Now you’ve tasted my mutton, how do you like it, huh?

Gangs of New York (2002)   You’d be hard-pressed to recognise the same director of Goodfellas, Taxi Driver or even Bringing out the Dead at work here. The clearest post-Corman precedent to Gangs of New York’s hack-schlock period gangster posturing is Scorsese’s Cape Fear remake, and even that seems like a relatively pure genre spin in comparison to the uncertain, malformed storytelling and jarring editing and technique on display here. Marty’s epic is occasionally anchored by its performances, but even they are frequently adrift on an ocean of paper-thin characterisation.  While he’d made a few missteps in the past, then,

I regard this report as alarmist, irresponsible and lacking sufficient evidence.

The Fourth Protocol (1987)   Sir Michael served well as a good, performative little cold warrior, even if his vehicles for the cause invariably met with a tepid response, post-60s. By the time The Fourth Protocol limped round, he was best known for picking movies based on the pricing of holiday homes, any aspirations to great reward (an Oscar) or cause being strictly incidental. Indeed, that a movie on East-West divisions should become a big hit a few years later (starring another stalwart of selling the Cold War during its ’60s heyday) – The Hunt for Red October – was

If you have no reason to doubt the man, why doubt the man’s visions?

The X-Files I Want to Believe (2008)   (Director’s Cut) This is such a profoundly odd choice for a big-screen take on the The X-Files, almost as if Chris Carter was doing penance for the empty vessel that was Fight the Future by reversing full speed in the opposite direction. That, or he’d been told to make damn sure there’d be no chance of an alien invasion-2012 third movie. You want difficult, gnarly subject matter? What’s that? You don’t? Tough. I’m giving you (heroic) paedophile priests and grisly organ transplants. Scratch that, not just organ transplants: head transplants! You want

I just think a picture should say a little something.

Sunset Boulevard aka Sunset Blvd. (1950)   Billy Wilder’s 1950s run got off to an unparalleled start with the trio of Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole and Stalag 17. Sunset’s cynical view of humanity takes some beating, but Wilder would thrash it soundly with Ace in the Hole, Hollywood only outmatched by journalism for sucking any integrity from life. Out of his earlier films, this is, in such respects as tone and genre, closer to Double Indemnity – they share cinematographer John F Seltz – but Sunset Boulevard succeeds in casting a unique pall, that of a gothic noir

We are the children of children, and we live as we are shown.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)   One of those movies where enduring cult status leads you to the conclusion those venerating it must have first seen it an impressionable young age (another prime example being The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension). John Patrick Shanley’s screenplay isn’t especially witty, and his direction isn’t especially nimble. Its Amblin status ensures some decent production values, but Joe Versus the Volcano lacks the visual style – or at least, consistency of style – to go with them. And while the Meg Ryan/Guantanamo Hanks pairing may subsequently have gone on to capture

It is a mistake to confuse pity with love.

Killer’s Kiss (1955)   Kubrick’s multihyphenate overdrive starts here – see, most infamously, his rude grasping for special-effects recognition with 2001: A Space Odyssey, the irony being it garnered him his sole Oscar; you can only conclude it served him right – and Killer’s Kiss is big on mood but also hard-boiled imitation. It’s also, following on from Fear and Desire, very slight, clocking in at under seventy minutes. This smacks strongly of Kubrick attempting to broker material that would carry more commercial chances than his earlier art-conflict pic. Albeit, he again has (uncredited) that film’s writer Howard Sackler on

It wasn’t my fault. The magician did it. Honest.

Fear and Desire (1953)   Kubrick’s disinherited first feature, a “bumbling amateur film exercise”. Albeit, at a shade over an hour, Fear and Desire is really closer to an extended short. The through line to the director’s later war screeds is evident here, but with its overblown philosophising, you’d wouldn’t be far wrong assuming the picture was a lost Malick student film. It’s a curio, then, no more than that, and while some will attempt to reclaim Fear and Desire as an early example of Kubrick’s genius – you can find it on YouTube, where a prize comment has been

You say the word, and we’ll stop this yokel dead in his tracks.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)   The key to Capra of this period is triumph over cynicism. And yet, quantifying exactly where that places one, in respect of the prevailing doctrine of the era, isn’t quite so straightforward. Mr. Deeds appears to ally itself, loosely but coherently, with the values of FDR’s New Deal, yet Capra was a staunch Republican who “fumed over what he saw as an encroachment on his own wealth by the social and economic policies of the New Deal”. While the answer may be as simple as Deeds’ actions being at the volition of the

Who’d want to eat a live cat?

Night of the Comet (1984)   Thom Eberhadt’s upbeat apocalypse movie was a modest hit – 65th for the year might not sound like much, but it grossed twenty times its budget – and has attained both cult and influential status; disgraced Joss Whedon cites it as a primary inspiration when coming up with Buffy. If Eberhardt’s subsequent career was unexceptional – Without a Clue, Captain Ron – it may suggest the limitations here were the mother of invention, as there’s a certain can-do brio to Night of the Comet. Kim Newman respected its blend of ’50s SF with ’80s

What is this? A homicide or a bad B-movie?

Night of the Creeps (1986)   I should probably like Fred Dekker’s movies more than I do. Well okay, perhaps not Robocop 3. His first two nurse a long-standing cult following, though, and his sometime collaborator Shane Black has made or written pictures that almost deserve their own subgenre (action noir?) Night of the Creeps wears all its influences on its sleeve – not least in its referencing horror-genre luminaries – but in script and direction, it’s only ever able to muster the level of scrappy horror comedy, awash with low-hanging gags and very rarely truly inspired. Dekker’s intentionally throwing