• Black Rain

    Black Rain

    ★★½

    Black Rain is more or less an excuse for Ridley Scott to revisit his neon noir stylings from Blade Runner, only without the sci-fi. It even tips itself into outright homage at times, including the use of the visually iconic Ennis House in Los Angeles.

    Unfortunately, the storyline is nowhere near as interesting as in his recut and re-evaluated 1982 classic. It's an incredibly standard 1980s fish-out-of-water cop thriller, using a script that was derived from an aborted screenplay originally…

  • Nope

    Nope

    ★★★★

    Jordan Peele goes big budget and mainstream with this alien encounter chiller. The commentary of his previous two films (Get Out and Us) is far less front-and-centre this time around, although it isn't necessarily absent either. However, there's more of an emphasis on accomplished, slow-burning thrills in the style of Steven Spielberg.

    Peele displays an excellent grasp of drip-fed terror, with the merest glimpse providing gripping breadcrumbs towards something suitably vast enough to fit within the many huge landscape shots.…

  • Coneheads

    Coneheads

    ★★★

    Coneheads is basically one very silly joke spun out into a feature-length movie... but it kind of works, if only just. A lot of the humour is on the gross and dumb side but there's an incredibly good natured attitude underpinning it all, as well as a few mild satirical jabs at the immigrant experience in the United States.

    Dan Aykroyd (who also co-wrote the screenplay) is hilarious as the uptight head of the titular alien family. The special effects are also quite fun at times, especially near the end.

  • Days of Thunder

    Days of Thunder

    ★★

    Days of Thunder is basically Top Gun but with NASCAR replacing the United States Air Force. It's ludicrous, testosterone-heavy nonsense, lacking in any real substance beyond a bunch of standard issue dramatic beats aimed at spinning a doggedly predictable story out to feature length.

    The stellar cast (Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, Michael Rooker, Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes) all do their best with the material but, to be honest, they deserved better. The racing footage looks good but gets…

  • Grease

    Grease

    RIP Olivia Newton-John.

    Alas, while she was undoubtedly a gifted singer, her most famous movie hasn't aged at all well - and was arguably wildly overrated even back in the day.

    Nowadays, there's something uniquely discomfiting about its myriad of attitudes - that women are naturally submissive to asshole men, that school bullying makes for a good giggle, and that performers visibly well into their 20s and even 30s are so blatantly extolling high school adolescent horniness. Of course, Grease…

  • Election

    Election

    ★★★★

    Election is a hilarious but rather uncomfortable black comedy, featuring Matthew Broderick as a misogynistic beta male high school teacher who takes a dislike to the over-achieving high school pupil (played by Reese Witherspoon) who is running for student president.

    There are no outright good or evil characters here, just severely flawed ones who carry out rash, selfish actions in order to manipulate the scenario for their own ends. Like real-life elections, the ensuing business is unpleasant and messy at times, yet it maintains an undeniable grip right up to the bitter end.

  • City of the Living Dead

    City of the Living Dead

    ★★★½

    City of the Living Dead was the first entry in what would become known as Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy - the others being The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery (both of which were released the following year). None of them have any real narrative connection, although they all have in common a gothic atmosphere, nightmare logic, ultra-gory deaths and the presence of English actress Catriona MacColl.

    For me, The Beyond is the best of the three.…

  • Death Walks on High Heels

    Death Walks on High Heels

    ★★★

    This giallo, directed by Luciano Ercoli (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion), has a somewhat interesting and twist-filled mystery plot. The trouble is that it takes its sweet time to get there, through lots of picturesque romantic wallowing in the Parisian and English locations, as well as equally plentiful erotic scenes involving Nieves Navarro (credited under the anglicised name Susan Scott). The fish-eating scene was particularly unnecessary!

    It's not bad, with some stylish visuals, some effective suspense scenes and…

  • The Whip and the Body

    The Whip and the Body

    ★★★½

    This gothic chiller is arguably the darkest and most extreme of Mario Bava's cinematic nightmares. The man is a master of painting the frame in broad strokes of pitch black and coloured gels, of using camera trickery to plunge the viewer into the emotional state of the characters, of deploying sound to send chills up the spine.

    With subject matter that takes in suicide and sadomasochistic desire, I can't say that I find The Whip and the Body to be…

  • Righteous Kill

    Righteous Kill

    Those two titans of Italian-American method acting, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, have co-starred in four films together over a 45 year period. The first, The Godfather Part II (1974), is widely considered to be a cinematic masterpiece. Their second, Heat (1995) is an undeniable classic. It's a superbly constructed crime epic and, unlike the previous film, was noted because they shared some brief screen time together in a memorable coffee shop confrontation. Then, in 2019, the duo made…

  • Willard

    Willard

    This mild horror features Bruce Davison as a socially awkward young man who lives with his overbearing mother (played by Elsa Lanchester) and is eternally put upon by his mean, self-serving boss (played by Ernest Borgnine). When he befriends some rats living in the garden, he uses them to enact his revenge upon the latter.

    Willard is basically Carrie with rats instead of telepathy, albeit made some years prior to either Stephen King's novel or Brian De Palma's movie adaptation.…

  • The Mutilator

    The Mutilator

    ★★

    This cheap 1980s slasher was originally named Fall Break, but released as The Mutilator because the title sounds so much more lurid and promising of graphic bloodshed.

    It sure delivers plenty of that - decapitation, dismemberment and gutting are all depicted in loving close-up. The trouble is that most of the rest of it is so boring, with some amateur hour acting and an almost complete lack of tension because scenes drag on forever and ever to no purpose. There…