“Time To Die”

Ever since I saw the original ‘Blade Runner’ in a cinema in London, I have been obsessed with the soliloquy of one of the characters. Rutger Hauer plays Roy Batty, an android with a designated life span who realises that it is his time to die. The scene is forever memorable, and the film is still number one in my top ten of all the films I have ever seen.

How cool is that?

After watching the film in 1982, ( I was 30 years old) I really wanted to know when it was my ‘Time to die’.

Now I am older, I think that would be a very bad idea.

Would anyone else actually want to know the exact date of their death? Let me know in the comments.

Retro Review: To Live And Die In L.A.

**No spoilers**.

In 1985, I went to see a film at the cinema. I was attracted by the two stars, William Petersen, and Willem Dafoe. This is a film about obsession. The obsession of one government agent for revenge, and the obsession of a criminal to avoid arrest at all costs. Just recently, it was shown on TV here and I watched it again, 38 years after that first viewing.

I was still very impressed. This is film noir meeets the age of the pop video, with some vivid colours, and a soundtrack by Wang Chung. The British new wave band composed all the music for the film, and to be honest, it sometimes jars with the visuals. However, this is a film about time and place, and it is near-perfect in that respect.

The ‘good guys’ are Secret Service agents who work in the specialist field of counterfeit money. Petersen (always an intense actor) plays Chance, a no-nonsense rule breaker who cares nothing for procedure, as long as he gets his man. When his partner is killed two days before he is due to retire, Chance goes off the rails to track down his killer. He gets a new partner, Vukovich. (John Panko) He plays it by the book. Suited, reliable, and not about to go along with any rule breaking. So the chase is on for the villain by this mis-matched pair.

The bad guys are printing counterfeit money like it is going out of fashion, led by the talented forger, Rick Masters. (A startlingly young-looking Dafoe.) He has a mule named Cody, played by the talented John Tuturro, and a henchman who does the heavy stuff. When they are surprised by Chance’s former partner, they take him out without a second thought.

Masters is artistic. He paints, his girlfriend is a dancer in an alternative show, and he produces near-flawless forged notes. But he is also completly ruthless, and like the man hunting him, he acts without a second thought when it comes to his own needs and desires.

Chance goes on the offensive. Hassling informants, and following the money to the door of a top lawyer. (Dean Stockwell.) He arrests Cody at the airport, then puts pressure on him in prison. Car chases ensue, but they are good ones. Lots of people get shot, and Chance gets closer and closer to Masters as time runs out for both of them.

And the ending completly surprised me in 1985. Something that rarely happens.

This really is top-notch stylish cop drama, filmed in the usually unseen industrial side of Los Angeles, away from the familiar luxury houses and shopping areas. The criminals are seedy, and so are the cops chasing them. It felt real then, and still does now. Petersen and Dafoe are on sparking form, and ably supported by a well-chosen cast.

Highly recommended.
(The trailer has flashing images.)

A Netflix Error

I decided to watch a film on Netflix to take my mind off of feeling ill. It is a new version of ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’. I have read that book, watched the 1930 film adaptation, and the later 1979 remake. This new version is a German language film, starrring mainly German actors. I settled down to watch it one afternoon, only to be greatly surprised that it was dubbed into English.

The story is not the same as in the book, far from it. But what we do get is a loosely-based version that delivers a powerful anti-war film with some outstanding special effects and cinematography. I stuck with it, but I was left feeling short-changed that it was not shown in the original language.

Looking online, I read that Netflix shows this film in German by default, with English subtitles. So I have no idea why I was shown a dubbed version. I rarely use Netflix, so I suspect I missed a ‘click’ on something.

Maybe I will watch it again, and be more careful before pressing ‘Play’.

Film Review: Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)

***No ending spoilers***

This is a British independent film, written and directed by Thomas Clay. It is set in 17th Century England just after the civil war, and stars two of Britain’s finest actors, Maxine Peake, and Charles Dance. With my interest in the period, and having seen the excellent casting, I was excited to be able to watch this free on TV, courtesy of Channel 4.

