Films and TV of the month: June

Fatal Attraction (1987) (Adrian Lyne)
Nominated for 6 Oscars. Gone Girl for the 80s. Also with shades of 70s horror Black Christmas, the phone calls are ominous. The eerie, minimal score adds to the sense of dread. Without any need for bells and whistles, the straightforward story grabbed me, and though a few events are easy to predict, it’s an effective thriller.
My only issue is the film could make audiences more afraid of mental illness, Glenn Close’s character is one in a thousand and not the norm.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) (Amy Heckerling)
A film that held my attention throughout, there was never a dull moment. Probably one of the most entertaining and realistic high school movies I’ve seen.
The awkward teenage situations have aged well despite the film released 35 years ago. Also quite hilarious in places, such as Led Zeppelin in the car, and the small people sitting in restaurant with big menus. Many future stars can be seen in supporting roles, Sean Penn has some of the most quotable lines.
Highlights on the soundtrack include We Got The Beat by The Go-Go’s (from the opening), Sleeping Angel by Stevie Nicks played when they are trying to solve a problem that arises, and Moving in Stereo by the Cars when Brad (Judge Reinhold) is fantasizing about Linda (Phoebe Cates) in the red swimsuit.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) (Mamoru Oshii)
Based on a manga, the story follows cyber-cop Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson in the 2017 remake) as she tracks down the mysterious Puppet Master. Kusanagi struggles to deal with her part-human, part-machine identity.
Set in 2029, an interesting futuristic premise about the advancement in technology, cyberspace expanding into human reality. A brain-computer interface, our “ghost” able to travel, relaying thoughts to other networked brains, a new tool for government surveillance and control. A hi-tech society when one or more body parts have been replaced by robotics, and they face issues such as brain hacking, maintenance of self, false memories, invisibility, and the evolution of the human body.
The film is ambitious, unsettling and influential, having inspired The Wachowski's The Matrix. Visually impressive in its detail of the city, sometimes I found myself forgetting I was watching animation. Her jump from the top of a building is iconic and was recreated in the remake.

Split (2016) (M. Night Shyamalan)
Not as good as M. Night Shyamalan's best films. A minor horror/thriller that is too eager to reveal what is wrong with James McAvoy’s character, those revelations in the first half kill some of the tension. But there are sporadically thrilling moments concerning the girls and does capture a sense of claustrophobia. McAvoy’s performance is noteworthy, though the film is overlong, and I often found my mind wandering due to boredom. SPOILER WARNING: The last 10-15 mins are surprising, but tonally completely different to what the story is about. Or maybe the ending does make sense on a certain level, could it be a commentary on not being able to get rid of him (from your mind), no matter how hard you try.
On a side note, Natascha Kampusch’s powerful autobiography 3096 Days goes deeper into the psychology of victim and perpetrator.

T2 Trainspotting (2017) (Danny Boyle)
What made the original stand out were the inventive visuals and soundtrack. Neither of these aspects are as impactful or unique in the sequel, although I do like the new songs by High Contrast and Wolf Alice.
What we get are a number of homages, reunions, and watching 40 somethings misbehaving. Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is as funny and crazy as he was in the 90s, even when he isn’t aware of it. There are reminders the group are getting older, such as a decline in physical health and family obligations. I mostly felt pity for them.
Especially the improvised song and the chase in the multi-storey car park stood out. The updated choose life speech has depth, but the scene feels scripted and unnatural in its presentation. T2 has glimpses of urgency, but lacks the unrelenting energy that kept me glued to the screen of Trainspotting. I agree with another reviewer who says it “wallows a little too much in cinematic nostalgia for the 1996 original.”

Happy Gilmore (1996) (Dennis Dugan)
A quotable comedy, which popularized the ‘Happy Gilmore’ hockey/golf swing. Funny moments such as the alligator and the ball "go home" scenes, though the punch lines often are offensive by centering around violence. Not many women would date Happy, having witnessed his short fuse and anger management problems. The love interest aspects had warmth, but are not totally realistic. Happy (Adam Sandler) is only mildly likeable, because he is up against arrogant Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald).

