The Stunt Man: Supposedly profound power struggle between a tyrannical movie director and the fugitive stunt man. Reminds me of those theatre pieces that don't want to commit to being plays or dances and one character turns to the audience, points and dramatically intones: Alright, this is YOUR PERFORMANCE. WE ARE YOUR NERVES!
Reservoir Dogs: I didn't buy into Tarrantino the way a lot of my friends did because of this film which had wit, strong, well-coreographed action and real cinephilic skill. So do all my favourite Scorsese films and this was like a cover version of them. Well, I used to think that. Then I saw a few Hong Kong actioners which filled in the blanks. It felt flat and calculated even though it was made with obvious love of the form. I found that a little creepy.
A Room for Romeo Brass: Shane Meadows is one of those UK directors we're all meant to admire for his mix of warmth and kitchen sink realism. I just see actors with too much freedom to express their characters and plots crowbarred into the final acts. I think you're meant to forgive the wincable contrivances of this film in the light of Paddy Considine's fiery performance as a psycho. See also This is England which I also think is not better than two of its central performances.
Casino: Goodfellas with pokies. Linear and plodding despite the cast and creative team. A series of strong character sketches which add up to an endless length of knotted string. Scorsese's been dead to me from Cape Fear on. This seemed like the old gunslinger twirling his Colt just like in the old days and then missing the barn door with every shot.
Don't Look Now: At uni I sang the praises of this one along with all my friends after it was on late night tv once. The tragedy of the lost child stirred through the thick atmosphere like an insoluble wine, never blending, always visible. I showed the blu-ray recently to some friends and was apologising for it from the halfway mark. An utterly wasted opportunity, given strong material and all the ambience you could ever want for a thriller. This brings my score for Nicholas Roeg films to a perfect zero (yes, Performance included).
Defending Your Life: Albert Brooks is a good presence in most of the movies he's in that he doesn't write or direct. His improv turn in Taxi Driver lifts that already celestial piece even higher. Whenever he does write and direct there's always a problem and it's not something that suggests itself immediately. His own films are usually whacky comedies and they are almost universally unfunny. This one starts out really well. Brooks dies and goes to limbo where he must make a case to go to the good place. After about twenty minutes in all the jokes about this have decomposed into dust and it becomes a great ugly, clunking rom com. Why? Brooks is smug. He's not only a smug character feeding himself one liners, he directs other actors in the scene to laugh at them. Nothing kills a joke like self-congratulation. There is a worse example (The Muse) but that is irredeemable from the word go. This one could have been saved.
The Hudsucker Proxy: My first sign that the Coen's were fallible. This attempt at a Capra screwball social comedy ends up more of a self-indulgent Sturges washout. If someone had told Jennifer Jason Leigh she was allowed to loosen up her suffocating impersonation of Katherine Hepburn she might still have a career today.
Twilight Zone: The Movie: Grue and grossness kept within industrial safety standards made sure that these retreads from the original tv series just looked newer than the real ones. If it was creepy by suggestion in 1963 it became dayglo and unsubtle in 1983. I hate Steven Spielberg.
Immortal Beloved: Amadeus got away with being historically innacurate because the history was less important than the theme of mediocrity vs genius. It also got away with it because the cast and director were clicking like card in a bicycle wheel spoke. This one fails despite people like Jeroen Krabbe, Gary Oldman and Isabella Rosellini in the cast and Bernard Rose in the chair. Rose had previously made the superb urban myth horror Candyman and the intriguing and absorbing Paperhouse. Having some great music and the gift of a great historical character played by his generation's actor's actor didn't help for some reason. It's silly when it isn't boring.
Flashback: I hate buddy movies and I hate them more when they are road movies with a cloying nostalgia. Dennis Hopper is an aging hippy activist being transported across the US by FBI agent Keifer Sutherland. Dennis subverts Keifer in all sorts of ways until Keifer finally loosens up and goes on Dennis' wild ride through the standard checklist of buddy movies. "The nineties are going to make the eighties look like the fifties," says Dennis. Actually, that came true. He just forgot to add,"...in a good way." Fifties and Eighties = fresh new approaches with a lot of originality. Nineties = repackaging of the three previous decades but sold as fresh.