The scene is rural Shropshire, the year 1657. Cromwell rules in England, and the Puritans enforce religious observance. They are against any other religious beliefs, and do not agree with revelry, drunkenness, or excessive celebrations. Some ordinary people opposed the Puritan restrictions. They embraced ideas about female equality, free love, and asserted that there was no heaven or hell, only earthly life. To the Puritans, they were heretics and blasphemers.

Fanny Lye is married to Captain John Lye, a man who served with distinction in the Parliamentary Army and returned home to buy a farm and land in the county. Despite her poor background and lowly upbringing, he married Fanny, giving her security as his wife, and also a son, Arthur. But he is a hard man, and a strict Puritan. He beats both Fanny and Arthur for the slightest reason, and regards her to be his property.

Returning from church one Sunday, the family is surprised to find two strangers in their house. They had arrived naked, and stolen clothes to wear. The young man claims that he and his wife were robbed on the road to Salisbury, and asks to stay until they are able to continue their journey. He also says he served in Cromwell’s regiment in the war, so Captain Lye takes pity on him.

But when men arrive at the farm looking for two heretics who are wanted for fornication and religious crimes, the young man takes Arthur hostage, threatening to kill him if they are betrayed. The men are the local constable, the High Sheriff of Shropshire, and his assistant. The Sheriff holds a warrant to arrest and execute heretics, and anyone harbouring them. But Captain Lye refuses him entry, claiming to have not seen any strangers.

After this incident, the film takes a darker turn. The young couple stay on at the farmhouse, and the atmosphere changes to one of great tension. Afraid that they will kill his wife and son, the enraged captain tries to overpower them, but is injured and securely tied up. He is then forced to listen as his wife is seduced by the teachings of the new religion, and then made to watch while she makes love with both the man and woman at the same time.

He bides his time to take his revenge, but nothing works out as we expect it to.

I really enjoyed this film. The atmosphere of repressive 17th Century England is second to none. Set design and scenery is completely convincing, as is every member of the small cast, especially Maxine Peake on brilliant form. Yes, it has one sex scene, and some sudden and brutal violence. But it is all in context, and no worse that you would see on any modern TV drama.

Yet another ‘small’ film that shows there is more to see than the big blockbusters that are so popular.

Here is a trailer.

Films: Retro Recommendations (1)

Thinking of films that get overlooked today, I decided to offer a list of recommendations of a variety of films that I thought were great. I have reviewed some of these, but not all. I am only going to supply IMDB links, and/or trailers where I can find them, but I believe they are all worth your viewing time. I only chosen English-Language films with no subtitles on this occasion.

The Last Seduction. (1994, not the remake.)


The House of Games. (1987)


The Grifters. (1990)


Dead Man’s Shoes. (2004)


Sling Blade. (1996)


Blood Simple. (1984)


Blue Steel. (1990)


The Crying Game. (1992)


The Butcher Boy. (1997)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdvtR8Hup4E (Trailer is poor quality)

Angela’s Ashes. (1999)


There are the first 10 for your consideration. More to follow in this series.

Film Review: Brightburn (2019)

**No plot spoilers.**

This film was shown on TV over the Halloween period. I had never heard of it, but recorded it on the PVR.

The action begins in a remote farmhouse in the small community of Brightburn, Kansas. A couple is in bed one night when something like an earthquake shakes their house, and they see a bright red light out in the woods.

Then we have moved on. They have a baby, a small boy. They are blissfully happy, and enjoying the rural life in the American Mid-West. As the boy grows, it becomes apparent that he is exceptionally clever, much to the delight of his parents. (Elizabeth Banks, and David Denman)

But Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is not popular at school, and becomes something of a loner. He is occasionally bullied, and not really accepted by his peers. Once he reaches puberty, things start to go badly wrong. Chickens are killed, Brandon begins to sleepwalk and hear voices, and the boy also discovers something hidden in the barn that will have a devastating effect on all of their lives.

The film then starts to turn into a horror film, (as advertised) and we see that young Brandon has some very unusual powers. These include super-strength, being able to move at lightning speed, and also being impervious to cuts, bruises, or injury.

Are you thinking what I was thinking? Superboy, Superman as a child. Raised by kindly parents who are devoted to him, and determined to keep his secret.

That is definitely the inspiration for this film, until it takes a very dark turn. This Superboy is actually Superbad, and it is not that long until we discover just how bad he is.

