As the fallout from the Brexit decision continues to rock the political, social and financial world, it is perhaps an opportune moment to revisit the sobering final scene of Michael Ritchie's The Candidate, made over 40 years ago, which I reviewed in full here.
Note the chaos, the media influence, the wavy blonde hair and the desperate 'What do we do now?' uncertainty. Sound familiar?
What's it about? A detective romp set in late-70s LA, as bluff private-eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and gruff tough-guy Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) team up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young actress.
Is it any good? A pretty fun romp, with most of the entertainment generated by the chemistry between the two leads as they swap wisecracks and punches in a nod to those mismatched buddy action movies of the 80s (not least Lethal Weapon, which launched Black's career as a writer). Gosling in particular manages the slapstick elements well and gets most of the big laughs. There's also an agreeably labyrinthine plot which nods to the pulp detective thrillers that inspired Black's neo-noir-ish script, whilst the sleazy 70s setting allows Black to get away with some casual misogyny and sexism, which might otherwise rankle with some feminists. (Although they shouldn't bother their pretty little heads about such things - Hollywood's not really like that, is it! Is it?).
In comparison to Black's previous work, however, it falls a little short. One thing I particularly disliked was the character of March's smartass 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice), whose precociousness rather stretches credibility, even allowing for the broadly comic tone. Black pulled off the annoying kid sidekick trick to much better effect in The Last Boy Scout and Iron Man 3; here the smarter-than-the-men teenager is presumably intended to balance out the negative treatment of other females in the film, but ends up being irritating rather than inspiring. Likewise, his best film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was a wittier and more subversive spin on both the underbelly of Hollywood and the private eye genre. So whilst this latest film is a perfectly watchable caper, in a competition between Black's previous films, The Nice Guys would probably finish last. Then again, none of those featured a conversation with a giant killer bee.
Anything else I should know? Why not watch it on a triple bill with Inherent Vice and The Big Lebowski, both of which I've handily reviewed here for you. More likely, seeing Crowe and Kim Basinger (who pops up in a small role) onscreen together will just leave you wanting to watch the superlative LA Confidential again. which I've raved about here.
What's it about? After his wife is murdered by an insane Shogun, master samurai Lone Wolf (Tomisaburô Wakayama) vows revenge as he wanders in the wilderness with his 3-year-old son Daigoro in tow.
Is it any good? Some questionable parenting skills here as Daigoro witnesses his father brutally kill hundreds of adversaries, often whilst carrying the kid under one arm or pushing him in a booby-trapped buggy. Let's just say Daigoro is unlikely to complain about a grazed knee after seeing fountains of blood spew from various severed arteries. And on top of that, the boy is exposed to a hideous 80s synth score, which attacks without warning at regular intervals.Then again, everyone they meet on their travels IS trying to kill them, so Lone Wolf does a pretty good job of protecting the boy and doesn't ignore him to Facebook on his phone, so let's not be too quick to judge. Plus, Daigoro does learn to count (bodies), sports a bitchin' haircut and exhibits a pretty extensive vocabulary for one so young in his eloquent narration. Perhaps cBeebies should consider screening it as part of their educational output. Anything else I should know? A curious production history as this is actually a dubbed and condensed version of two films from the original Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub film franchise, which was based on the acclaimed series of manga books. To produce Shogun Assassin, director Houston spliced together the 'good bits' from the first two films, Sword of Vengeance and the splendidly named Baby Cart at the River Styx, dispensing with some superfluous sub-plots and dialogue. But this is more that a simple re-edit in that Houston hired deaf lip-readers to guess what the Japanese actors were saying, and used their suggestions to create an English language script. As a result, the dubbing is remarkably good, compared to the usual mismatch of words and lips in dubbed martial arts movies. Purists prefer the originals, but this has its moments too, not least the kimono with an ejector button and the most articulate and poetic death-speech in the movies. Pity about that score, though.... What does the Fonz think? There Will Be Blood
What's it about? A horror-comedy mockumentary about four vampires sharing a house in Wellington, New Zealand.
Is it any good? It's bloody fantastic fun. As in bloody AND fantastic AND fun. Every vampire cliche is mined to consistently funny effect, helped by appealing performances from Taika Waititi (the fastidious 379-year-old Viago), Jemaine Clement (the ferocious 862-year old Vladislav), Jonathan Brugh (the hip young 183-year-old Deacon) and Ben Fransham (the Nosferatu-like 8000-year-old Petyr) as they prepare for the upcoming monster Masquerade Ball. Along the way they encounter new friends, old enemies, and bicker about mundane things like washing up, paying bills, going out and cleaning up after they kill. The laughs come thick and fast, with the jokes veering from obvious to clever, but always funny, whilst there's even a little bit of poignancy near the end about the plight of the vampire. In short, it's the funniest film I've seen this year. Oooh! Ooooh! I've just thought! It's, like, Interview with the Vampires!! Yes? Geddit?! What do you mean that joke has been made hundreds of times already? I don't trust you. What do others think? Some people say it's little more than an over-extended sketch (which it is - the original 2006 short film is here), but their opinion is no reflection of the true quality of the film. NO REFLECTION, EH? AMIRITE? Anything else I should know? Clement may be better known to some as one half of New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk band Flight of the Conchords. His relationship with Waititi goes back even further than that, but that's all bound to end in tears now that Waititi is bound for big things as director of the upcoming blockbuster Thor:Ragnarok. In the meantime, What We Do in the Shadows is available on Netflix, so check it out. What does the Fonz think? This is Spinal Bat