Mask (1985) (Peter Bogdanovich)
Based on the life of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis, strong acting and a number of sweet moments. I remember watching parts of the film years ago and was freaked out by the main character's deformed face. Now, I can see past that and appreciate the story. A coming of age drama about struggling to fit in due to being different, and also focuses on the relationships he has to family/friends.
What made the 80s different to today's cinema were the life lessons sprinkled into the screenplays, and there are a few of those here. Like John Hurt in 1980's The Elephant Man, Eric Stoltz is unrecognizable in the lead role. These type of films sometimes depict the deformed character as an angel, but I think it works here by juxtapositioning the teenage son with his troubled mother (Cher). I cared about these people and it's one of those films that stays with you.

The Towering Inferno (1974) (John Guillermin)
Wrote about the film here. Watched because of recent Grenfell Tower disaster and an inner sense of duty to find solutions to high-rise fires.

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) (Review of Season 3, Episodes 5-8) (David Lynch)
So far, season 3 lacks the sense of community of the classic original. But instead of yearning for what Twin Peaks used to be, I’m trying to take the revival for what it is. Dougie and his family I feel a connection to because they keep returning, and is some of the funniest stuff Lynch has ever done. Kyle MacLachlan delivers maybe a career best performance.
The scope of S3 is ambitious, but feels choppy when jumping from one location to the next. It’s intriguing, imaginative, often weird, though I will say many characters are not given enough screen time for us to care.
Short summaries of Episode 5-8 (spoilers):
Episode 5: Set-up, presenting a number of threads and details. The Kyle MacLachlan scenes are the most entertaining and amusing, craving coffee in the elevator, desperate for the toilet, the phone call that causes a disturbance. There’s also some violence at the casino.
Episode 6: Again, the Dougie scenes I liked most, him standing in front of a staircase is a laugh out loud moment, and sitting with his son has warmth. There’s a surprising event in Twin Peaks involving a mother and son which is powerful, yet I can’t see how it has any relevance to the series. There’s also the most bizarre coin-toss I’ve ever witnessed. Diane (who Dale Cooper recorded audio messages for in the original) is revealed in a brief cameo. Naomi Watts is given a moment to shine as the Tough Dame in the delivery scene.
Episode 7: Diane meets evil Cooper and thinks something is off with him. There’s a noise in the walls at Twin Peaks hotel. A mysterious man covered in black oil walks the hall way. Dougie Cooper’s car was stolen and the police confirm this. The dwarf tries to murder Dougie Cooper. Evil Cooper convinces the prison to let him go in exchange for information.
Episode 8: Filmed in black and white, and set in the past. The strangest episode so far, almost wordless visual storytelling. An impressive atomic bomb sequence that would look good on the big screen. A silent horror of sorts, the “gotta light” character is creepy, his scenes are not suitable for kids. We are not given much context so have to piece it together ourselves.

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


  1. Cool reviews! I haven't seen the Twin Peaks revival but the original series is on my to-watch list when I have time. It seems like an amazing show! Fatal Attraction is a great thriller, though like you said, it does exaggerate and do some serious damage towards an understanding of a mental illness.

    1. @Katy: Thanks, Twin Peaks is one of my favorites. See the original from 1990 first, as the story is chronological. Season 1 is essential.
      Yes, Glenn Close plays it well, though she’s said in a 2013 telegraph interview: "Most people with mental illness are not violent" and regrets how it was depicted in 1988.

  2. I like that you enjoy a real mixture of material. You also reminded me that I had seen 'Mask' - yet had completely forgotten about! It's funny how that can happen - at one time I'm sure I'd have remembered every film I've ever seen but now I realise I need to be reminded sometimes! My thoughts went straight to Towering Inferno after the Grenfell Tower events too, but it's not something I feel like watching again right now. Fatal Attraction too is a chilling film, isn't it, with a theme similar to Play Misty For Me which I remember being discussed over on Alyson's blog! I agree about the mental illness aspect. Amazing how the term 'bunny boiler' all started from there and now has such widespread use here it's easy to forget its origins. (I'm intrigued to know if this phrase has any place in the Danish language?)

    1. @C: Mask is a sweet film, particularly the scenes with Laura Dern. There will be viewers who push the stop button though because of his deformed face, and I get why that is.
      Towering Inferno was an odd choice I know, I just felt compelled to learn from it, despite the unease of being "entertained".
      You’re right, there are parallels between Fatal Attraction and Play Misty, the phone calls especially.
      Hmm, wikipedia seems to think bunny boiler is = kaninkoger in Danish, although I haven’t heard it used.

      By the way, I recall you shared the song 'Over The Border' at your site. The spoken-word 'Sweet Arcadia' by Saint Etienne I blogged about today in my Best Songs of 2017 so far, which is quite similar! Think you might like it.

