Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Viva Las Vegas theatrical.jpg

Aka Love in Las Vegas. The legendary pairing of The King with Ann-Margret is literally the whole show in a town full of them. Even for an Elvis film the storyline is surprisingly weak but the eye-poppingly colourful scene-setting by supreme stylist George Sidney mitigates the problem. Elvis  is Lucky Jackson, a talented singer and driver whose luck has run out so he’s in Vegas to raise money to take part in the Grand Prix. He sees dancer and swimming instructor Rusty (A-M) and is smitten. But so is his rival, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova). Lucky and Rusty do some sightseeing around the Hoover Dam – nice helicopter views – and we learn a little about Nevada and her good relationship with her father (William Demarest).  Lucky winds up losing all his money in the hotel pool and having to earn his living as a waiter which leads to some nice slapstick serving Rusty and Elmo. Then his luck turns and there is the climactic race across the desert which is pretty well shot and there are some disasters along the route … The songs are terrific and the sequences of the city and casinos are wonderful. You can see Teri Garr in a bit part as a showgirl at one point but the most surprising element is that this was written by Sally Benson, responsible for Meet Me in St Louis. And then there’s the real-life romance between Elvis and Ann-Margret! In the film they marry at the Little Church of the West, the oldest wedding chapel in Vegas.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

The Postman Always Rings Twice 1981.jpg

It behoves us on Jack Nicholson’s 80th birthday to celebrate one of his most scorching performances in a totally filthy film. In this remake of the James M. Cain novel, he’s the drifter who fetches up at a diner in the middle of nowhere and becomes embroiled in a sordid romance with the proprietor’s wife (Jessica Lange) who wants him to kill her husband (John Colicos). Director Bob Rafelson was one of those people who played an enormous role in Nicholson’s career. Nicholson wrote the screenplay for Head, the movie about The Monkees, the band Rafelson created for a TV comedy show and then they became almost as big as The Beatles. He produced Easy Rider which gave Nicholson the keys to the kingdom, pretty much. Then he directed him in Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, where he gave two of his great performances. They would reunite a decade after this for Man Trouble but this adaptation by David Mamet (making his debut as screenwriter) really hit buttons on release – I didn’t see it because I was way too young but I remember the fuss – and the trailers – and the poster!. The kitchen sex scene is one of the most jaw dropping couplings you will ever see this side of a porno and both Nicholson and Lange are simply astonishing in this tale of utter amorality. Some people don’t like the ending, but hey, you can’t always get what you want. This is some birthday celebration, eh?! Golly!

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

T2 Trainspotting_poster.jpg

You’re a tourist in your own youth. That’s how I felt too, when I sat down in an empty cinema for this – a far cry from the wild reaction that I expressed and experienced when the Godhead of Nineties movies made its debut. Wow! What a rush that was! Twenty years ago. Which is the real shocker. And age is what this is all about – age and betrayal and memory (or nostalgia) and payback. Renton is back – after making away with all that dosh in London. Sickboy – call him Simon now – ain’t too happy and beats him up. He rescues tragic Spud from certain death. Franco’s just had himself stabbed in prison so he can escape and lure his teenage son away from hotel management and into a life of crime … Revenge? Yes, please. There’s tragedy, fun and kickbacks to spare in this blackly comic outing with portions of Porno mixed up with a narrative carved from the original novel and several flashbacks to the old action and new-old footage of the guys as kids. Edinburgh like the rest of the British Isles is now afloat in Eastern European whores, one of whom has her claws into Simon but whom Renton fancies. Then there’s a scheme to set up Simon’s pub as a rival brothel to a chain of ‘saunas’ which invites interest from the proprietor. And in between bizarre music videos – check out Your Dad’s Best Friend by Rubberbandits! – a hilarious excursion picking pockets at a Loyalist club and digressions on George Best at Hibs, the rhythm section of director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and the superb cast (with the obvious exception of Tommy) is reassembled with a sense of style and a closing of the book, as it were. Spud gets a great storyline and there’s a nod to his precursor when Irvine Welsh turns up as chief car booster. Stick to the day job, dude. And there’s a brilliant payoff with a toilet bowl. Whew, it’s okay then. All is right with the world. Choose this.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris_Bueller's_Day_Off.jpg

