Lock Up (1989 USA)

(Living the dream. Sly’s got a new boyfriend and some cat food. Talk about Mr Hollywood!) Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is a saint. Literally. He has to do time in the big house for avenging the brutal beating of an elderly man. And he’ll only break out of prison if there’s a funeral for a loved one, or the old man that he avenged. Then back to his cell he will go like a good ‘un. Heck, when he has any free time he even spends it with his kids. And not even his blonde girlfriend, looking on approvingly, can stop him. Not a racist bone in his body either, but as an Italian stallion, he can see through those racist Anglo-Saxon types. Like warden Drumgoole and his guards, Manly and Wylie. These are the bad dudes. Lock Up isn’t subtle. [Read more…]

Advertisements

In The Heart Of The Sea (2015 USA)

Unfairly labelled a flop because it didn’t generate enough moolah at the box office, but in this day and age that’s probably a sign of quality. A dramatization of the true events that inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick”. In 1820 the whaling ship Essex sets sail from Nantucket, Massachusetts. After a largely fruitless search in the Atlantic she heads for the west coast of South America. There she hears about rich whaling grounds several hundred miles west. After reaching the whaling grounds she is attacked and sunk by a massive white sperm whale. The crew take to the boats in what will be an epic struggle for survival.  [Read more…]

The Dog Of The South (Charles Portis)

This is one of those books that will make you shake your head in wonder at how much contemporary fiction is dull, lifeless trash, just because it’s so subtle and hilarious that to admire its virtues is to bring the flaws of others into sharp contrast by implication. The Dog of the South provides a sprawling panoramic view of a particular strain of American culture, with its mix of simple, uncomplicated religious belief and modern economics that seems to winnow the very life and meaning out of the country.  The prose style is very artful and the character of the doctor is an American type very reminiscent of the traveling hucksters and other marginal types found in Mark Twain’ or in O’ Tooles “Confederacy of Dunces”. [Read more…]

All These Condemned (John D MacDonald)

Written in 1954 before environmental issues became big in the public consciousness – this is very different than his later works. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it was by JDM. In the hands of some lesser writer, the two chapters per character-narrator would have come off as a cheesy gimmick, but not for the MacDonald. In just pages, MacDonald fashions whole biographies, not of these character’s histories, but of who they are in body and soul. I rarely come across a book filled with such depth and such distinctive characters.  [Read more…]

The Owl Service (Alan Garner)

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now. I read it when I was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time. Now that I am not as much of a scaredy cat I can see it for what it is: an impressive novel originally intended for a juvenile readership but, as these things tend to do, ended up being just as popular with adults. A remarkably subtle and complex fantasy that could also be classed as weird fiction for young adults. The style is fast-paced, sparse, and doesn’t patronize the reader with pages, or even paragraphs of scene-setting. (By the way– it may be bad luck to gaze at an owl. That’s why I chose such a bland cover above instead of the more striking ones featuring our nocturnal feathered friends. Don’t want to tempt fate…) [Read more…]

The Lost Weekend (1945 USA)

The now very famous title is obviously a reference to what can happen to the confirmed alcoholic when they feel compelled by their bodies to embark on the mother of all benders. As this is an addiction – or a disease, however you prefer to label it – gaps in time tend to occur quite frequently. The drunk will not remember nor care about the depths they have sunk to, but director Billy Wilder was able to superbly capture all of the squalor on film for his audience. The Lost Weekend is almost beyond reproach in its sobering message, sending a strong no-preaching tone. It has a wonderful, sometimes offbeat, script, a wide character range underscored by a marvelous supporting cast and an often moving lead in Ray Milland, our lush under the microscope, who does a grand job projecting despair and cynicism. [Read more…]

Mr Norris Changes Trains (Christopher Isherwood)

“He had an animal innocence,” Isherwood sums up Mr Norris — no, I mean Gerald Hamilton (1890-1970), the flamboyant and flabby rogue who inspired Mr Norris. The two met, presumably, in Berlin where Isherwood lived from 1929 to 1933. The author had gone to that city because of the favourable money-exchange. He caught the tormented, self-destructive spirit of Berlin which Broadway excised in favour of un-zippered frolics and Doctor Rugs (yes, I mean….drugs, not hugs and definitely not rugs). Coming from a strangulating British environment where you faced jail if caught in the bushes with a boy, he read that anything went on in Berlin. As Gerald Hamilton said, “We live in stirring times. Tea-stirring times.” [Read more…]

God’s Little Acre (1958 USA)

The characters in this film have hearts and dreams so unbelievably huge and ungodly, they appear other wordly. This all adds up to bigger than life, almost cartoonish characterizations that are very interesting, if not an outright laugh fest. They are all down home and funky, with a work ethic that stretches any bounds of reality. A crazed Southern patriarch spends all his time digging on his property for gold that he insists that his grandfather hid somewhere on their property and he gets his two dim sons to him on this never-ending quest. As a result, they really do no productive work–they just dig and dig. As for the women, they are all horny and trashy and spend most of their time writhing about like they are in heat. [Read more…]

Thérèse Raquin (1980 BBC)

The picture quality on this DVD has the resolution of a fading VHS tape from 30 years ago, and if this truly is the best restoration that can be made of this 166-minute production, that must be counted as a minor but distinct tragedy…for actress Kate Nelligan is the Thérèse Raquin to end all Thérèse Raquins. Based on the Zola novel, this is the story of a vibrant but trapped young woman, stuck in a loveless marriage to a pampered weakling. Then one day, the husband brings home an old friend–Laurent– and the doors of her soul fly open. [Read more…]

Carnage (2011 France/Germany/Poland/Spain)

Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play “God of Carnage” was adapted by the playwright herself for Roman Polanski’s 2011 film version, renamed “Carnage.” Reza’s word feast is a juicy smörgåsbord for actors and a showcase for the film’s four stars. Despite the glow of bagging 6 Oscars and 17 nominations, the four actors were evidently chosen for talent and range, not luster; all are better known for their on-screen and on-stage work, than their tabloid antics. Carnage is a short 80 minutes. Its fast paced, often funny, well written, superbly acted – and that rarity in cinema – it leaves the bastards hungry for more. [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: