My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.


The Boys in the Band (1970)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

After reading Friedkin’s autobiography I set off on a mission to watch more of his films and got distracted. Now I’m slowly getting back to that goal and the programming of The Boys in the Band on Criterion Channel (expiring at the end of May) was a perfect opportunity to do so.

Could Friedkin be the best director of stage to screen adaptations? I haven’t heard that argument but it has some footing. Before the films he became best known for (French Connection, Exorcist), he made this hit play into a film right after putting Pinter’s The Birthday Party on the silver screen. True, he wouldn’t return to this kind of material until the 21st century when making back-to-back movie versions of Tracy Letts’ plays but with those four films (and a pretty good adaptation of the play-like 12 Angry Men), I believe he’s a contender for that title.

He brings an immediate, sharp tone to this material. His camera really takes it away from the stage and I didn’t find myself thinking, “This is a play,” except for a few moments. The movie is particularly good in its first half, setting up incredible tension with its characters. Though it strays from the original material, I felt the narrative loses weight when Harold (the reason for the party) shows up. Somehow the suspense deflates with his presence and the movie gets a little lost in its middle section before returning for a strong finale. If only Harold could have been a Godot-like figure who never arrives…

The performance are all fun to watch and Friedkin was wise to stick with the original cast. When reading about these actors, it’s sad to see that most of them died of AIDS in the late 80s/early 90s.

Watched on Criterion Channel.


Cat Chaser (1989)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This felt like a good Ferrara to watch while I was in Florida as the New York filmmaker changes pace, exploring beach landscapes and coastal intrigue.

But it’s not just the setting that feels different for Ferrara: this Elmore Leonard adaptation is surprisingly restrained compared to the director’s other work which is sometimes unhinged and often provocative. Even the cinematography seems very by-the-numbers and I suspect that Ferrara was working in more a studio-mode in what I’m guessing was his biggest budget to date. The results may be uneven but this remains a decent thriller with some terrific moments.

Peter Weller is a good choice for the lead if he comes a little wooden at times. McGillis, in the role that supposedly convinced her to quit acting, clearly doesn’t have her heart in the project. The best performances are the supporting characters, chosen with a Film Noir sensibility, and the best of these is Charles Durning. His burly ex-cop is the most surprising, entertaining character of the piece and one of his scenes, involving a bloody shower, is the highlight of the whole picture.

I read that there’s a much longer cut of this movie out there somewhere and I’m intrigued how the story might play over an extended runtime. Hopefully one day it will get a streaming or physical release. As is, I found Cat Chaser to be well-worth watching but not a significant piece in Ferrara’s body of work.

Watched on Tubi.


Heartbreakers (2001)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Time is kind to some films and this is one of them. Heartbreakers has aged well and mostly because (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) it almost feels “classy” as compared to the comedies of recent years.

Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt are quite good as the female con artists, though they never reach the heights of similar con performances like Steve Martin and Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but that’s mostly the script’s fault, not theirs. Like the movie, Hewitt’s talent is easier to appreciate now that it ever was for this viewer a couple decades ago. The movie also reminded me how much I like the low-key vibe of Jason Lee, an actor I don’t see enough of these days.

But the real reason I watched the movie is Gene Hackman, my second favorite actor of all time. Eventually, I’d like to see everything he worked on and he’s one of the actors I continue to look closely at as I improve my own craft. Here, he seems to be having fun, playing an exaggerated character. I wish he was in more of the picture and that his role had a little more depth but it’s always a pleasure to see him on screen.

Overall, Heartbreakers is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and often mildly amusing.

Watched on Tubi.


The Amusement Park (1975)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This curiosity, “lost” for years and recently released, is worth watching for George A. Romero fans and filmmakers who might be fascinated to see what he does with this work-for-hire message movie. Commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania, The Amusement Park is basically an extended PSA made by an incredibly talented filmmaker. He spins elements of the horror/thriller genre into an educational piece about senior awareness. The results are sometimes clever but often tedious. It could be edited down into a striking 20 to 30 minute piece. Still, I am happy this finally saw the light of day.

Watched on Shudder.