Despite having some of the expected ‘jump-scares’, this is a really enjoyable film. It takes a familiar story, and turns it on its head, blending sci-fi with horror to great effect. Many of the set-pieces are very well done indeed, and the cast take it all very seriously throughout. One of those ‘small films’ that delivers more than so many blockbusters.

And if you do watch it, stay right to the end, and during the credits too.

The ending is great!

Here’s a trailer.

Film Review: The Nightingale (2018)

I watched this Australian film recently on television, attracted by some great reviews, and the fact that it had won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

(Although I will avoid plot spoilers, I have to state from the outset that this film contains unsettling images of rape, racism, and extreme violence.)

The year is 1825, and Britain rules Australia as a colony. The Army enforces that rule with an iron hand, treating the Aboriginal people appallingly, and using convicts as servants and labourers. One such convict is the Irish waitress, Clare. She is the Nightingale of the title, as her singing voice is admired by the soldiers, especially the officer, Hawkins. He also lusts after her, and uses his power over her to keep her captive even though she is married, and has a baby.

Hawkins is supposed to be sending a letter recommending that Clare and her husband are freed, but he refuses to do so. When she challenges him about that, he rapes her. Her husband discovers the assault and confronts Hawkins and his sergeant, resulting in a fight. This is witnessed by a visiting Colonel, who tells Hawkins afterwards that he is unsuitable for promotion. Enraged, Hawkins resolves to travel to Launceston, to plead his case in person with the area commander. He orders his sergeant to accompany him, along with a junior officer, Ensign Jago, and three civilians, including a small boy.

But before departing, Hawkins resolves to settle things with Clare and her husband. Holding them at gunpoint assisted by Jago and his sergeant, he rapes Clare in front of her husband Aiden, then commands the sergeant to do the same. All the while her baby girl is screaming, and Aiden is beside himself with rage. So Hawkins shoots her husband, then tells Jago to keep the baby quiet. He throws the baby across the room, killing it as it hits the wall. Then he is told to finish off Clare, and hits her with the butt of a musket. Thinking they are all dead, the soldiers depart for Launceston.

However, Clare survives, and she enlists the help of a young aboriginal tracker, Billy, to follow the men to get revenge for her family.

What follows is an arduous trek across country, during which Clare finds a new respect for her guide and his culture. On the way, they encounter shocking treatment of Aboriginals by white overseers, and have to learn to work together against the terrain and elements to survive. Clare also eventually catches up with the soldiers, relying on her guide to help protect her from them.

If you can get past the often distressing scenes, this is a powerful film in every respect. Casting is perfect, with outstanding performances by all the leads, direction is flawless, and the atmosphere and period of the early 19th century is completely convincing. The cinematography on the rugged landscape of Tasmania is wonderful, and it has much to say about racism, colonialism, and the dark side of the British Empire.

I thought it was excellent, and it will stay in my mind for a very long time.

Here is the official trailer.

Significant Songs (120)

This lovely song needs a reblog. Only 8 comments in 2016!


Dear Love

As well as qualifying as one of my significant songs, this post is also something of a film review in miniature too. As well as the music, I can recommend the film ‘Big Driver’ that includes this song on the soundtrack.

Earlier this year, I watched this film on TV, knowing little or nothing about it. I was attracted by the cast, which includes Maria Bello, Joan Jett (of rock and roll fame) and the menacing Will Harris. It is a tough film to watch, involving sexual abuse, and a woman’s revenge. The story is about how a female novelist tracks down the man responsible for the attack on her. In doing so, she uses as her inspiration the heroine of her mystery stories, an elderly female detective played by Olympia Dukakis. Of course this is a fictional character, so only visible to our heroine. I later discovered…

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Films, And The Paintings of Edward Hopper

Any readers of this blog will be aware of my love of films and cinema. I also admire the paintings of Edward Hopper, an American artist I have featured on this blog previously.

Edward Hopper: A Tribute In Photographs

My friend Antony sent me a You Tube video, where the presenter discusses how films influenced Hopper’s work, and how those paintings in turn influenced film-makers. It is only 12 minutes long, and the comparisons are fascinating, at least to me. Anyone who enjoys films, and also likes Hopper’s paintings, should enjoy this video as much as I did.