Saturday, 25 August 2018


Starring: David Keith, Cathy Moriarty, Art Evans
Writers: China Cammell, Donald Cammell
Director: Donald Cammell


Around the area of Globe in Arizona, wealthy women are being murdered and the prime suspect appears to be hi-fi expert Paul White (Keith) who makes a living installing bespoke sound systems for rich clients. As the investigation into the killings continues, Paul's wife Joan (Moriarty) begins to question just how much she really knows her husband...

With a stylish, dazzlingly shot opening murder sequence and a Mahler-loving detective (Evans) on the case, White Of The Eye instantly sets itself up as a whodunit and then almost immediately heads in the opposite direction, delving into the relationship between Paul and Joan and flashing back to exactly how their paths crossed, a time when everyone was in 70s threads, Joan was driving across country with snazzily-jacketed Mike (Alan Rosenberg) and Paul was sporting the world's most spectacular mullet.

At this point, anyone tuning in for a high body count and rivers of gore is going to wonder what the hell is going on and the bulk of the first hour plays out more like a particularly off-beat family drama as the Whites do their best to raise daughter Danielle in the right way and the main threat to their domestic bliss doesn't seem to be an ever-tightening police net but the town's ultimate bored, rich housewife Ann Mason (a disturbingly detached Alberta Watson) who has her sights on Paul.

It's the refusal to stick to the expected template of the serial killer movie which makes White Of The Eye so intriguing. The police investigation runs throughout the movie but the film's unconcerned with the mechanics of that procedure and doesn't really focus on generating much in terms of suspense, even if it does throw in a red herring or two from time to time. Neither does it concentrate especially hard on getting to grips with the "why" much beyond one specific scene in which the killer describes their experience of committing murder.

No, this movie has a unique take on familiar themes and if you don't like how it's going about its business it's not going to meet you in the middle. It isn't even going to take so much as a step towards you. You're going to have to do the work here and if you can tap into its skewed world view then there's a lot to enjoy. if not, this is possibly going to be the longest 111 minutes of your life.

The performances are generally excellent, even if there's an argument that Keith's character seems to be something of a nutjob from the moment we first meet him. Cathy Moriarty is brilliant to watch as usual - Joan is smart, sassy and a real match for those around her. Evans (who you might recognise from more commercial fare such as Die Hard 2) brings a pleasingly three-dimensional portrayal to what could have been a standard quirky investigator role and Rosenberg is impressive as the "before" and "after" version of Mike.

If you even take so much as a cursory glance at Donald Cammell's directorial outings previous to this - Performance (co-directed with Nicolas Roeg) and Demon Seed - these point to a creative talent with absolutely no interest in convention. This holds true for White Of The Eye, contrasting the banality of small town life with the sensationalism of violent, gruesome murders but viewing them through its own eccentrically-crafted filter.

The final act is both disconcerting and absolutely bonkers as Paul totally cracks, becoming a genuine threat to the lives of both Joan and Danielle. It's also time for Mike to make a significant re-appearance, leading to an explosive (in all senses of the word) climax. Even this doesn't quite play out as it would in other serial killer flicks, with the complicated dynamic between the principal characters coming to the fore.

And after all of this, White Of The Eye still has one final slice of oddness to serve up, wrapping up with a strange, almost throwaway scene in a diner which ends on a mundane but at the same time bizarre exchange of dialogue, leading the viewer into the credits with a distinct feeling of "Huh?".

It would be easy to give up on this movie early on and its oblique approach doesn't help but this is not a film which is keen to win you over. This is a singular vision from an artist who made films his way and the very fact that this is such a unique experience should give you all the impetus you need to seek this out and soak up the authentic strangeness within.

Tragically, Cammell took his own life in 1996 shortly after completing his next film Wild Side, a troubled shoot which resulted in a movie which was drastically recut by its producers who disliked the original version. Donald Cammell left a legacy of just four feature films shot over twenty-five years but every one of them is worth your time. White Of The Eye is a fine example of the Cammell experience: weird, exasperating, beautiful, sometimes impenetrable but ultimately unforgettable. And we should all be grateful that it exists.

Thursday, 16 August 2018


Starring: Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel
Writer: Stephen Susco
Director: Stephen Susco

I don't think I can review this film properly until I've seen a screening of it in which at least most of those who are supposedly watching it aren't talking through most of its running time. So let's review the behaviour of the audience instead.

Okay, so we get the opening bit, in which various passwords are tried on a start-up screen.

"He's trying passwords."

"Heh heh. Password."

"Heh heh. Password. In upper case."

"Heh heh. Did you see what he just typed?" (It was something rude)

At this point I get two teenagers talking about nothing to do with the movie, just for balance.

Then we get the two guys towards the back of the cinema, who seem to be trying material out for their MST3K-style comedy act. It starts badly. No one laughs except them.

A Messenger window appears on screen. Someone reads the entire text of the conversation aloud. The person next to them asks how they can see the text as it's quite small.

There's some text in French. Someone says they can't understand it. Someone else asks whether or not it's in French. Someone else asks how we're supposed to know what it means. I wait to see if the guy uses Google Translate. He does. There's a hush as the words reveal themselves in English. It's like the audience has discovered fire. Maybe this is the point where everyone finally shuts the hell up.

The hush lasts about another five seconds.

The comedy guys give it another shot but there's nothing much happening on screen and it falls flat once again. Timing is everything.

Video files are discovered on the computer and played. It's reasonably obvious what's going on in most of them but there's a very audible "What's going on?" from one of our fellow viewers.

There's a Skype conversation with a deaf girl and the possibility of an intruder in her place. A voice says "Why doesn't she know he's there?" I feel myself getting more stupid by osmosis.

