Hal Ashby's unsatisfactory Woody Guthrie biopic from 1976 uses a shovelful of sentiment to flatten out most of the bumps in Guthrie's life, but David Carradine contributes a glorious, low-key performance as the visionary legend who travelled his country throughout the Great Depression, singing for the beat-down folk and fighting off the Fascists. The real star, though, is Haskell Wexler's radiant dustbowl cinematography.
Peter Shaffer's play is stripped of its stage trappings by director Sidney Lumet, exposing many of its failings—primarily Shaffer's preposterous, ponderous script. Admittedly, Peter Firth is believable as the disturbed boy with a quasi-religious fetish for horses, but Richard Burton's dreadfully hammy as his psychiatrist. Jenny Agutter supplies the gratuitous nudity.
Released along with four other François Truffaut films, this '77 piece is one you either love or hate. The auteur's autobiographical protagonist roves around Paris, picking up and ditching a stream of women, musing over what constitutes the perfect female ankle, and philosophising like Woody Allen on opium. Old-school; intense.
Robert Aldrich's blazing adaptation of Mickey Spillane's gut-wrenching nuclear age potboiler turns a well-worn genre on its head and retains its power to shock almost 50 years after it was made. Ralph Meeker yells his way through this movie as the quintessential Mike Hammer: loud, boorish, sexist, bullying and gleefully violent. Watch out for the back-to-front titles and apocalyptic climax. Truly the greatest private-eye movie ever made.
Rattle & Hum director Phil Joanou escaped the U2 camp to direct this uneven saga of Irish mobsters on the loose in early-'90s New York. Sean Penn makes for a reasonably authentic Oirish lead and Gary Oldman blows the roof off as an unwashed homicidal loon, but this sporadically brilliant flick belongs to Ed Harris. His incandescent performance as malevolent mob boss Frankie Flannery will stick in your head weeks after the credits roll.
Handsome widescreen digital transfer for one of Sam Peckinpah's most underestimated films, 1975's angrily prescient satire on corporate America, whose ultra-cool surface belies the roiling fury at its bleak and bitter heart. James Caan and Robert Duvall are cynical operatives for a San Francisco-based intelligence agency, doing jobs too dirty even for the CIA. Early on, Caan is crippled by gunfire in a bloody double-cross and 'retired' from the company.
Wes Craven directed this fairly faithful adaptation of DC's horror comic muck monster: a scientist caught in a chemical explosion in a Louisiana swamp gets transformed into a vegetable superbeing. Sadly, the script's clunky and the make-up SFX are tatty beyond belief—notably, the rubber suit that makes ol' Swampy look like a giant walking turd. Result; a travesty.
Pam Grier is a nurse turned vigilante, on a mission to avenge her strung-out kid sister by taking out the pushers, bad cops and corrupt politicians feeding off her neighbourhood. Hustling along to Roy Ayres' soundtrack, Jack Hill's 1973 movie is often grisly but treats its sex and violence with a surprising, and refreshing, matter-of-factness.
Ulu Grosbard's sombre noir revolves around the infamous Black Dahlia murder that gripped 1940s Los Angeles. With Roberts De Niro and Duvall excellent as brothers caught up in the case—respectively, a repressed but ambitious priest, and a hardbitten homicide cop who suspects his sibling knows more than he should—it aims for a dark, sweeping resonance pitched somewhere between Chinatown and L.A. Confidential.
Remember the '80s, when Dan Aykroyd comedies were event movies? This 1988 stinker brings back plenty of bad memories, with Aykroyd playing a mental patient masquerading as a radio talk-show shrink. Not even co-stars Walter Matthau and Charles Grodin can wring a laugh from this wretched relic.