I didn't get out to see anything new over the last week, but still managed to watch some old favourites, and catch up on a few films I've been meaning to watch for a while.
You Were Never Really Here - with a stunning central performance from Joaquin Phoenix, this noir from director Lynn Ramsay is haunting and demanding in equal measure, eschewing the standard hitman movie thrills for something altogether darker and more unsettling. The violence, when it comes, is brutal, but its in the quiet moments where the nastiness often lies. A wonderfully constructed and unique vision, but definitely one where you have to be in the right frame of mind to watch it.
Broken Arrow - When this came up on a random watchlist, I realised that back in the day, I never actually saw this one. I adored Woo's second Hollywood movie, Face/Off, so I decided to give it a shot. Its defintiely a film made in the 90s, with all the slightly cheap camerawork that entails, and a script that has ever chance to give its female lead something to do and never really does (although at least they don't horn in a pointless romance subplot, as much as the script hints its going to at every opportunity). The final train heist is nicely done, though, and John Travolta proves why he'd go on to play a brilliant bad guy in Face/Off, but here the script is so perfunctory he never gets more than a couple of chances to really ham it up (That said, "would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons" is a deservedly memorable moment). Basically, its aged pretty poorly, and the abruptly cut ending just feels disorienting.
Con Air - With a bad day in the middle of the week, I needed to watch something that is the movie equivalent of comfort food, and here it is. With everyone's favourite is-he-good-or-is-he-awful actor, Nicolas Cage playing an army ranger sent to prison after accidentally killing someone, its a deliriously indulgent action picture that delights in its own idiocy. With a brilliantly weird supporting cast, including John Cusack as a wide-eyed DEA agent, and Steve Buscemi as the most notorious serial killer in the USA, Con Air sort of flows over you and pulls you in with its sheer madness. A flight full of the most dangerous convicts in America (and Nic Cage's character returning home on parole to see his daughter) gets taken over due more to a series of coincidences that any real planning on the part of John Malkovich's mastermind, Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom, and from there on in things get increasingly weird. But the film carries itself with such confidence you can't help but enjoy every ludicrous moment of it.
JFK - Oliver Stone's controversial 1991 movie is a miracle of concept and passion over structure. One of the most talky movies ever made (there's a 20 or so minute sequence that is literally two people sitting on a bench), it manages to sucker you in through the sheer power of its argument, and the commitment of its cast, as to the truth of the Kennedy assassination. Whether or not Stone fudged the facts, and whether or not you believe in the lone gunman theory or the conspiracy, this film makes you wonder whether there might be something in it. Costner is at a career best as Jim Harrison, the New Orleans DA who decides to dig deeper into the connections between his home town and the assassination, and the supporting cast are solidly believable. Its made with passion and conviction, with the only real low point being Joe Pesci and Tommy Lee Jones's appalling wigs. But in this movie, everything means something, so maybe there's more to those hairpieces than meets the eye...
The Dead Zone - I'm a sucker for Stephen King novels. Well, some of them. But there was a real period where it felt like King could do no wrong (aside from Cujo, a novel I never really understood the appeal of), and The Dead Zone is definitely from that era. The story of Johnny Smith, a schoolteacher who falls into a five year coma following a car crash, and awakes with the ability to see people's past and futures when he touches them, it moves from a serial killer thriller through to a moral quandary as Johnny discovers the extent of his powers (in some visions, there is a "dead zone" where he realises there is the ability to change the outcome of events) and realises he may have a chance to stop a man from becoming president and starting world war 3 -- but to do so he must take drastic action. This 1981 adaptation stars Christopher Walken as the everyman who becomes something else, and while this seems odd casting given Walken's reputation now, it really works here. In the first part of the movie, he plays off as kind and goofy before events turned him into a haunted, gaunt figure. Its an episodic movie, but due to the focus on Walken's character, this approach doesn't feel too stop and start, as it might have done in lesser hands. There are some mild moments of horror here, but its more psychological than body horror. Having suffered through some terrible King adaptations in the past, this is definitely one of the better ones.
Get Out - Normally, Lesley doesn't like horror movies, and leaves me to watch them on my own, but when she said she'd heard good things about Get Out and perhaps could watch it, we fired it up on Netflix. To me, Get Out isn't a full on horror, but rather a creepy weird little tale that plays with elements of the genre. That said, I must be inured to horror, as the tension definitely started to get to Lesley, especially when the true extent of the weirdness behind the overly-liberal-acting white family was revealed. But where Get Out works is by relieving the horror with moments of humour and relatable moments. We made it to the end intact, but it was nice to see someone reacting to it the first time round in exactly the way they should have -- tense, but willing to go on and see just how Chris extricates himself from the weirdest meet-the-parents scenario in contemporary cinema.