Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.
Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.
I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).
LOGAN – An exercise in how to properly dispatch a comic book character with at least some dignity as well as a very well-made film. James Mangold and Hugh Jackman along with a mostly fine supporting cast bring Wolverine’s story to a close with this brilliant, brutal chapter that will hopefully be the final word on the character. Probably the best X-Men film (As there are no X-Men in it, or funky costumes, for that matter), We see Logan’s powers fading thanks to his adamantium skeleton poisoning him, a dementia-ridden and very dangerous Charles Xavier (a great Patrick Stewart) and former foe Caliban (Stephen Merchant) reduced to being a cranky caretaker who gets pressed into service by one of the film’s villains (Boyd Holbrook) after he’s captured and tortured.
Despite some cliches, the film works even better than it should once the young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) arrives and makes her killer presence a big thing Logan has to rein in despite not wanting to get involved at all. But things being as they are in this film, he’s in for a penny, in for a pound. And yes, there’s a rather high body count before those closing credits. While the bursts of shocking violence and profanity-laced dialog are definitely not for the kiddies, it all serves the story well (In English: this would have been a lousy PG-13 film if things were toned down). The film’s main drawbacks are what always plagues superhero comics and films: you very likely won’t recall any of the other kid mutants the film introduces thanks to their powers being fairly unremarkable. Still, this one’s worth watching even though I have the feeling we’ll see a new Wolverine at some point as a younger actor hops into the role and plays Logan in either another timeline or as a younger version of the character. Ugh.
Dark Water – As I’m not superstitious, most ghosts in films don’t do much for me other than make me appreciate a decent spectral performance by great actors and actresses doing their scary stuff. That said, as a ghost story, this one’s not too shabby and worth a look. Director Hideo Nakata has a way with the wet stuff, making water stains, dripping ceiling and later on, an elevator full of water pretty frightening. That and a school bag that won’t stay lost plus a return to Nataka’s Ringu-style scares all help this one get its job done. The Arrow Video restoration is quite good overall, with a few new interviews as well as archival footage worth a look.
You kind of feel sorry for poor Yoshimi Matsubara and her daughter Ikuko during the film because neither deserve what’s coming to them, but there’s at least a bit of a redemptive ending for one character. In a way, I’m sort of surprised this 2002 film never got a freakier sequel, but I guess someone will figure out how to ruin this by trying to pad out a new second story despite the first having an otherwise fine sense of closure. I didn’t care for the 2005 American remake much, by the way. Both versions have an unsettling vibe, but the original works much better in terms of tone and feeling just right for the time it was made.
Pulse – Another gloomy ghost story from Japan, but this one’s somewhat relevant for a few reasons. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s slow-burning apocalyptic flick shows the internet (circa 2001!) breeding restless ghosts who come into the real world through the internet to claim what seems like everyone on the planet. As people start dying in Japan, a small group of people who’ve lost friends try and cope with the growing crisis. This is one of those dark, depressing films that has almost no humor at all and will seep under your skin if you let it. Interestingly enough, the Arrow restoration seems intentionally fuzzy and mushy as if Kurosawa was recording some sort of icky time capsule meant to drag one’s spirits down.
The Blu-Ray is loaded with extras (including way too many TV commercials and trailers of assorted length), so it’s worth a buy if you want to see some nice interviews and some cool “making of” bits that include that memorable upsetting dive a stunt woman takes from a tower. As noted, this isn’t a film for everyone and don’t be surprised if you see this and consider kicking yourself off social media for a bit because it’s that much of a kick to the head. Well, at least see this with a few friends, as there’s quite a bit to talk about afterwards.
Go, Johnny, Go! – On a lighter note (Ha!), here we have a nifty good old rock ‘n roll film that clocks in at a tidy 73 minutes and features a bunch of folks your kids (and adults who try to be too damn cool because they ignore the past) have probably never heard of. Alan Freed (and his huge forehead) hosts a line up that includes Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos, Jimmy Cavallo, with Sandy Stewart, Herb Vigran, Frank Wilcox, and Barbara Woodell (*whew!*).
This one’s great if you want to do a bit of singing along any maybe a bit of dancing, but be prepared to have the neighbors tapping on your door telling you to “turn that radio down!” Of course, if you’re a total oldster with a good memory, you’ll say something wise-acre-y like “But Dad, It’s Smokey!” – which, trust me, almost NO ONE will understand what the heck you’re talking about. Eh, maybe keep it down a bit, as you don’t need ten fingers to the face when you go to 11. Hey, they don’t write songs like these anymore (or jokes as bad as mine, for that matter). Hmph. Still not sold on this? Okay. I’ll even be nice here and lend you the trailer for a look-see:
As it’s later than I thought, let me end here and post this before pumpkin hour. I’ll have a few more flicks of note tomorrow. Expect the under-expected.