  3. Nice recap here. That 8th episode of Twin Peaks was something onto itself. I've never seen anything like that on television before. It'll be remembered as a milestone moment in TV.

    So glad you like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That one never gets old. And man, T2 was such a bore to me. You're right, it liked any and all inventiveness of the original.

    1. @Alex Withrow: Agree Episode 8 was very special, pushing the medium of television to new places. The imagery reminded me of the stargate sequence from Kubrick’s 2001. Very beautiful.

      Yep, Fast Times is deservedly an 80s classic. T2 was ‘just ok’, difficult to make a sequel to an iconic film!

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  5. Great set of reviews and haven't watched all of these so useful - I do love an American high school movie (especially John Hughes ones - watched 16 Candles with DD at the weekend) but Ridgemont High seems to have passed me by so will have to do something about that.

    T2 Trainspotting was a fantastic gift for those of us who loved the original - It didn't really stand alone but scarily reflected how the intervening years can change things as you reach middle age. Hopefully most of the audience have fared better than the characters in the movie but food for thought. Spud I felt was the star.

    Fatal Attraction really started a whole new genre and probably lowered the rate of extra-marital affairs for a year or two! Yes similar theme to Play Misty but far more chilling - that poor bunny.

    And of course Towering Inferno - One of the first of that long run of 1970s disaster movies. Over 40 years on and the lessons still don't seem to have been learnt. Sad to think that Steve McQueen was dead a few years a later - Too soon.

    As for Twin Peaks missed out first time around and this time - Too many great things to watch and too little time!

    1. @Alyson: Thanks, Sixteen Candles is a good one, easy to relate to the frustration of them forgetting her birthday. I ranked the films of John Hughes I've watched, as you can see, The Breakfast Club is my favorite. ( )
      I’ve been trying to catch up (or rewatch) 80s films of late. Firstly because I love cinema from that decade, secondly in preparation for reading a film book. So expect mini-reviews of a few more 80s movies in the future!
      The book is called: Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don't Learn Them From Movies Any More)

      Glad you enjoyed T2. I felt it was ’just ok’. As you say, did tackle middle age issues, although the constant referencing back to the 1996 film became tiring. As is often the case, the original was unexpected and could shock an audience. T2 lacked surprises for me. But I'm pleased it worked for you and others.

      Fatal Attraction lowering the number of affairs is amusing to think about! There are a fair amount of ‘stalker’ films as it turns out. Effective/suspenseful cinema having someone pursue you!

      Hopefully lessens will now be learned from Grenfell Tower, and it never happens again on that scale.

    2. Hi - Just popped over to see your John Hughes rankings. My top 2 would be Pretty In Pink and Ferris Beuller after that it gets difficult. That was a golden age for American movies and I love those tables put together showing which films the Brat Pack actors appeared in - Fond of St Elmo's Fire as well and they were pretty much all in that one!

    3. @Alyson: Sorry for the late reply. Took a summer break, back now. Pretty in Pink & Ferris Bueller's Day Off are great choices, both so rewatchable. My memory of St Elmo's Fire is hazy. I prefer coming of age movies from that era, and will take a look at those Brak Pack lists on letterboxd.

  6. Yeah I didn't care much for T2 either. the Choose life speech was kind of weak. The moment when Renton saves Spud had some good visuals, and the song that Sick Boy and Renton sing was fun. I will never get tired of watching the Anime Ghost in The SHell, the visuals alone are worth checking out. I agree after a while I forget that it is animation. Im way behind Twin Peaks, Rewatching first season

    1. @Vern: The ’new’ choose life speech has merit, just felt a bit off, the scene was somehow too rehearsed. Agree the improvised song by Renton and Sick Boy was fun.
      I haven’t seen Ghost in The Shell remake with ScarJo, decided to watch the classic anime instead, and glad I did. That 1st season of Twin Peaks is well worth rewatching. I’ve been going back to originals that have contemporary remakes a few times recently, the 70s The Beguiled, 90s Trainspotting, 50s Cinderella, 60s Jungle Book, 80s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Bad Santa from 2000s, 90s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, New York, New York (the template for La La Land). Plan to see: 70s Murder on the Orient Express, 80s Dark Crystal, 80s She’s Gotta Have It, Pitch Perfect, Despicable Me, and rewatch Alien series.


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