SLEEPING DOGS

1977; directed by Roger Donaldson; adapted by Arthur Baysting and Ian Mune; 107 mins

Sam Neill on an island! We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Here is the movie that kicked started the entire New Zealand industry and the first to open in the US. It’s a hugely important movie and if you’re a film critic living in the country and you haven’t seen this one: that’s a crime! I have now atoned and watched and am happy to report that it’s really good! Continue reading

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AMERICAN HONEY

2016; written and directed by Andrea Arnold; 157 mins

Too long it has taken me to return to Andrea Arnold‘s work! The composer Glenn Branca, in the film Punk: Attitude*, once referred to Patti Smith as “the Queen of the Universe” and that’s kinda how I feel about Andrea Arnold! And, Julien Temple aside, I think she’s the nearest a film director has got to a genuine punk spirit. Not that she gives over an obvious punk look but her films do seem to be made with an anything goes, fuck-it frame of mind. Finding “beauty in not being beautiful” as John Lydon put it.** Continue reading

PERFECT STRANGERS

2003; written and directed by Gaylene Preston; 96 mins

[Spoilers]

From what I’ve seen of Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople (which, CRIMINALLY, I still have not seen!), it fills my heart with gladness that he makes a convincing grouchy old Kiwi bugger. We know he’s versatile but he usually gets the straight-laced, upstanding types (whether good or bad). Here, he is desperate and creepy to skin-crawling effect.

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JFK

1991; directed by Oliver Stone; adapted by Zachary Sklar and Oliver Stone; 198 mins

“I mean, how the Hell do you know who your daddy is? Cos your momma told you so!”

These words, spoken by compromised Assassination investigation team member Bill Broussard, are emblematic, for me, of the whole movie. It’s a quote that’s always stuck out. Just in time for thousands of key assassination-related documents to be released publicly for the first time, I had turfed up the director’s cut DVD of Oliver Stone’s 1991 classic. Does it still hold up? Well, if you disregard the ongoing turnover of credible evidence – yes. It does. Roger Ebert, in his Great Movies review of this film, said one of the most pertinent things I think has ever been said about cinema; “I believe that films are the wrong medium for fact. Fact belongs in print. Films are about emotions”. It’d be much more fitting to put this film alongside David Fincher’s Zodiac than any Michael Moore doco. Broussard’s line illustrates that facts are forever at the behest of emotions when human folly is involved. This film, more than any other, proves that truth. Continue reading

MOONLIGHT

2016; adapted and directed by Barry Jenkins; 106 mins

The first time I saw this was a strange one. I rushed into the cinema as the film started and what felt like just an hour later, I looked at my watch and realised the film had only 5 mins to go. It was, undoubtedly, an impressively made film with real conviction and a committed and excellent cast. But I came out strangely unmoved by it and couldn’t quite understand the overwhelming praise it was getting. My viewing of it had been compromised enough, in certain ways, though, that I knew I needed to see it again. Continue reading

CARLOS

2010; directed by Olivier Assayas; adapted by Olivier Assayas, Dan Franck and Daniel Leconte; 339 mins

“The man who hijacked the world”

In a recent interview, the filmmaker and critic Alex Cox complained that critics have become “hucksters”, touting and selling films to audiences rather than being honest about a film. I agree with him up to a point but I do think that there is a slight element of whore-ishness that enters into it when you really love a film but you know it’s a tough sell. This is definitely the case with Carlos, which is one of my absolute favourite films but bear in mind that whilst – Yes! – I am selling this movie to you, I honestly love it to bits and I want to share it because it’s such an exciting movie! Continue reading

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

2017; written and directed by Francis Lee; 104 mins

British Brokeback Mountain has been the rather lazy comparison to what is, at face value, the most Daily-Mail-baiting movie of the year (last year, of course, was The Neon Demon). Well, happily, it’s way more than that, it’s a harsh, elemental British kitchen sink drama of the highest pedigree which features one of the finest love stories I’ve seen since I dunno when! Continue reading