Rating: The Good – 64.4 Genre: Comedy Duration: 111 mins Director: Herbert Ross Stars: Michael J. Fox, Helen Slater, Richard Jordan
A big slice of 80’s nostalgia has bright eyed Michael J. Fox moving to the big city intent on making his fortune. Stuck in the mail room of his uncle’s corporation, he assumes the role of an executive, gets involved with his uncle’s wife and his mistress, and battles a hostile takeover. It’s the type of wacky plot you’d expect from such a vehicle but thanks to great casting and fun directing, it survives the inevitably lame jokes that were a hazard of the era (after all, this was the period of burgeoning pop culture references). Fox was at the height of his powers and in full-on cheeky charm mode. The arch scene-stealer himself, Richard Jordan, is delightfully lecherous as his uncle, Helen Slater is the softly lit 1980’s feminine ideal, while Margaret Whitton has a blast as the insatiable “Aunt Vera”. Of course, these comedies were a dime a dozen in the late 80’s but few had such a complementary cast of talented actors. Moreover, director Herbert Ross keeps them busy with one elaborate not to mention energetic comedy set piece after another. Whether it’s Fox speed-changing from mailman to executive, generally evading detection, or whether it’s the four main players tiptoeing from one bedroom to another in pursuit of a midnight rendezvous, you’ll find yourself smiling along for the duration. More than that, if you grew up on these movies, the whole thing immerses you in a warm hazy nostalgia that’s simply irresistible.
Rating: The Good – 77.1 Genre: Science Fiction Duration: 137 mins Director: David Lynch Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francesca Annis
David Lynch’s much maligned adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel has been criticised by lovers of the book (which, let’s face it, were always going to be difficult to please), those desperately hung up on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed adaptation (which, let’s face it, was mouth-watering in its potential), and those who seem to have a mind about as open as the vault door at Fort Knox. However, no matter what your bias or leaning, there’s no denying that Lynch brought a level of abstraction to this version that was startling and in its own way defining. The epic story is one of political intrigue 8,000 years in the future between powerful houses fighting over a planet which holds the key to the most valuable natural resource in the known universe. Kyle MacLachlan plays the prince of one of these houses who must realise his destiny on this strange planet and he is surrounded by a host of quirky characters played by equally quirky performers. This film is probably unlike anything you will have ever seen and the sheer breadth of its unfamiliarity will leave you disorientated and at times deeply uncomfortable. And of course, for a film set so far in the future that’s exactly the point! The one major criticism that is not levelled often enough against sci-fi films is their failure to give the viewer the impression that what they’re looking at is alien. Dune is a raging triumph of alienation and disorientation. Once you acclimatise to it, however, the film becomes a rather fascinating experience and while cheesy in places (often due to MacLachlan’s bright eyed naivety being dialed a tad high) for the most part it plays out as extremely sophisticated science fiction. Not for the feint willed, but if you’re a student of sci-fi in particular and film in general, Lynch’s Dune is a must see.
Rating: The Ugly – 64.2 Genre: Science Fiction Duration: 119 mins Director: Michael Anderson Stars: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan
A great concept (futuristic underground world where the population is controlled through a form of mass suicide) is brought to life with some impressive production design and a real nasty performance by the late great Richard Jordan. Michael York (Logan) and Jordan (Francis) play two ‘Sandmen’ whose job it is to track down ‘runners’, those who try to escape their social obligation to kill themselves at 30. Logan and Francis are suitably arrogant given the power they have and are quite content with life until Logan himself is betrayed by the artificial intelligence that runs his underground city. All of a sudden the hunter becomes the hunted as Logan and another runner Jessica-6 must stay ahead of his former partner and the rest of the sandmen. Logan’s Run is a thrilling film and conceptually it was years ahead of contemporary science-fiction thrillers. Unfortunately, it has dated immensely since its release and together with York’s sometimes cheesy performance not even Jordan’s excellent turn can warrant this being anything more than a guilty pleasure movie.
