witch, Sixth Sense, Ghost Dog, South Park, Office Space, American Beauty, Three Kings, Toy Story 2 and (in this country) The Thin Red Line. Plus there was Phantom Menace and Eyes Wide Shut, events movies whose merits we might find debatable. But of the gems from that year so far only The Matrix has made it back into cinemas. So, nice one Arrows Academy for releasing the film that has some claim to be the best of the last great year of cinema. It was almost certainly the most prescient.
Kiss Me Deadly. (12A.)
Directed by Robert Aldrich. 1955.
Starring Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Marian Carr, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman, Gaby Rodgers and Jack Elam. 105 mins. Released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection on August 5th.
This adaptation of Mickey Spillane down and dirty private detective potboiler is a prime example of what cinema does best: lift base materials up into something wonderous. Given great literature, cinema is like a lumbering giant trying to inspect a beautiful matchstick model of La Sagrada Familia: even if the admiration is genuine it's inevitably going to end up in bits on the floor. Though his achievements are recognised today (the disc contains a documentary with all the big names in contemporary thriller writing praising him) back in the fifties Spillane was regarded with the kind of disdain a Dan Brown who stole all his stories from Jeffrey Archer would be today. Aldrich's version takes his book and turns it into something so special it has become one of those selected artefacts that we choose to remember a period of history by.
Crime and Punishment (U.)
Directed by Josef Von Sternberg. 1935
Starring Peter Lorre, Edward Arnold, Marian Marsh, Tala Birell, Elisabeth Risdon and Robert Allen. In black and white. 88 mins. Out on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Academy.
It may not be quite a crime but Dostoevsky's page-turner takes some fearful punishment in this early adaptation. I'm not going to pretend to have read the book but I'm going to take a punt that it didn't have a happy ending. Somewhere in the contraction of its 500+ pages into less than an hour and a half so much has been stripped away that the events on screen seem almost incoherent, a simplistic melodrama about a man who commits a murder and then feels bad about it.
The Edge. (15.)
Directed by Barney Douglas
Featuring Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Andy Flower, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood and Jonathan Trott. 95 mins. Selected cinemas and out on Blu-ray and DVD
This being a film about English Test cricket, it is appropriate that the opening is disappointing. It starts with Jimmy Anderson, the country's record wicket-taker running across a deserted stretch of sandy beach towards the camera. And when he reaches it, and stands there panting, you hope he's going to say "It's" and for a big foot to come down and squash him and announce Monty Panesar's Flying Circus. Instead, we have narrator Toby Jones telling us that cricket is not just a game but, “A dual between the mind and time.”
Directed by Jonah Renck.
Starring Jarred Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis. Out on DVD July 15th, out on Blu-ray 29th.
Chernobyl just blew up out of nowhere. The first I heard of it was a billboard for Now TV featuring Emily Watson's face and the title. The next thing was that this HBO/ Sky co-production was now rated on the IMDB chart as the greatest TV programme ever, brushing aside a couple of David Attenbourghs. Its ascension was that quick and that bewildering. I just did not see how a binge-watch, box set drama could be made about the explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in 1986. But actually the solution was simple: they made a zombie film of it. Almost everybody in this recreation of the disaster and its consequences is, to varying degrees, the walking dead.
Do The Right Thing. (15.)
Directed by Spike Lee. 1989
Starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Miguel Sandoval, Rick Aiello, John Savage, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Frank Vincent. 115 mins. Out on a two-disc Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
30 years, where did they go? And can we get them back to do-over? The idea that something so vibrant, so energetic, so strident as Do The Right Thing could ever become historical seems like an affront, but it happens: even anger gets old. Spike Lee's third film established him as a major filmmaker and was an incendiary view on race relation; one that seems to have blown up in all our faces.
Directed by Alan J. Pakula.
Starring Donald Sutherland, Jane Fonda, Charles Cioffi, Roy Scheider, Dorothy Tristan and Rita Gam. 111 mins. Released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
Klute is an early 70s New York-set thriller that won Jane Fonda her first Oscar and is full of modish visuals, dark lighting, odd camera angles and braless women. It should seem dated, even quaint, but the film has a strident pride in being Now. In the opening scene, there is a shot of a mini tape recorder that must have been the latest thing. Even though we don't use cassettes any more it still looks pretty snazzy. On the tape is captured Fonda talking about the need to challenge convention and let it all hang out. It's so vibrantly 1971, so sure that there can be nothing as vital to come after this.
It is made up of all these modish elements and counter-culture attributes, that when put together somehow all add up to square.
Directed by William Friedkin. 1980
Starring Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino and Gene Davis. 102 mins. Out on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK from Arrow Video.
In the mid to late 80s, when trips to video shops were a very important part of existence, Cruising was one of those discs that I always considered renting but never got round to. It was the Pacino gay film, the Pacino undercover in NY S&M leather bars film, a film whose existence you never quite accepted. Forty years on and I have finally got to see it and I can see why it was such a perplexing proposition: it's a homosceptic movie whose audience is primarily homosexuals. It's also fairly terrible.
Used Cars. (15.)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. 1980.
Starring Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Gerrit Graham, Frank McRae, Deborah Harmon, Joseph P. Flaherty, David L. Lander, Michael McKean, Alfonso Arau and Al Lewis. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics! 108 mins.
This screwball comedy about two competing used car salesmen is true to its subject: it doesn't offer anything much of real value but it makes its pitch with such gusto and energy that you might be sold on it. Nice(r) Jack Warden runs a downmarket car lot on one side of a freeway while his nasty brother Jack Warden runs a slick, upmarket car lot on the other. Bad Warden wants to elminate the competition and get his hands on that land. Good(ish) Jack Warden has a dicky ticker and when he passes away head salesman Russell comes up with a plan to cover it up to prevent Bad Warden taking possession of the lot.
Don't Look Now (15.)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg. 1973
Starring Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serato and Renato Scarpa. 105 mins. Available on 29th July on a 4-disc Blu-ray Collector's Edition.
During his pomp, Nicolas Roeg was a formidable filmmaker, somebody you took on with caution. He knew all your weak points, and he'd play upon them with a quiet ruthlessness. Roeg's best films (the first six: from Performance to Eureka) have an almost indecent ability to dig down into human frailty and they always leave a little scar. So, if you're lucky, Don't Look Now will just be a silly thriller about a grief-stricken couple in Venice dabbling in clairvoyance as a murderer is loose in the city. Probably though you'll find yourself being enthralled by it, wrapped up in it exquisite sorrow and despair, exposed to anguish that isn't going to be wiped away soon.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jmmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. (15.)
Directed by Robert Altman. 1982
Starring Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Sudie Bond, Kathy Bates, Marta Heflin. 107 mins. Out now on Dual format Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Eureka! Masters of Cinema series.
But then there is always the theatre. When you've burnt all your bridges and every door is closed to you, when you've messed up so completely nobody can see a way back for you, there's always the fearta. Because the fearta doesn't care, it takes in anyone and doesn't seem to discriminate about talent or lack thereof. Just follow the code and you'll be fine. If you can't make it there, you can't make it anywhere.