The big Hotel, "The Palliser", featured was one I worked at in 1978-79 as a bartender.
Just say no!
Eli Roth directs and co-writes the screenplay with NicolÃ¡s LÃ³pez and Guillermo Amoedo. It stars Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas. Music is by Manuel Riveiro and cinematography by Antonio Quercia.
Reeves plays Evan, a devoted husband and father of two, who while he is left home alone, is visited by two young women soaked and apparently lost. Letting them in to his home as an act of kindness, things quickly spiral out of control.
You do wonder if Eli Roth sits at home looking at the reaction to his movie and giggles like a schoolboy. It's invariably a distinctly average film, but it does get a reaction from the audience, something which Roth is gleefully aware of. Pic is actually a remake of Peter S. Traynor's 1977 movie, Death Game, which starred Sondra Locke and Colleeen Camp, both of whom lend their names to production for this release.
At times it feels like we are part of one of Roth's wet dreams, or conversely one of his sick jokes. Yet as the cast struggle to instill acting gravitas (the girls actually become more annoying than frightening), and Roth chooses psychological themes over blood and guts, there's a deft whiff of a moral fable hanging in the air. While also of note is the nods to film noir, both in story and visuals. It isn't enough to save the piece, but it's interesting enough as an aside to the chaos inside the house. 5/10
She was also in the trashy, has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed Italian crime caper film called Dog eat dog! aka When Strangers Meet (1964). The opening scene shows her writhing in ecstasy on a bed covered with stolen $100 bills, and proceeds to get even weirder as the story unfolds.
If you fall out of bed again the cockroaches are gonna start talking.
The Hot Spot is directed by Dennis Hopper and adapted to screenplay from the Charles Williams novel, "Hell Hath No Fury", by Nona Tyson and Charles Williams. It stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly, Charles Martin Smith and William Sadler. Music is by Jack Nitzsche and cinematography by Ueli Steiger.
Dennis Hopper loves film noir, he has been in some bona fide classic neo-noirs, whilst also turning his hand to directing that style of film making. The Hot Spot may not be a total success as such, but it is a superb effort that lovers of all things noir can feast upon. Story pitches Johnson as drifter Harry Madox, who lands in a Southern state town, bluffs his way into a car salesman job, plots a robbery, and then finds that two local ladies - of very different qualities - are about to change his life forever...
I found my level and I'm living it.
Hopper turns in a honest and faithful tribute to the first wave of film noir, but armed with the fact this was his era of film making relaxations, he gets to sex things up. Blending noir with erotic thriller conventions allows Hopper to pile on plenty of sizzle, which comes in the form of Madsen, who as Dolly Harshaw gives neo-noir one of its finest femme fatales. Overtly sexual and on the surface a ditz, an easy lay, it's only when this part of noirville shows its hand - in true old school fashion - does the character become memorable still further.
On the flip side is Connelly's more straight laced Gloria Harper, who Madox coverts, yet there's baggage there as well (is she virginal?), baggage which adds more potency and trickery to this smouldering hot spot hot-pot. The girls are great, but so is Johnson, he broods and has a raw masculinity most fitting for this type of role. It's a shame he didn't do more neo-noir because he has the tools for the trade. Hopper brings sweat, sweaty close ups and noirville fans, while the photography and musical accompaniments are superbly compliant to the required atmosphere.
The editing is a let down, so many scenes needed to have the linger factor, but it's not enough to kill this fine slice of noir pie. A sexy guy in over his head, devious machinations from both sexes, robbery, arson, deaths, ignorance and stupidity, The Hot Spot is far from being boring! The deliberate slow burn pacing has alienated the casual "crime/erotic thriller" film fan, but for those who love and know their noir, the fireplace cinders approach is a joy because the pay off delivers all that we hoped. 8/10
The Doppleganger Disease.
Tightrope is directed by Richard Tuggle and Clint Eastwood, Tuggle writes the screenplay. It stars Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold, Dan Hedaya, Alison Eastwood and Rod Masterson. Music is by Lennie Niehaus and cinematography by Bruce Surtees.
New Orleans and Detective Wes Block is plunged into a hunt for a rapist serial killer that brings out his own deviant peccadilloes.
One of Eastwood's best movies also happens to be one of his most under appreciated, the actor challenging himself to explore a darker characterisation than the iconographic ones he was most famed for. Wes Block is a damaged man, a divorced father of two girls, who he adores but they are uncomfortably at arms length due to his work. He's afraid of affection, to be touched in a gentle manner by a member of the opposite sex, preferring to indulge in seamy sex by way of prostitutes who frequent the dark abodes of Orleans' French Quarter.
If you knew what's aheadâ¦
Enter the doppelganger effect, as a mysterious serial killer is at large murdering the ladies of the night that Wes takes his pleasure with, the guilt factor hanging heavy on his haunted shoulders. As Wes tries to bring down the killer, he is battling to realign his mindset about the female sex, his daughters and also Beryl Thibodeaux (Bujold), the latter the rape counsellor who was once his sparring adversary, but is now a potential lover if Wes can put everything back on an even keel.
Tuggle, Eastwood and Surtees bring plenty of film noir touches to their picture. Surtees' photography is strong in colour but dark in shading, perfectly embodying the seamy side of The Big Easy. Between them, actor and director fill out this fascinating tale with classic noirish scenes. A Mardi Gras warehouse is eerie, as is a chase through a cemetery, then there's clowns and balloons, things that are associated with childish fun but so often in noirville carry a sinister edge. The sleazy dives that Wes frequents are foreboding places of sin, more so when the killer is stalking his prey. While a railroad location is used to great effect as well.
