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

Trancers 3

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I like the third entry in the Trancers series a little more than the second, probably because it returns the visual style to a darker, more sci-fi noir tone unlike the first sequel’s sun-baked vibe. But like others on here who love Jack Deth, it’s really all about watching Tim Thomerson chew scenery for more than an hour.

The plot here is pretty good and the villain definitely superior than the one in Trances 2. Another thing that distinguishes this film is from the others is a melancholy surrounding Deth’s love life. Though the film is mostly fun and silly, there’s a reality about the failure of romantic relationships at play that I could relate to. And this elevates Deth’s character to more than an action hero, but a tragic protagonist.

Watched on Full Moon Features.

Gorky Park

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I first saw Gorky Park as a kid and though I didn’t understand half of what was going on but it left a lasting impression on me. Almost thirty years later, I still remembered the sables, several scenes with Brian Dennehy, and William Hurt’s performance.

In the wake of the actor’s death, I decided to watch the film again with my parents. It takes a little while to get used to the accents but don’t let that stop you from continuing to watch this thriller, which gets better and better as it goes. Most of the cast is from the UK, choosing to speak naturally instead of adopting Russian accents. Hurt chooses a quasi-British accent to try and blend in. I don’t blame him but it does take a little while to get used to it.

Soon, however, the plot is engrossing enough to distract from all else and Hurt’s performance ends up being one of the actor’s best: on the surface, cold and calculated but with internal layers of warmth and passion. Dennehy plays the kind of character he was known for but steals every scene he’s in. Marvin is good but it is a shame that Cary Grant didn’t take the role. That would have been something to see.

It’s also a shame they didn’t make more Arkadi movies, based on the series of novels. Perhaps the character will one day see a series adaptation.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

I finally caught up with this Lawrence Block adaptation. He is a writer I feel connected to, having adapted his short story Bride of Violence into a horror/feature and most recently writing an adaptation of his erotic thriller Getting Off. Also, I enjoyed 8 Million Ways to Die (however flawed it may be) and was curious to see this attempt at putting Scudder on the screen.

The results are mostly good and Scott Frank does better with this adaptation than he has with his own original material. As my dad, who watched the film with me, pointed out, it has very stylized dialog in the tradition of genre entries from the 40s and 50s. This is played well by the cast without sounding unnatural or phony. The film’s biggest mistake is the last ten minutes which sadly become quite contrived.

Neeson is a solid Scudder but I can see why fans of his action films may have been surprised by this more subdued mystery, especially if they were not familiar with the character. If the filmmakers intended to create a new franchise here, their biggest mistake was the title. They should have called the film Scudder, to make it clear that this would be a recurring character. Perhaps someone will decide to make a streaming series from Block’s books, probably a more fitting form for the material.

Watched on Netflix.

Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story (2003)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

This TV treatment of Rudy Giuliani has been on my list for a while for one reason alone: James Woods. Even if he never makes another movie again (and he should), he remains one of the greatest American actors. That is proven again with his intense but complex portrayal of this politician. Yes, Woods has classic outburst moments but he also has extremely subtle ones and overall the movie is daring in its attempt to show both Rudy’s strengths and weaknesses. He is not glorified but shown as an ambitious, sometimes heroic, and often flawed man. Besides some cringe-inducing CGI ocean backgrounds, this is definitely a standout TV movie that you should see if you haven’t, regardless of your feelings about Giuliani or your political affiliations.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

All About Mankiewicz (1983)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Unlike the concise and focused portrait of William Wyler that I watched last week, this one on Mankiewicz is often rambling, both in its structure and the delivery of its subject who sometimes struggles to communicate his ideas. Not only does it meander but the film avoids an in depth look into the filmmaker’s own process, instead putting a lot of attention on Joe’s stories about other directors. And these are actually the highlights of this viewing experience. From the stories about Von Sternberg to Fritz Lang to W.C. Fields, little anecdotes about the movie business make this an unimpressive but worthwhile Hollywood documentary.

Watched on Criterion Channel.