Someone is shown two people and given a choice of who lives and dies. Reaction: "Why's she crying?"

And so it goes on. And on. And on.

"Who's that girl?" "Isn't she from earlier?" "When?" "Isn't she the girl in the video?" "Which video?"

"He's going to die." "Yeah, he's going to die." "He's going to die."

The comedy guys get louder, but no funnier.

Someone falls from the roof of a building and is seen next face down on the pavement in a pool of blood. The unsolicited announcement which follows is "They're dead". I'm glad they pointed that out as the fate of the character seemed pretty ambiguous to me. Oh no, hold on, they fell from the roof of a building and they're now face down in a pool of blood.

The tension in the movie ramps up considerably. Or it would have done had it not been like sitting in a dimly-lit coffee house trying to watch the movie while trying to ignore the conversations of a dozen other people.

CCTV footage plays - you know what's probably coming next, but someone's there to comment loudly upon it anyway, just to batter any last, tiny iota of suspense out of the sequence.

Two people leave when they think the movie is over, strolling past most of the audience then in front of the screen and out of the door, meaning they miss the final reveal. Clue: it was still pitch black in the cinema, they'll raise the lights when the flick is actually done.

The comedy guys give it one last shot as the credits roll, but yet again their banter doesn't land. The two teenagers continue to babble on as they leave the auditorium, having now managed to chatter continuously since the ads began without pausing for breath.

The credits roll. Someone near me says it was a terrible film, which is amazing considering they spent most of it looking at their phone (thanks for lighting up the surrounding area, it was very considerate of you). I make my way out of the place, passing a guy a few rows from the front. He looks fed up and seems to be shaking his head at the rest of us.

Hey, I felt your pain and at that point I was slightly ashamed of the fact I didn't stand up and say something early on in the film but how do you get a whole bunch of people to be quiet when there's just one of you to do it?

I will go to see this again and I hope to be able to review the film itself next time. At far as this screening goes, I'd like to thank those around me tonight for making it such a wretched, frustrating experience. I'd suggest to them how they'd feel if someone sat next to them and constantly disrupted their enjoyment of something they liked but with such short attention spans I don't think it would make any difference to them.

If I want to talk to someone for 90 minutes, I go for a coffee with them, maybe have dinner. I don't sit in a cinema. Call me old-fashioned. Also, call me very pissed off for having my night at the flicks spoiled. End of message.

Friday, 10 August 2018


Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie
Director: Christopher McQuarrie


The latest movie in the Mission: Impossible franchise sees Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the IMF team on the trail of three missing plutonium cores which some very bad guys intend to use in nuclear bombs. In addition to the usual team, buff, perma-scowly CIA agent Walker (Cavill) is also along for the ride.

Hunt's path will also cross not only with that of old foe Solomon Kane (Sean Harris) but also on/off MI6 agent - and cool, classy kicker of arse - Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). What do these two have to do with the plot? I think I know, having watched it, but to quote some dialogue directly from the movie it's "f***ing complicated".

Opening with the classic self-destroying message being delivered to Hunt, MI: Fallout then takes off at a fair old clip and somehow manages to pick up the pace from there, delivering turn upon twist upon double cross upon betrayal as it races from location to location courtesy of a series of dizzying and ever more frantic action set-pieces.

The fact that the movie almost never stops for breath means that you rarely have time to process the quite frankly bonkers plot. Even when Hunt stops off for a drink with shady arms dealer White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) it soon turns into a punch-up. You get the feeling that Ethan Hunt doesn't even get any peace when he goes to the bathroom.

Actually, he doesn't get any peace when he goes to the bathroom as there's a fight in there too which destroys most of the place. You get the feeling that the best thing for Ethan Hunt to do would be to get on his motorbike and take a leisurely ride around the streets of a European city.

Except that the European city is Paris and he's just hijacked a convoy which was transporting a very, very bad guy and now he's getting chased by what seems to be half of the police force there. Oh, and he's going the wrong way around the roundabout at the Arc De Triomphe. What he needs is to see the world from the air, away from all of that chaos on the ground.

Except that he's got himself aboard a helicopter which is chasing another helicopter because on the other helicopter is...I think you get the idea now.

If you saw Mad Max: Fury Road, do you remember just how much action was in it? We're talking those levels here and most of it centres on Cruise in all of his HALO jumping, running, climbing, driving, riding, shooting and thumping glory. It's absolutely bloody exhausting just watching him go about his work.

So, as an action flick this is chock-full of the stuff and there are very few chances to catch your breath even though this is the longest Mission: Impossible film, clocking in at a bum-numbing 147 minutes. In fact, there's so much that there is a slight risk of fatigue setting in. However, Fallout routinely outdoes itself in terms of eye-saucering stunts and, for good measure, throws in a climatic race against the clock where the stakes suddenly become even higher for Hunt.

Yes, it's Cruise's movie but the supporting cast generally get their own moments in the spotlight, even if there's never enough of Ving Rhames. Rebecca Ferguson, so good in Rogue Nation, makes a welcome return to the fold, kicking some serious arse in the process. Simon Pegg has the reluctant geek-turned-field op routine down pat and Cavill makes an impact, both figuratively and literally. The scene where he and Cruise attempt to capture a bad guy in a rather posh (for about 20 seconds) bathroom is a hyper-kinetic, bruising encounter and would be the highlight of most other movies but in this film it's just one of half a dozen sequences vying for that title.

I now feel sorry for any action movie that's released from this point onwards - and that includes the next chapter of this franchise - as it'll almost certainly be judged against this one. For now, choose to accept this mission. This review will self-destruct in five seconds...


....nah, it won't.