SAMURAI COP (18)
D: Amir Shervan
Hollywood Royal Pictures (Orlando Corradi & Amir Shervan)
W: Amir Shervan
DP: Peter Balian
Ed: Ruben Zadurian & Amir Shervan
Mus: Alan DerMarderosian
Matt Hannon (Joe Marshall), Robert Z'Dar (Yamashita), Mark Frazer (Frank Washington), Cranston Komuro (Fuj Fujiyama), Janis Farley (Jennifer)
Samurai Cop is a 1991 direct to video action movie which many people would consider "so bad, it's good."
Matt Hannon plays the title character, although he's just a standard cop, the only reference to samurai in this movie is the fact that the bad guys are Japanese.
The film is so poorly made that it will provoke laughter rather than thrills and spills. The performances are all atrocious, especially Matt Hannon, who wears a pathetically unconvincing wig in several scenes due to reshoots.
It is bad, but nowhere near the 'So Bad It's Good' reputations of Troll 2 or The Room (qv). Still, it has gained a huge cult following due to its general awfulness and even generated a sequel, 24 years later.
SATURDAY NIGHT & SUNDAY MORNING (1960)
D: Karel Reisz
Bryanston/Woodfall (Tony Richardson & Harry Saltzman)
W: Alan Sillitoe [based on his play]
DP: Freddie Francis
Ed: Seth Holt
Mus: Johnny Dankworth
Albert Finney (Arthur Seaton), Shirley Anne Field (Doreen Gretton), Rachel Roberts (Brenda), Bryan Pringle (Jack), Norman Rossington (Bert), Hylda Baker (Aunt Ada)
Among the first of the Angry Young Man melodramas from Great Britain at the beginning of the 1960's, setting of the UK's own new wave of filmmaking to rival the French.
Albert Finney stars as Arthur Seaton, a Nottingham factory worker whose love life gets him in hot water as he embarks on an affair with a married woman, while also dating a younger local girl.
Very much a product of its time, but the excellent performances of Albert Finney and Rachel Roberts still hold up strong.
SCARFACE (aka SCARFACE: THE SHAME OF A NATION) (PG)
D: Howard Hawks
United Artists/The Caddo Company (Howard Hughes & Howard Hawks)
W: Ben Hecht, W.R. Burnett, John Lee Mahin & Seton I. Miller [based on the novel by Armitage Trail]
DP: Lee Garmes & L.W. O'Connell
Ed: Edward Curtiss
Mus: Gus Arnheim & Adolph Tandler
Paul Muni (Tony Camonte), Ann Dvorak (Francesca Camonte), George Raft (Guino Rinaldo), Boris Karloff (Tom Gaffney), Osgood Perkins (Johnny Lovo), Karen Morley (Poppy)
Adapted from a novel which was loosely based on the rise and fall of infamous mobster Al Capone, Scarface was released during the prohibition era and was considered at the time to be both gratuitously violent and that it glorified gangsters. In fact, Capone himself was a huge fan of the movie and cast member George Raft, a childhood friend of real life gangsters Ben Siegel and Meyer Lansky, became a surrogate style consultant, due to his participation in the film.
As for the movie itself, it may have been groundbreaking for the early 1930's, but it's incredibly tame by modern standards, and even in comparison to the 1983 remake (starring Al Pacino). For the time, it's incredibly well made, directed with some style and good performances. Influential and groundbreaking it may have been, but it's definitely weakened by age.
D: Steven Shainberg
Lions Gate/Twopoundbag/Double A (Steven Shainberg, Andrew Fierberg & Amy Hobby)
W: Erin Cressida Warren [based on the short story 'Bad Behavior' by Mary Gaitskill]
DP: Steven Fierberg
Ed: Pam Wise
Mus: Angelo Badalamenti
James Spader (E. Edward Grey), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Lee Holloway), Jeremy Davies (Peter), Lesley Ann Warren (Joan Holloway), Patrick Bauchau (Dr. Twardon)
This erotically-charged black comedy studies the kinky relationship between a sexually dominant lawyer and his submissive secretary.
