King of New York (1990) - 5/10 - Despite being ravishingly stylish and truly gritty, there is some missing element that would congeal the whole story. What we’re left with is an okay crime drama that rarely makes it clear what it’s trying to accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, I sort of get what Ferrara is trying capture through all this degeneracy and violence. Walken’s monologue about the futility of drug war, for one, is amazing, but other than that, the motion picture strays into exploitation territory way too often without sufficiently solidifying its core story. Lots of drugs, sex and violence and that’s about it.
No Man’s Land (1987) - 7/10 - A pleasant surprise, a pretty good one. In spite of having this made-for-TV look, it manages to surmount some of its inherent faults with a simple, yet very good story about the ambivalence of undercover police work and the ethics thereof. There is a strong undercurrent of the same themes that are apparent and more extensively explored in the third season of Miami Vice, whereof Dick Wolfe (the writer of No Man’s Land) served as the producer. There are no easy answers in this one and despite being relatively straightforward in its structure and narrative, I enjoyed brooding about the ramifications of the undercover police work which the screenplay put the emphasis on. For once, Ebert’s review is spot on.
Less Than Zero (1987) - 3/10 - It gets a special prize for being a movie that is almost completely bereft of any sort of likable characters. All characters practically spend most of their time getting coked out of their minds and moping about how tough their lives are, naturally all of this is happening within the confines of their gated communities. It is reportedly based on some novel that purportedly attempts to dispel all myths surrounding lives of spoiled rich kids, but within the context of this motion picture, all of this is done at the expense of a serviceable drama which could invest the protagonists with a modicum of likability. Regrettably, the subject is handled very crudely which particularly manifests itself through a sex scene during a Christmas party in the course of which the camera cuts back and forth between the party and the fucking. At this point, the flick almost feels like an exploitation movie, except that it is completely devoid of humor or kitsch which could technically juice it all up. Ultimately, it desperately struggles to be shocking and edgy and woah. This shock value is, however, completely lost on the viewer in this day and age, feels somewhat low-brow and unsophisticated. It hasn’t aged well, to say the least. To add insult to injury, it all leads up to this shocking revelation of an ending that is trite, predictable and bromidic. Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent performance and the quite stylish cinematography endeavor to conceal the inadequacies of the script, but to no avail.
White of the Eye (1987) - 6/10 - While not exactly original or all that unpredictable, the cinematography and the (deliberately) frenetic storytelling make this one stand out. It almost feels like an American giallo film with its jarring POV shots, extreme close-ups as well as tasteful tracking shots combined with this weird, slightly bleary at times and kind of dazzling lighting that endues the film with a psychedelic, almost feverish atmosphere. Most of the time, it looks as though the director endeavored to take a leaf out of Argento’s book and succeeded in most cases.
Stalker (1979) - 9/10 - A re-watch.
Some Takashi Ito shorts: Zone (1995) (9/10), Gi-Souchi ‘M’ (1997) (5/10), Monokurômu heddo (1997) (6/10), Memai (2001) (7/10), Shizuka na ichinichi (2003) (7/10).
Out of Bounds (1986) - 6/10 - I liked it. The story is admittedly far-fetched at times (the fingerprint check is done way too late), but if you treat it as a neat piece of pop-culture escapism, it will definitely fit your bill. The cinematography, the soundtrack and the overall atmosphere constitute its definitive upsides that technically define this film.
Wavelength (1983) - 7/10 - Surprisingly good. For a low-budget sci-fi entry, it kind of ticks all the boxes for me so to speak. It’s got the killer soundtrack by Tangerine Dream (the primary reason why I watched it) and a straightforward direction that kind of embraces the film’s low-budget status and tries to make good use of it rather than overstretching or striving to achieve goodness knows what kind of grandeur by resorting to cheesy special effects. Some special effects are here though, but they’re fortunately implemented sparingly. Some people may complain that it’s just a low-budgeted rip-off of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), but the similarities appear to be merely coincidental and besides, I’ve never been a massive fan of that Spielberg’s flick to begin with, so it doesn’t matter to me all that much. If I were hard-pressed to choose between those two, I’d re-watch Wavelength, no doubt.
Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (1990) - 7/10 - An excruciating portrayal of the Jewish pogrom and the liquidation of the Budapest ghetto at the end of WW2. No fancy directing here, the director mostly relies on the performances of leading actors which are undeniably tremendous. Stellan Skarsgård is particularly amazing in the titular role of Mr. Wallenberg. Well-worth watching if only for Skarsgård.
The House (1983) - 4/10 - An Icelandic haunted house horror film that never really succeeds in achieving the status it aims for. It strives to conjure up the kind of creepy atmosphere that I like the most in horror films, but despite adequate photography, decent direction and acting, it also drags on for way too long and feels incredibly protracted even with its running time of mere 90 minutes. The pacing itself is not even that much of an issue, although the languid narrative may have a sleep-inducing effect on some viewers. The primary problem the movie exhibits is that it does not have all that much story to tell and heavily depends on the vague sense of dread that ranges from slightly unnerving to non-existent. The director has hard time building tension or gelling all scenes together, for that matter, to form some sort of structural coherency: the motion picture feels incredibly flaccid in its composition and some sequences feel as though they could be disposed of altogether. Additionally, the resolution features one of the most hilarious examples of the deus ex machina I’ve ever seen. It’s so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed. The director doesn’t bother to tie up loose ends in the denouement, leaving everything to the audience’s imagination, you know, spooky scary skeletons. It’s supposed to be scary, but scary it ain’t. Overall, not that bad of a movie, but it’s not something I’d heartily recommend to anyone.
Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987) - 4/10 - A mediocre action vehicle. Even Rutger Hauer’s badassery can’t salvage this crap, whenever the movie can take a thematically more risky route, it does the opposite, becoming a platitudinous piece of reeking turd. Had some cider while watching it which might have alleviated the pain of sitting through this garbage. Again, nothing unusually terrible, but considering that Hauer was involved, it could have been something so much better.