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Edward Scissorhands

Director – Tim Burton – 1990 – US – PG – 105 mins

*****

Burton’s first post-Batman outing is essentially a fairy tale set in the modern world.

A rare fusion of big budget American Studio movie and highly personal vision, Tim Burton’s first post-Batman (Tim Burton, 1989) outing is essentially a fairy tale set in the modern world. Its environment is a pastel-shaded suburbia inhabited by gossipy women, largely absent men (they’re at work during the day) and equally absent teenagers (away on a camping trip). This is clearly not so much a naturalistic representation so much as a paradigmatic equivalent, which is probably just as well since at the end of one predictable street is an equally unpredictable, gothic mansion towering into the heavens.

As Avon Lady Peg Boggs (the versatile Diane Wiest) traverses this route, she wanders about first the magnificent castle grounds – adorned with exquisitely sculptured bushes – and into the creepy interior where she finds Johnny Depp’s Edward, the boy previously described in the film’s frame story by an old aged Winona Ryder as “a boy who had scissors for hands”. He also has numerous tiny gashes on his face, to which Peg painstakingly proceeds to apply her craft!… Read the rest

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Edward Scissorhands

Director – Tim Burton – 1990 – US – PG – 105 mins

*****

PLOT

An old lady tells her grandchild a story: “there once was a man who had scissors for hands.” His name was Edward (Johnny Depp), and he lived in the old mansion on the hill where an inventor (Vincent Price) was refining him into a real boy. But before the inventor could add the final touch – replacing the scissors with real hands – he died.

Meanwhile, Peg Boggs the local Avon Lady (Diane Wiest) is doing her rounds when she calls at the spooky mansion to discover the strange boy with the cut face who she makes up and brings home – to arouse the curiosity of the bored, local housewife community.

Edward soon demonstrates amazing creative abilities, carving hedges into statuesque forms and cutting hair on dogs and humans in unique styles. Housewife Joyce (Kathy Baker) is smitten with lust for Edward – with catastrophic results – while the boy himself falls hopelessly in love with Peg’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder), who is taunted by her boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall). Disastrous consequences follow.

OPINION

Having delivered a Batman (Tim Burton, 1989) far more satisfactory than anyone dared hope, and taking the inevitable (after all the hype) fortune at the box office, director Tim Burton is given free rein to do whatever he wants.… Read the rest

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Ridley, Ripley, Thelma & Louise

Alien

Director – Ridley Scott – 1979 – US – X – 116 mins 35 secs

*****

Blade Runner

Director – Ridley Scott – 1982 – US – AA – 117 mins 04 secs

*****

Thelma & Louise

Director – Ridley Scott – 1991 – US – 15 – 129 mins 22 secs

*****

At the end of Alien, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), having defeated the monster, strips down to her underwear only to discover that she hasn’t defeated it at all and it’s still in the space shuttle with her in the archetypal Hollywood false ending of recent years. It begged the question, why did Ripley remove her clothing at this point if not for the obvious gratification of the male members of the audience (and, one should add, the accompanying box office returns)?

At the end of Thelma & Louise, the eponymous heroines (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon respectively), on the run after the former’s rapist has been murdered after the event by the latter, find themselves trapped between the Grand Canyon’s gaping precipice on one side of them and massed hordes of police marksmen, ready to open fire if they don’t surrender, on the other. No pandering to male voyeurism here.… Read the rest

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Total Recall

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 1990 – US – Cert. 18 – 113m

***

UK Release: July 27th 1990

Arnold Schwarznegger’s mind has been stolen – and he’s got to go to Mars to get it back! The seeming perpetrator of this heinous crime is Recall Incorporated, a travel company with a difference: they implant memories of the required holiday destination and period in the client’s brain, and it seems to him that he’s having that holiday then. Recall’s latest deal even allows the client to take a break from his/her personality for the period purchased. Arnie opts for two weeks on Mars as a secret agent.

While the requirements of megabudget Hollywood film making often water down the end result, the premise of this film – fashioned after SF author Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale – is not only imaginatively preposterous but also so utterly cinematic that it has a phenomenal amount going for it right from frame one.

Add to this not only Schwarznegger but his contractually binding choice of director being none other than Dutchman Paul Verhoeven (The Fourth Man, 1983; Robocop, 1987) plus a final price tag which might well be as high as $70m, and you can see why expectations on this movie are so high.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

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The Killer (Dip huet seung hung)

Director – John Woo – 1989 – Hong Kong – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

Starring Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh

What’s it all about?

On the verge of retirement, contract killer Chow accidentally blinds singer Yeh during a hit that goes wrong. Guilt-ridden, he undertakes one last killing for the money to pay for the operation to restore her eyesight. Meanwhile, policeman Lee is determined to bring him to book.

Why is it in our top 100?

Because it enabled Woo to cross over from a Hong Kong to an international audience – a much more personal work than A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Hard Boiled (1992), complete with trademark bloody, balletic, bullet-strewn violence and familiar themes of guilt, redemption and brotherhood.