Socially awkward, emotionally sensitive and youngest of a hugely dysfunctional family, bookish secretary Lee Holloway starts a new job for perfectionist lawyer E. Edward Grey, whose sexual urges are stirred by her obedience and his disciplinary methods (which would be unlikely to carry him favour at an employment tribunal).
However, Lee feels empowered by the treatment, gains confidence and desists from self-harming, which would be her usual way of coping with stress.
The film was hugely controversial at the time of release, with criticisms of sexism, but considering the subject material, it's actually very tastefully handled, with an excellent lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who brings humanity and sexuality to a very challenging role.
It's almost ironic that just over a decade later, a similar theme of sado-masochism would be used in the Fifty Shades Of Grey series of books and be considered romance. At least the relationship presented here is a two-way street, with both consenting adults approving of their mutual desires.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (PG)
D: Billy Wilder
20th Century Fox (Charles K. Feldman & Billy Wilder)
W: George Axelrod & Billy Wilder [based on the play by George Axelrod]
DP: Milton Krasner
Ed: Hugh S. Fowler
Mus: Alfred Newman
PD: Lyle Wheeler & George W. Davis
Cos: Travilla & Charles LeMaire
Marilyn Monroe (The Girl), Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman), Evelyn Keyes (Helen Sherman), Sonny Tutts (Tom McKenzie), Oscar Homolka (Dr. Brubaker)
Although this film features one of Marilyn Monroe's most iconic moments on the silver screen, it has not dated well at all. A rarity for a Billy Wilder film.
Tom Ewell may not get top billing but he plays the lead role of Richard Sherman, a publisher whose wife and son have gone on holiday for the summer, while he stays at their Manhattan apartment where a beautiful tenant (known only as 'The Girl') subletting the room upstairs becomes the object of his infatuation and a series of imaginary moments transpire between the two.
Though the film captures the culture and mannerisms of the 1950's, it's far too twee by modern standards and just doesn't dare to be brave enough.
D: Hal Ashby
Columbia (Warren Beatty)
W: Robert Towne & Warren Beatty
DP: László Kovacs
Ed: Robert C. Jones
Mus: Paul Simon
PD: Richard Sylbert
Warren Beatty (George Roundy), Julie Christie (Jackie Shawn), Goldie Hawn (Jill), Lee Grant (Felicia Carr), Jack Warden (Lester Carr), Carrie Fisher (Lorna Carr)
Casual sex in Beverly Hills, starring Warren Beatty as a lethario hairdresser who uses his skills to seduce his more glamorous clients.
The seedy story attempts to be more high class by setting its events on the eve of the 1968 political election, but it's really just a sex farce with Warren Beatty doing his usual act.
Lee Grant delivers the film's best performance as the wife of a politician, and the script features some good dialogue, but it hasn't dated particularly well. Soapy stuff.
THE SHAPE OF WATER (15)
D: Guillermo del Toro
Fox Searchlight/TSG/Double Dare You (Guillermo del Toro & J. Miles Dale)
W: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
DP: Dan Laustsen
Ed: Sidney Wolinsky
Mus: Alexandre Desplat
PD: Paul D. Austerberry
Cos: Luis Sequera
Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Michael Shannon (Col. Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Octavia Spencer (Zelda Fuller), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Robert Hoffstetler), Doug Jones (The Amphibian Man)
Guillermo del Toro may owe a debt of gratitude to other filmmakers and their visions, particularly French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but this 2017 fantasy romance does have enough originality of its own to escape any allegations of plagiarism.
Sally Hawkins really shines in the lead role of Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner at a government laboratory in 1960's Baltimore, where the new asset is an aquatic creature which the military plan to experiment on to give them an edge in the race for space.
Initially hostile, the amphibian man soon becomes able to communicate with Elisa and a unique romance develops between the two, threatened by the monstrous army colonel in charge of the operation, but Elisa also finds assistance in the form of her gay next door neighbour and her co-worker who provides a voice for her.
The direction, cast, music and technical achievements are all excellent and the visuals are a marvel to behold. The amphibian man is basically the Creature From The Black Lagoon with a better physique, but it's refreshing that the creation was mostly done with practical effects rather than CGI.
Certainly one of the best films of 2017, reflected by its deserved haul of 13 Academy Award nominations.