Pickup on South Street (US, 1953)

A B-movie Sam Fuller classic noir. Ostensibly a Cold War thriller but focuses more on the relationship between the borderline psychotic (Richard Widmark) and tough but vulnerable ‘broad’ (Jean Peters). Thelma Ritter does her great character act. (DVD, 2) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046187/

9 Songs (UK, 2005)

The sex, and there’s a lot of it, is real in this film and that seems to be all some can say about it. Ignore the debate about whether it’s porn or art (it could be both) and you’ll find (should you be comfortable watching explicit representations of sex) an extremely good film about a young couple for whom sex and music (and maybe food) are all that matter. The metaphor of the Antartica as including all life is great. Brave filmmaking. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0411705/

Cursed (US, 2004)

Kevin Williamson’s and Wes Craven’s take on the werewolf movie fails to catch alight (though there’s a great comic scene were Christina Ricci (made for horror with her pale complexion) describes the publicist to police). Jesse Eisenberg transforms himself well from nerd to er jock and there’s fun with the repressed homosexuality of jocks. (OAR) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0257516/

Ong-Bak (Thailand, 2003)

Cliched innocent-kicking-shit-out-of-big-city-baddies movie enlivened by the astonding stunts and fighting of Tony Jaa (he jumps over cars amongst other things, getting over by doing the splits; needs seeing). (OAR) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368909/

The Punisher (US, 2004)

An uneasy mix of comedy (the motley crew who befriend the eponymous hero) and sadistic violence (a fair amount) making it difficult to watch in the right frame of mind. Travolta does a by-the-numbers nasty turn (where did he go wrong?) and Thomas Jane struggles to carry the film (there is a sequel coming in spite of poor North American box office). (OAR) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330793/

Ghost in the Shell (Japan, 1995)

A massive influence on The Matrix in terms of its visual style. It’s rather bizarre to see a wholly naked character  (though it may be a body suit) in acton scenarios (the unfeasibly shaped Major) and there’s as much philosophy as exciting events. Excellent stuff. (DVD, 2) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113568/

Night Watch (Russia, 2004)

I think this is the first contemporary mass audience Russian film I’ve seen and it yields nothing to Hollywood and, because of its national difference, is more interesting than much Hollywood genre fare. The battle between good and evil is given an interesting twist as it seems the evil ones are the equivalent of the Russian gangsters (one, though, looks like a chav!). Not sure what side Putin is meant to be on.

Some great visual effects and good performances. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0403358/

Inside Man (US, 2006)

It’s interesting to see Spike Lee tackle a straight-on genre movie; not that it’s that straight-on as there are plenty of wrinkles to the heist movie paradigm to make this a stand out example of the genre. Also, guessing this is Lee’s influence, the multi-ethnic cast (and undercurrent of racism) gives this a very modern feel. Many Hollywood movies seem to exist in a parallel world but this feels like authentic New York. Cracking movie. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454848/

My Neighbour Totoro (Japan, 1988)

One of Miyazaki’s earlier movies and utterly charming (usually I’d say that as an insult). The characterisation of Mei, a 4 year old girl, is brilliant and the animation brilliantly done. Even though it is a ‘feelgood’ movie the darker elements of life, unlike in Disney, are still present at the end. Great stuff. (DVD). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096283/

Written on the Wind (US, 1956)

This must be one of the most hysterical films ever made. The mise en scene is laden with symbols with, if you have a Freudian bent, most of them phallic. Malone’s and Stack’s performances are suitably OTT (compare to Hudson’s and Bacall’s reticence); she won as an Oscar. But the star is Sirk’s direction.

Such melodrama is not to all tastes but it’s great cinema (DVD, 3). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049966/