The January Man (1989) Film Review


There is a serial killer haunting New York. The Mayor is at the end of his wits, and insists that his Police Commissioner, Frank Starkey (Harvey Keitel) gets his brother Nick (Kevin Kline) back on the case, despite him being dumped publicly from the force years previously for some scandal. Then there his dumped love affair with Nick’s wife, Christine (Susan Sarandon), the new relationship with the much younger Bernadette Flynn (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) who, just to add complications, is the mayor’s daughter. And how wonderful to see the recently passed Alan Rickman as the hilarious artist friend.

Is there such a genre as romantic comedy crime thriller? Because that’s what this is – silly, romantic and yet it’s still a suspenseful, serial killer thriller. It’s wonderful, and ridiculous, and makes me want to see Kevin Kline more and more and more. I love him. There is one scene in the film that is most odd. I didn’t think Harvey Keitel was really acting all that much, but in a conversation between him and Kevin Kline, it seemed as though they were both in different scenes altogether, having different conversations. So extremely odd.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Film Review


I had held of watching this film for two reasons: firstly, I didn’t love Wes Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, and was a bit concerned I wouldn’t love this, and I have truly loved many of his previous films; second, I saw a trailer early on and thought that I had seen most of it. I was wrong on both counts. I love it and the trailer actually gave very little away.

Essentially, the film tells the story (in a somewhat convoluted fashion) of a bell boy working at The Grand Budapest Hotel. No, that is not it. There is a lot more, there is theft and betrayal, sex and love, cakes and guns, prison and trains. But to attempt to tell it could give away too much, and it is a story that it is a delight to simply watch unfold. The typical, beautiful style of Wes Anderson is apparently in every shot, and his large cast of some of the most wonderful actors is great. (Although extremely male-heavy, with no really good female roles. Wes Anderson usually does better on this count… shame)

I think that if you do not like Wes Anderson films, you won’t like this one. If you haven’t seen one, perhaps this might be the best to introduce you to him.

The Grand Budapest Hotel won Oscars for Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Alexandre Desplat) and Best Achievement in Production Design. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Wes Anderson), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness).


The Piano (1993) Film Review


Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter), a woman who does not speak is married to a man she has not met and sent with her young daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) to New Zealand, a country only just being colonised by the English. Her new husband, Alisadair Stewart (Sam Neill) is emotionally distant and has no idea of how to deal with a woman. But then she starts a relationship with George Baines (Harvey Keitel) which compromises her own security.

It is certainly a stunning film and I recall it being highly acclaimed at the time. I found it difficult to get past Harvey Keitel’s mysterious accent (I think Scottish?), though he had a lot of passion. But the love story is terrible – the idea that he has to blackmail her into sexual favours (although they are often quite tame, such as lifting her skirt to reveal a tiny hole in her stocking that he then fondles as she is playing the piano. Then, after resisting for some time, she falls in love? I mean, he was a potential escape from the brutal life Stewart had dragged her into, but it was actually extremely unpleasant to watch. Perhaps, if there has been some suggestion that Baines had feeling for her and it was not just a convenient way to bed a white woman, maybe then I’d have accepted it. As it was, it pretty much ruined the film for me, despite the beauty, it was a story about two creepy men dominating a woman. Oh and the piano music was horribly repetitive and drove me to despair.

The Piano won Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Holly Hunter), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anna Paquin) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Jane Campion) and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Jane Campion), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing.


Clockers (1995) Film Review


Strike (Mekhi Phifer) is a drug dealer in Brooklyn, working in the projects. He suffers from chronic stomach pain, possibly an ulcer, possibly just stress from his situation. When his boss, Rodney (Delroy Lindo) tells him he needs to step up to stop a rival dealer taking his territory by killing him, Strike confides in his straight-laced brother. The dealer is killed, but it is not clear who the murderer is.

The film tells a great story, but since the gritty realism of The Wire, it does feel quite dated and almost a bit sanitized. But it is this and other films by Spike Lee that have allowed things like The Wire to be created.


Reservoir Dogs (1992) Film Review

Reservoir dogs

A group of criminals are brought together for a jewelry heist, but things go badly. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, but there is much more to it than that. There is the coming together of the criminals, each given the name of a colour to avoid sharing personal information. There is the revelation of an undercover cop in the group. There is the slow bleeding out of one of the criminals as they wait, after the event, to see who survived. All told in though a combination of flashbacks interjected into the story.

It was considered revolutionary at the time; the clear voice of a new auteur, a bright new star on the Hollywood scene; Quentin Tarantino. How true; Tarantino quickly became known for his witty dialogue and extreme violence. Looking back on this, twenty years after its release, it mostly holds up. The script is good, although I always found some of the key scenes (the pancake house in particular) pretty annoying. My one criticism is that the acting is generally quite clunky, and I think that is thanks to the lack of experience of Tarantino at the time. I’d actually love to see him remake it now to see if the way he directs the actors would be any different.