Mel Brooks'gloriously tasteless 1965 comedy, with Zero Mostel's shabby producer and Gene Wilder's timid accountant hatching a plan to make a fortune from a sure-fire Broadway flop, Springtime For Hitler. Brooks' play-within-a-film structure is fiendishly clever, while Kenneth Mars' bug-eyed, paranoid Nazi playwright and Dick Shawn's way-out hippie Hitler steal the show. Superb.
Originally seen as a disappointing follow-up to the all-conquering Halloween, John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) is now more widely regarded as a classic supernatural thriller, inspired by Poe and HP Lovecraft, in which the isolated Californian community of Antonio Bay is menaced by the ghosts of a pirate horde. Masterful.
This documentary about chess grand master Gary Kasparov's duel against IBM computer Deep Blue, in which man was eventually ground down by machine, appears sympathetic to Kasparov's suggestion that IBM cheated, though there appears to be scant hard evidence to support his claim. Kasparov comes across as vain and arrogant and, while this film manages to bring a certain tension to the game, you find yourself pulling for the machine.
The closest that Jean-Luc Godard ever got to directing a star-studded blockbuster, Le Mépris, shot in Cinemascope and featuring Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang, follows the making of a crass adaptation of Homer's Odyssey while ridiculing commercial cinema and giving Palance some cracking lines: "You cheated me Fritz! That's not what's in the script!"
Renny Harlin's 1995 bomb comes midway, both chronologically and qualitatively, between Roman Polanski's fascinatingly bad Pirates (1986) and this year's Pirates Of The Caribbean (reviewed on p141). Whether casting Geena Davis as the head swashbuckler on this treasure hunt was post-feminist revisionism or sheer vanity (she's Harlin's wife) is for you to decide. Either way, it doesn't work. Looks nice, though, in a theme park way.
Corporate exploitation, US foreign policy, K-Mart, small-town rednecks, the NRA and Charlton Heston are all in the firing line as shaggy documentarian, and now best-selling author, Michael Moore tackles America's self-destructive gun culture. Mostly witty and irreverent, it's also sporadically profound—see the terrifying slow-mo security footage of the Columbine massacre and Chuck Heston's final broken and bewildered interview.
This respectful ode to the early days of the US movie industry was the third consecutive box-office flop for Peter Bogdanovich, and the movie that put an end to his wünderkind status in Hollywood. Not fair: Nickelodeon is an accomplished, unjustly-maligned movie very much in the same whimsical period vein as Paper Moon, reuniting the father/daughter team of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal and throwing in an on-form Burt Reynolds. Watch and be charmed.
Bob Rafelson's epic that nobody remembers. Beautifully shot and cast with Patrick Bergin as Burton and Iain Glen as Speke in their historical expedition to find the source of the Nile. The former compares wounds with Bernard Hill's Livingstone; the latter's a Victorian publicity hound. The journey is a bit National Geographic, but the hardships register.
Screenplay by the author Calder Willingham, generic domestics handled by Duvall's Pop and Diane Ladd's Mom, sexual disruptions dispensed by major-outfitted, Oscar-nominated Laura Dern as the teenage housekeeper. Her Rose has an earned rep, but Mom leaps to her defence. Mom's had enough of the South, too. The Button, Lukas Haas, pants and ogles from the sidelines.
Not quite the outright remake of The Wild Bunch it's often written up as, but still by some distance Walter Hill's most explicit homage to Sam Peckinpah. Based on a story by John Milius, 1987's Extreme Prejudice pitches upright Texas Ranger Jack Benteen (a suitably monolithic Nick Nolte) against old buddy Cash Bailey (a colourfully demented Powers Boothe), a former DEA enforcer turned major drug baron who's flooding the US with massive amounts of cocaine from his Mexican fortress, where he's surrounded by a small army of heavily-armed desperadoes.