Rating: The Good – 74.5 Genre: Thriller Duration: 103 mins Director: Phillip Borsos Stars: Kurt Russell, Richard Jordan, Andy Garcia
The Mean Season is an excellent thriller about a reporter who is contacted by a serial killer to document his killings. It’s a standard enough plot but one that is well server by a solid cast, an incisive script, and some commanding direction by Philip Borsos. Kurt Russell is as watchable as ever as the conflicted reporter and the always great Richard Jordan plays off him wonderfully in one of the more original and interesting portrayals of serial killer. Mariel Hemingway is only fair as the love interest but Andy Garcia, Joe Pantoliano, and Richard Bradford make up for it with some fine secondary performances. The cast are given a lot of help by Leon Piedmont’s disciplined and insightful script (adapted from John Katzenbach’s novel). The dialogue never feels artificial yet it’s always completely compelling and, during the exchanges between Russell and Jordan, its downright captivating. The story is set against the backdrop of Florida’s storm season and Borsos uses it nicely to add to the movie’s atmosphere. Definitely worth a watch if you’re in the mood for some vintage 80′s thrills or just a damn good thriller.
Rating: The Good – 85.7 Genre: Crime Duration: 102 mins Director: Peter Yates Stars: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a forgotten gem of the crime genre starring Robert Mitchum in his finest role from the later stage of his career. As the title character, he plays a wearisome small time thief forced by a hot shot young cop to inform on the criminals he works with in return for a reduction on his sentence for a recent conviction. “Eddie Fingers” has become largely philosophical about the world he lives in and the rules which everybody needs to obey in order to get by but he refuses to go to prison at his age and leave his family to fend for themselves. Richard Jordan is the ambitious cop who equally understands the dark underworld Eddie hails from and even shows some compassion for his stool pigeon. However, to him, the bust comes first. Peter Boyle is the truly despicable hit man who himself is under that same cop’s thumb but is far more shrewd and treacherous in how he makes his deals.
With such talent in front of the camera, it should be no surprise that one of the major strengths of this film is the acting. Boyle is perfectly sinister and will make your skin crawl. Jordan proves yet again what a vast under-tapped talent he was and his scenes easily prove the most enjoyable. He’s sharp and honest up until a point. But he’s also human and there’s a well structured sting operation in which he shows all the adrenaline and fear which go hand in hand with that type of work. Mitchum was probably better here than in any other film since the height of his popularity and he lays his character’s emotions bare for all to see. It’s another brave performance from a man who made his career playing riskier roles but it’s a more touching turn than anything else he did with the exception of Out of the Past.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is steeped in gritty authenticity as the always underrated Peter Yates shot on location in Boston, in flat lighting, and was generally happy to let the script and actors dominate the feel of every scene. It proved a wise decision too because Paul Monash’s script (adapted from George V. Higgins novel) is superb and way ahead of its time. Capturing the straight shooting perspective of the street and juicing it up with slick dialogue, the likes of which, Michael Mann would salivate over, it must surely rank as one of the best crime screenplays. The characters are entirely believable (and in some cases disturbingly so) and each is defined by a distinct lack of glamour. Coyle himself, is in many ways a run of the mill working man married to a normal looking woman. His aspirations are modest and there’s no super street skill bubbling under the surface like with so many characters today (no “best of the best of the best” here). There’s a degree of street wisdom but nothing that will prompt anything spectacular. There are some well conceived bank robbery sequences run by more clever criminals and they do the job of impressing the audience (those familiar with Ben Affleck’s The Town will see a couple of key similarities between their robberies and those which feature here).
The Friends of Eddie Coyle resists all temptations to give a popcorn audience what they want and instead, it is satisfied to tell an honest story about an interesting central character. At first blush, this might seem like a modest ambition but because of its degree of unconventionality, the audience might find it rather shocking. The final 10 minutes in particular will keep you guessing right up until the end and while the popcorn brigade will be dissatisfied, there are rich rewards for true cinephiles.