Beatriz At Dinner (2017 USA)

Gathering characters around a table is always a good pretext for serving up something tasty for a hungry cinema audience. The moral spectrum here is far too nuanced to allow a single clear position. It’s a diagnosis without a prescription. For one thing, Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is no Donald Trump. He’s far smarter, knowledgeable, more gracious, disciplined, self-aware, more honest — in fact, the character here who is the most at peace with himself. The three wives are uniformly hard, brittle, constantly on guard to sustain their marital and social status. Of the three wealthy couples only Doug is secure enough within himself and confident in his dealings with the others. The men live on his approval, so the wives must too. [Read more…]

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Falconer (John Cheever)

So here, then, is a John Cheever’s great penal novel. Or should I say, penile novel. Yes, yes, the pun is too obvious to be anything but unfunny. But it’s just shouting from the eaves to be thrust into the spotlight. This is primarily because one cannot turn a page without finding cocks, balls, erections, ejaculations, peckers, dicks, tumescences, foreskins, pissings, and yes, at least one anal intrusion by a phallic object. What would I expect, I suppose, from a prison novel. I’ve heard that song by Tool. I’ve seen Oz. I know what goes on there (or so I’ve heard). [Read more…]

Getting Into Heaven (1970 USA)

(NSFW) Dig the clip of Uschi and her stuffed tiger….GRRR!! Heaven is an aspiring starlet with a roommate named Sin (short for Cindy, get it?) Both are willing to do anything to get into the movies. Mr. Salacity is a disgusting executive who demands that the two women sleep with him as an “audition.” This doesn’t bode well with police officer, Bernie, Heaven’s new boyfriend. They fell in love after she ran over his foot. Bernie wants Heaven to marry him, but she can’t marry him and become an actress too, can she? And will Mr Salacity give Heaven and Sin parts in his next ‘motion picture’? So many questions, so much drama! [Read more…]

The Passenger (Lisa Lutz)

book cA fun 304 page romp. Tanya Pitts husband is dead at the bottom of the stairs. She assumes he fell down them, because she had nothing to do with his death. Instead of calling the police, she decides to “cut and run” as the Americans say. She packs a bag, grabs what money she can find and takes off into the night. It becomes apparent early on that this isn’t the first time Tanya has had to run. After making a phone call to a mysterious man, she requests a new name with credentials and some cash. Hair coloured, disposable phones in hand, Amelia Keen is born and off to find a new back roads town to start over in. The big question is why?
[Read more…]

Pulp Fiction (1994 USA)

PF is sick slop geared towards video store geeks. Why is this flick so bad? Its like asking why is Barbra Streisand so ugly? She just is. Pulp Fiction, similarly, is a byword for cheap, profane nastiness. Watching this causes your brain to shut off for two and a half hours while a man with a God complex strokes his ego. I can understand to some extent why it is so popular. And as for padding Quentin did achieve something remarkable: every awful stretch of dialogue is dragged out as long as it will last, and then some. It’s as if Tarantino said to himself “I think I can cram two more f words and one more line about milkshakes in here”. [Read more…]

The Blob (1958 USA)

Hardly substantial enough to be a guilty pleasure, let alone a cult film: a giant quivering mound of raspberry (or is it blackcurrant?) jelly chasing – and often catching – fleeing, highly respectable teenagers on a weekend night. From the moment we hear Burt Bacharach’s opening theme song “Beware of the Blob!” we know we’re in for a good, solid, campy light hearted fun. Refreshingly free of any scientific investigation/jargon. I like to watch this stuff for historical reasons: the 50’s cars, teens in high collar shirts and high pants, crime-free suburbia, Polio posters, proper girls, crooked teeth, chess games, super friendly cops… [Read more…]

A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days. [Read more…]

The Killers (1964 USA)

Hugely influential classic re-telling of Ernest Hemingway’s short story. This flick has inspired many a wannabe. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in colour and features no detectives or private eyes. And not even a “film” as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. With this version also featuring a murder-by-sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, the ’64 version of The Killers has a bit of history. [Read more…]

Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

Hell House (Richard Matheson)

Matheson really was a master of his craft. He took the conventional Gothic structure and threw it out of the window. Assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. Readers new to Hell House will be wondering how far are things going to go regarding the repulsive sexual shenanigans… What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today, unfortunately. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor. I bet Stephen King used this as some inspiration for The Shining. [Read more…]

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