Excellent debut from Barry Levinson, this is an affectionate and nostalgic look at what it was like to be on the cusp of proper adulthood in late ’50s Baltimore. (I say ‘proper’ adulthood since the group of young men at the film’s centre are in their early 20s, so technically already adults, but so much of the film is about their transition from a state of immaturity into whatever adult life is supposed to be – marriage, responsibility, no more endless hours hanging out with friends at the diner, etc.) Some great early performances from Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern – and yes, even Steve Guttenberg. The interactions between the friends often ring true; in fact, the whole movie feels incredibly genuine. Most of the time it’s also pretty entertaining. Recommended.
I’ve often found that classic horror movies don’t hold up as they no longer have the power to actually scare, but this was a refreshing exception. It features so many elements that are now regarded as horror tropes: a scary tree outside a child’s bedroom window, an evil clown, objects moved by unseen forces, a false ending, a house built over a cemetery, and a piece of modern technology (in this case a television) as a bridge between our world and ‘the other side’; it wasn’t the first movie to use these, but its use of them was undoubtedly influential. Some of the visual effects look a little hokey now, but they’re easy to overlook as everything else remains potent. The story, simple as it is, draws you in right from the start and doesn’t let go until the very end. There’s some pretty interesting trivia relating to this movie, such as the apparent ‘curse’ associated with it (premature deaths of key actors), the use of real human skeletons for the swimming pool scene, and the fact that Steven Spielberg probably did most of the directing rather than credited director Tobe Hooper.
Strange Scorsese movie about delusion, with Robert De Niro as a loser obsessed with becoming his idol, a late night TV talk show host played by Jerry Lewis. De Niro does well but seems miscast. Lewis is in great form. There’s some really odd stuff in there, not least everything involving Sandra Bernhard’s bizarre character. Though it’s described as a black comedy, I don’t remember laughing (except perhaps for a moment or two during the denouement); I spent most of the movie just pitying De Niro’s character, and pity doesn’t tend to lead to laughter. As a satire of media and celebrity culture it would still be relevant today, but unfortunately the satirical punches never really land.
Long but engrossing drama gives us three meaty characters wonderfully played by Meryl Streep, Peter MacNicol and Kevin Kline. Streep in particular is a powerhouse: she puts on a thick Polish accent through most scenes, and speaks German through others, but remains entirely convincing and impressive throughout, deservedly winning an Oscar for her efforts. In 2013 I saw her in this, Kramer vs. Kramer, Out of Africa and The Iron Lady, and it’s now pretty difficult to think of any better actress. The story is told well, using flashbacks effectively and doling out key information about the characters only when it suits the narrative. The titular choice comes late in the film and – though I knew in advance what it would be – made me feel ill, partly due to its inherently horrific nature, and partly due to Streep’s work in the scene. But what kind of a name is Stingo??
Sci-fi horror movie from John Carpenter has an ingenious premise; the execution, though, is merely adequate. Had the premise been executed better, this could have been truly excellent. There’s very good use of music to build and maintain suspense. The special effects are quite amazing and wholly believable; more than thirty years later, they still hold up. Kurt Russell is fine, though it’s not a movie that asks much of its actors.