It has some problems, Hedaya is wasted and the Wes and Beryl relationship is telegraphed a mile away. While the formula of such movies inevitably means the culmination of tale is no surprise, but the journey is a dark and interesting one and Tightrope is a damn fine movie. 8/10
Spielberg does Tech-Noir!
The year is 2054 and the murder rate in Washington is zero, the reason? Three Pre-Cognitives whose combined abilities witness murders before they actually occur. Apparently faultless, it's then something of a surprise to Pre-Crime chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) when the Pre-Cogs predict he is to murder a man named Leo Crow. Forced to go on the run, and haunted by a family tragedy, Anderton must evade the system he so perfectly executed himself. Can he find a flaw? Or is he actually about to commit a murder?
Everybody Runs! That was the tag line that accompanied the explosive trailer for Steven Spielberg's, Tom Cruise starer, Minority Report. This marketing tool indicated that the great bearded one had adapted from the Phillip K Dick short story and created an action monster? He hadn't, he had in fact created something far far better than popcorn fodder.
Minority Report was the next project for Spielberg following the equally dark and intriguing AI: Artificial Intelligence, both films serving to note that Spielberg was capable of thought provoking science fiction outside of the crowd pleasers that many critics love to decry. In fact, it's arguable that Spielberg may have hit his creative peak with Minority Report, for the messages and crawling dystopian bleakness on show paint a picture not so much as a future far away in our lives, but of one we live in now. Big thematic points of reference dot themselves throughout the piece. Such as the changing of eye balls, or that in these post 9/11 years we yearn, and always will, to be safer.
Here in this bleached shadowy world, a world of metallic tones and visual stings (ace cinematographer Janusz Kaminski on duty), we are safe under Pre-Crime, yet still it's a world without soul, it has no heart, it's almost as if inhuman in itself, suggesting that the World's problems are not easily vanquished by technology - a total sacrifice of the World's inhabitant's souls. Spielberg of course is well served by the supreme professionals he has at his disposal, he has also managed to garner a great performance from Tom Cruise, something that critic and fan favourite directors have not managed to do previously. Believable grief, action work as strong as ever, it is however with his ability to imbue a tortured film noir protagonist where Cruise excels the most.
Alongside Cruise and operating with great impact, are Samantha Morton as Pre-Cog Agatha, and Max Von Sydow, who adds that touch of experienced know how needed for his particularly important character. the odd casting choice appeared to be Colin Farrell as the meddling, almost vindictive Danny Witwer, but he plays well off of Cruise, this even if he veers dangerously close to comic book villainy at times (check out a holy smoke Batman scene). What action there is is first rate, from a jet back pack pursuit, to car jumping heroics, the sequences are crafted with Spielberg's deft eye for an action sequence. While the sick sticks (yes you read right) metal spiders and a brilliant Peter Stormare cameo should hopefully have you squirming and grinning in equal measure.
Which brings us to the finale, an ending that may not be a complete surprise (yet it still doesn't cop-out in context to Anderton's tragedy), but things are rounded off in true classic noir tradition, closing down a thinking man's tech-noir. Superb. 9/10
The Hate of Harlem.
Blast of Silence is written and directed by Allen Baron, he also stars along with Molly McCarthy, Larry Tucker and Peter Clume. Music is by Meyer Kupferman and cinematography by Merrill Brody.
It's Christmas week and hit man Frankie Bono (Baron) blows into New York City from Cleveland to take out a mobster who has gotten above his station. Casing locales and plotting his course of action, Frankie is shaken out of his dead cold approach to his work by a couple of faces from his pastâ¦
Blast of Silence beats a black heart, stripped down to the basics it's a film about one man who hasn't known what it is like to be human. Frankie Bono is case study of self-loathing, of how to hate everything around him, his biggest crime may not actually be the hits he carries out with cold blooded efficiency, but that of being born in the first place. But now Frankie, in all his miserable glory, has strolled into the Big Apple and hitched a ride to noirville, and those well balanced ice chips on his shoulders are starting to melt.
The air is pungent, reeking of fatalism, pessimism and of course nihilism. New York City is a place of towering construction wonders, we can see that, but Baron and Brody film it as a foreboding entity, with a cold grey veneer befitting our hit man rattled out of his cemented equilibrium. The constant gravel voiced narration by Lionel Stander is in the second person, it's also in Frankie's head, mocking him, reminding him of failures and pitfalls, of impending misery. While over the top is Kupferman's jazzy score, where at times it's like a panzer attack (that ferocious double bass is just magnificent), at others a melancholic lament to a life never lived.
The low budget and use of every day Joe actors helps keep the film grounded, which is just perfect for the tale. There's no need for histrionics or visual tricks here, Baron and Brody use the naturalism of the actors and the city surrounds to great effect, covering proceedings in a semi-documentary style. Blast of Silence is a hard picture, it isn't trying to cheer you up, this is not a Christmas movie for annual pleasures. From the super opening of a speeding train birthing out of a tunnel, to the bleak finale, it's a film noir movie of considerable class. Don't let anyone tell you film noir ended in 1958â¦ 9/10