Rating: The Good – 89.8 Genre: Crime Drama Duration: 94 mins Director: Terrence Malick Stars: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates
A blinding debut from recluse Terrence Malick. Badlands follows the kill-spree of two young free spirits in a thoughtful exploration of young adults playing by their own rules while trying to make their mark on the world. Martin Sheen gives the performance of his career as the James Dean wannabe with homicidal tendancies. Sissy Spacek is a revelation as the confused young girl who is just as culpable as her boyfriend yet just as innocent. This is a powerhouse of a film that will leave you with many unanswered questions and a great sense of unease but with Malick’s prodigious sense for visuals and sound as well as the acting of the leading pair, it’s worth the watch and then some.
Rating: The Good – 76.9 Genre: Thriller, Drama Duration: 122 mins Director: Costa-Gavras Stars: Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Mayron
Costa-Gavras’ gem of a film chronicles the true story of a political writer (played by John Shea) based in Chile during the revolutionary turmoil of the 1970′s who disappears after he is taken away by the military. The story follows the attempts of his wife (the wonderful Sissy Spacek) and his father (a sterling turn by Jack Lemmon) to find out where he is and what happened to him. Shea is fine if a little wooden but he is only really a support player as this movie is all about Lemmon and Spacek’s considerable performances and on-screen dynamic. Costa-Gavras structures the film superbly and bookends the film in a profoundly clever manner. All in all, Missing is a glowing testament to the quiet power of cinema and not to be missed if you like slow-burning political thrillers.
Oliver Stone’s sprawling account of New Orleans’s DA Jim Garrison’s investigation into the assassination of JFK is a remarkable piece of work. Coming in at three hours long and replete with dialogue heavy scenes and very little action, this film shouldn’t have worked. However, Stone employed a documentary style full of flash backs and hypothetical re-enactments laced together with quick paced explanatory dialogue which was for the time a revolutionary approach to making a feature. He also populated the expansive story with a seemingly endless array of big name actors which itself was a masterstroke as it allowed the audience to easily remember the various personalities who popped in and out of the narrative. Kevin Costner is terrific as Garrison and carries almost the entire film as he features in nearly every scene. The rest of the cast are excellent while John Williams throws in with a nice little score. However, in the final analysis, this film is ultimately about the Stone’s direction, his and Zachary Sklar’s screenplay, and Joe Hutshing’s and Pietro Scalia’s peerless editing.
Rating: The Good – 90.5 Genre: Horror Duration: 98 mins Director: Brian De Palma Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Brian De Palma brings Stephen King’s horror classic to life with bags of wit and style in this seminal addition to the horror movie genre. From the very opening shot we see that De Palma’s innovative style and penchant for long slow tracking shots are perfectly suited to telling the story of a troubled high school girl who spends her days being bullied in school and her evenings being psychologically abused by her fanatically religious mother. A target for her classmates’ cruelty and a vessel for her mother’s self-delusions, Carrie is about to blow and given that she has recently discovered that she can move objects with her mind, neither is going to want to be around when she does.
Carrie is a case of inspired writing and screen adaptation (kudos Lawrence D. Cohen) being brought to life by a confident young director who was (along with others of his generation) both heavily influenced by the old maestros yet also changing the shape of modern cinema with bold new ideas and innovations. And Carrie is chock-full of both. This film glides along and shifts almost effortlessly in tone from seriously dark and creepy in places to whimsical, carefree, and downright fun in others (just check out that tux-buying scene). Pino Donaggio’s score helps hugely in the latter instances but really comes into its own when Carrie is using her powers.
Sissy Spacek is phenomenally good in the title role given that the two sides to her character’s personality were so disparate. William Katt’s always positive presence brings a ray of sunshine the party and Nancy Allen and John Travolta are excellent together as two of the twisted bullies. Of course Piper Laurie is just plain scary as Carrie’s mother and adds that final touch of class needed to elevate this masterpiece into the high echelons of great cinema.
Rating: The Good – 74.7 Genre: Action, Crime Duration: 88 mins Director: Michael Ritchie Stars: Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Sissy Spacek
“He’s the expert from Chicago. I heard people talking.” Michael Ritchie’s gritty quasi-satire is as hard nosed as 70′s cinema got and it’s not difficult to see why with Lee Marvin playing the enforcer sent by the Chicago mob to deal with fearless and loathsome cattle rancher Gene Hackman in Kansas City. This is a film which plays by its own rules right from the beginning as we see Hackman’s henchman turning the mob’s previous enforcer into sausage before sending him back up to Chicago. Marvin is steel (as usual) in the main role as Devlin but with the calm intelligence of a man who knows how to get things done. Hackman is just plain disturbing as the sadistic Mary Ann who treats women like cattle (literally) while Sissy Spacek scores well as one such woman who latches on to Marvin for help. Ritchie brings it all together with a thunderous punch so successfully in fact that there are definite shades of Prime Cut in later masterpieces such as Reservoir Dogs. The pace drops at points as Ritchie doesn’t always find the right balance between paradoy and hard edged action but for the most part Prime Cut is vintage stuff.