What a wonderful surprise this record was! I haven’t followed the band much since their fantastic debut Like A Virgin Losing A Child, but Hope absolutely blew me away. I’ve always loved the quieter sections in their songs, so it’s great to be treated to a whole album’s worth of them. The harmony-heavy, sparse nature of the arrangements here makes for a very interesting listen.
I’m trying to get back into regularly watching movies, so I’ve decided to keep a note of what I’ve watched and what I thought of each film to encourage myself to keep watching.
The Raid 2 (2014), Gareth Evans
The Raid films are so well made that they have started to ruin other action films for me. It’s a very different film to the first, and although I preferred the first (it was basically one continuous fight scene, and the final 2 on 1 fight with Maddog is a masterclass in hand-to-hand combat), this was great for different reasons. I loved seeing each character’s motivations developed further. The scene where Prakoso, an expert assassin, sheepishly asks permission to see his child and admits he isn’t a smart man, for instance, was a great example of this development. Iko Uwais is a fantastic leading man, and I was really pleased to see that he and a few others from the film series joined the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Hana-Bi (1997), Takeshi Kitano
This is more of a slow-burn than any other film on this list. The detached brutality of the lead character was quite striking, especially when paired with scenes where he goes so far out of his way to make the people he cares about happy. One of the coolest, calmest bank robberies captured on film, and I loved how this film ended.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (1984), W.D. Richter
I loved this weird, weird film. John Lithgow’s stand-out performance had me in stitches and was well supported by Christopher Lloyd. The wacky, literate script certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s great fun and I’m looking forward to re-watching it. By far my favourite film I’ve seen this month.
The Exterminator (1980), James Glickenhaus
I have to admit, I bought this one largely after seeing the front cover. Just look at that incredible artwork! It turned out to be a pretty decent vigilante film, with Robert Ginty mopping up the streets with a flamethrower to avenge his best friend, a now-crippled black man. It’s very low-budget looking and graphically violent with a largely amateurish, forgettable cast of villains, but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless.
Branded To Kill (1967), Seijun Suzuki
I picked up this on a whim based on the fact the back cover said this film influenced one of my favourite directors John Woo (Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow). This was my introduction to the work of lead actor Jo Shishido, and I’ve since been looking to track down his other films. It’s extremely stylish, and the interactions between Shishido and the number one killer were well executed. His infatuation with boiled rice puzzled me, but I’ll just put that one down to something along the way being lost in translation. Good movie.
Massacre Gun (1967), Yasuharu Hasabe
Definitely a much more straightforward film than Branded To Kill. I really enjoy films that deal with honour and mob relationships, so this one was right down my alley. Another memorable performance by Jo Shishido as a professional killer forced to kill his lover, and drawn into a turf war when his brother, an aspiring boxer, has his hands destroyed by Shishido’s former employers. The black and white cinematography really made every scene pop, and I really enjoyed the musical interludes set in the club. The scene where the guitarist points out that Saburo’s drumming isn’t being hampered by his hands but instead by his heart was particularly memorable.
Network (1976), Sidney Lumet
I’ve been late in discovering the work of Sidney Lumet, but I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico). A wonderfully written script with rich, flawed characters and a critical outlook on television that still holds true today. While I believe the film is more well known for Peter Finch’s work, for me William Holden stole every scene he was in. I’m just disappointed that I hadn’t seen this sooner.
Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), J.J. Abrams
I should preface this by saying I am not a die-hard Star Wars fan, and that what prompted me to give this a try was upon hearing that actors from The Raid series of films were in the film (and there was a rumour that they had been responsible for some of the fight choreography, which intrigued me). This was a lot funnier than I remember the original films being, and I really enjoyed it for this reason. The Force Awakens blew me away, and I can’t wait for the next film.
The Toxic Avenger (1984), Lloyd Kaufman
This one is brimming with B-movie charm. It packs in a lot of laughs, a lot of gore and ridiculousness (like in the scene where Bozo runs over the kid on the bike then goes back to finish him off). I’m definitely curious to check out other films by this studio.