Bueller? Bueller? The singing in the shower. The singing on the street! The Ferrari going off the edge … The escape from the restaurant. The art gallery. The chase across the back yards. Charlie Sheen hitting on Jeanie in the police station. The scam with the headmaster! The dog ON the headmaster! The school secretary. The disguises. Faking it! The music! The clothes! It’s set over a day, it was written in a week, shot in three months. It has the clean lines of a Tintin strip courtesy of Hughes’ regular cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and design by John W. Corso. Matthew Broderick as the charming one became a star and we all fell in love with this. Broderick and Alan Ruck were real-life best friends and hey, John Hughes was a genius. Aw heck, it’s just a forever movie. Bueller? Bueller?!

Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg alt poster 2.jpg

1964 was obviously a great year for musicals. But this is the one that nobody could have foreseen. A sung-through (opera) film about the unhappy love affair between a shop girl and a mechanic: who’d a thunk it?!  It was the brainchild of two extravagantly talented men:  writer/director and lyricist Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand, one of my all-time heroes (and still performing). They had already collaborated on Lola and Bay of Angels. The use of Technicolor, the touching performances (Catherine Deneuve’s made her an international star) and the extraordinary songs all combine to make one of the most moving and haunting films you will ever see. And the last scene, at an Esso station … oh! the magic of cinema. Magnificent.

Out of the Past (1947)

Out of the Past poster.jpg

One of the legendary film noirs, this RKO entry is simply superb. Robert Mitchum stars as Jeff, lured from a smalltown gas pump back into the world of gangsterism by a duplicitous Jane Greer and into the trap set by Kirk Douglas. Adapted by Daniel Mainwaring from his own novel, this was also known as Build My Gallows High. Exemplary direction by Jacques Tourneur and cinematography by Nicholas Musaraca, a classic and often described as the definitive film noir with Mitchum establishing a screen persona which embellished his performing style.

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot poster.jpg

Often called the greatest comedy of them all and who are we to argue? Just hilarious, funny, brilliantly written, acted and directed, by the immaculate Billy Wilder. A simply sublime entertainment about jazz, gangsters, love and transvestism, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis wiggling for all their lives are worth in an all-girl band down in Florida after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Marilyn looks incredible, despite everything. She didn’t want to make the film, she had become tired of always playing the cute performer looking for a sugar daddy. However her husband Arthur Miller had massive legal bills as a result of taking on HUAC and as usual looked to her to pay his expenses, so she took the job when he said the script was good. Ironically, it’s probably the greatest film in which she ever appeared – and she’s brilliant. For some reason she seems entirely at home in the Twenties, which makes you wonder if she instead of Kim Novak should have taken the lead in Jeanne Eagels (1957), the biopic of the actress who died aged 39 two decades earlier, in circumstances alarmingly similar to Monroe’s own demise. She was very unwell during the shoot and her weight fluctuated and despite telling Wilder she was pregnant he worked her hard. She lost the pregnancy immediately filming wrapped.  Look sharp for her friend Edward G. Robinson Jr., a very good friend of Monroe’s, as Johnny Paradise.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt poster

It doesn’t have huge stars or an immediate sense of a masterpiece. However the influence of the Gothic and what would come to be called film noir is all over this skewed tale of Americana made in 1942, directly after the United States entered World War 2.  Hitchcock was finally in the process of settling down and buying property, and he was making a film on location in a small Californian town, the epitome of Andy Hardy-ness.  Until Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) comes to town and his namesake niece (Teresa Wright) begins to suspect that there’s a serial killer of wealthy widows in their midst … The constant sense of threat, the overwhelming fear that something bad will happen, is built into every scintilla of the film’s design.  Our sympathy for Uncle Charlie is cunningly transferred to his niece as his psychopathy is revealed.  Long thought to be the maestro’s favourite film (he demurred when asked to confirm) this was Hitchcock’s earliest sign of an interest in the double, a preoccupation that would herald Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, and the noirest noir of them all – Psycho. I have written a book about this film and you can get it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Who-Knew-Too-Much-ebook/dp/B01KTWF08U/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1476297954&sr=8-5&keywords=elaine+lennon.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Shadow of a Doubt (1943) by [Lennon, Elaine]