Something to tell your mates

Chow (his surname) is both a huge star in the Far East and an incredibly versatile, talented and charismatic actor comparable to Robert De Niro or Cary Grant. The detail in facial expression lost on VHS video is very much intact on MIHK’s impressive 1994 PAL laserdisc.

Originally published in Home Entertainment as part of a One Hundred Best Movies on Home Entertainment Formats feature.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Black Rain

Director – Ridley Scott – 1989 – US – 15 – 120

**

UK Release date: January 26th 1990.

On paper, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain reads like a winner: a police action thriller with Michael Douglas and sidekick Andy Garcia (then a little known star in the ascendant) as an NYPD cop hunting a villain in Japan. Where the film scores heavily is on the visual style level; this is Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) imagery without the superficial Sci-Fi mega-budget special effects overlay. Or plot. The film looks startling throughout, due in part to Scott’s collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Jan de Bont (later director of Twister, 1996, not to mention Speed, 1994, and its sequel); every frame is a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, Scott is not shooting a Hovis commercial here, and we need a rather more substantial screenplay – such as Alien (1979) or the extraordinary Thelma & Louise (1991) – than the flimsy sketch on which Scott hangs his current images. Generally, though, Michael Douglas – and the rest of the cast including the versatile Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Steven Spielberg, 1984) – are wasted.

Things start off well enough with a leather-jacketed Michael Douglas racing his cycle against a fellow biker along a New York quayside.… Read the rest

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Naked Lunch

Director – David Cronenberg – 1991 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

UK PAL laserdisc review.

Originally published in London Calling Internet. See also my reviews in Film And Video – The Magazine and What’s On In London.

Distributor Pioneer LDCE

Cat No: PFLEB 30781

£9.99

BBFC Certificate 18

Running Time 85 min

Dolby Surround

Widescreen: 1.85:1

Chaptered? Yes

CLV

2 Sides

New York, 1953. Bug exterminator Bill Lee (Peter Weller) runs out of roach powder whilst treating an infested apartment. His initial accusations against his employers’ theft of the substance are revealed as groundless when he discovers wife Joan (Judy Davis) is using the brown powder as a drug. She persuades him to take up the habit. In a downtown interview, two narcotics detectives introduce Bill to his “Case Officer” – a typewriter sized bug with a talking orifice in its back who instructs him to kill Joan, as she is an Interzone agent.

After shooting his wife, Bill seeks counselling from Dr.Benway (Roy Scheider) who gives him a counter narcotic. A Mugwump gives Bill two air tickets to the Interzone where he meets (among others) Swiss expatriate Yves Cloquet (Julian Sands) and writers Tom and Joan Frost (Ian Holm and Judy Davis).… Read the rest

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Naked Lunch

Director – David Cronenberg – 1991 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

Originally published in Film And Video – The Magazine. See also my reviews in What’s On In London and London Calling Internet.

PLOT

New York, 1953. Bug exterminator Bill Lee (Peter Weller) runs out of roach powder whilst treating an infested apartment. His initial accusations against his employers’ theft of the substance are revealed as groundless when he discovers wife Joan (Judy Davis) is using the brown powder as a drug. She persuades him to take up the habit. In a downtown interview, two narcotics detectives introduce Bill to his “Case Officer” – a typewriter sized bug with a talking orifice in its back who instructs him to kill Joan, as she is an Interzone agent.

After shooting his wife, Bill seeks counselling from Dr.Benway (ROy Scheider) who gives him a counter narcotic. A Mugwump gives Bill two air tickets to the Interzone where he meets (among others) Swiss expatriate Yves Cloquet (Sands) and writers Tom and Joan Frost (Ian Holm and Judy Davis). Throughout his adventures, friends Hank (Nicholas Campbell) and Martin (Michael Zelikner) encourage Bill to write his book Naked Lunch.

OPINION

Attempts have previously been made to turn William Burroughs’ seminal book Naked Lunch into a movie, but David Cronenberg’s version (produced by Jeremy Thomas of The Last Emperor fame) is the only one to reach fruition.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Naked Lunch

Director – David Cronenberg – 1991 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

Originally published in What’s On In London. See also my reviews in Film And Video – The Magazine and London Calling Internet.

INSECT POLITICS

Watching David Cronenberg’s film of William Burroughs’ novel The Naked Lunch, it becomes clear that the two men share a bizarre sensibility for what the protagonist of the director’s earlier remake of The Fly (1985) described as “insect politics”.

To film Burroughs’ “unfilmable” work, Cronenberg adopts the strategy of incorporating biographical details from the writer’s life into an overall fabric also comprising elements from a number of Burroughs’ books. Hence, the “accidental” shooting of his wife at a party (Burroughs was high at the time) jostles with insect typewriters turning into sex blobs (here pink, dog sized insects with prominent flattened buttocks) and animatronic Mugwumps working for the Interzone network.

Once again, Cronenberg is shown as a master not only at directing both actors and special effects but also in his sheer command of filmic vocabulary. The sequence where Joan Lee (Judy Davis) is startled by husband Bill’s “William Tell Routine” going wrong and getting her shot (he takes out his gun after she’s balanced a glass on her head) is as unforgettable as it is unsettling.… Read the rest