Well, in principle, everything can be done. In principle.

Heaven’s Gate (1980)   Neglected (or rediscovered) masterpiece? Or the disaster it was labelled as at first blush? In fact, the only disastrous things about Michael Cimino’s movie are its critical and box-office receptions. It’s a consummately made – with quite astonishingly beautiful visuals, the landscapes the most gorgeous to behold of any film this side of Barry Lyndon – and mostly, in spite of its running time, engrossing. It’s a more interesting film than the one that gained Cimino all the actual plaudits (The Deer Hunter). It cannot, however, rise above the crucial limitation of failing to elicit engagement

I was tracking this beautiful buck… Slipped away.

The Deer Hunter (1978)   A first-time’s-the-charm movie? There’s an undeniable visceral impact to Michael Cimino’s Best Picture Oscar winner, but unlike – say – the subsequent year’s also-Vietnam War Best Picture Oscar nominee Apocalypse Now, it’s somewhat diminished by subsequent viewings. The Deer Hunter’s an often affecting, beautifully photographed mood piece – I think I’m supposed to say “elegiac” – but there’s also a quality whereby it’s simply overly impressed with itself (you might say the same thing about Cimino’s subsequent box-office disaster). The film’s also a strange blend of maturity and pulp, macho and interrogation thereof. If you’ve

You say somebody’s guilty and everybody believes you. You say he’s innocent, and no one cares.

Absence of Malice (1981)   Sydney Pollack’s benign fantasy of usurping the potency of the press (and with it undermining the corridors of power) carries an appealingly cathartic sense of those harming with malicious or even just blithe intent getting theirs, but it’s undermined by the director’s characteristic slackness. He indulges Absence of Malice when he needed to tighten the drawstrings. It’s a movie that should have excised the fat – notably the romance and the soapier overtones – and honed some of the characterisation (Bob Balaban needed to grow out his tache so he could twirl it while conniving;

If a guy took as a cop, he’ll take as a detective.

Prince of the City (1981)   The theme of corruption, be it localised or endemic, is an evergreen, and it’s one that particularly preoccupied moviemakers during the cynical backend of the ’60s and subsequently throughout the ’70s. Prince of the City concerns itself with events that occurred at the beginning of this period; Robert Leuci graduated the Police Academy in the early-60s, joining the NYPD and ending up in the Narcotics Bureau’s Special Investigation Unit (or SIU). In 1970, he was asked if he’d work with the Knapp Commission, which was charged with investigating police corruption. One of those asking

My life has been one glorious hunt.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)   One of those movies more famous for its influence, if you choose to see it that way, and what it represents, than its qualities in and of itself. Which is something of a pruned-back affair, at RKO’s decree, filmed on sets that would inspire the imminent King Kong – Merian C Cooper shot Kong test footage during the production – and featuring its scream queen Fay Wray and several other actors (The Most Dangerous Game cost about a third of Kong’s price tag). The essential lure and fascination is that it posits – based

You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)   If there’s a lesson from late-70s to mid-80s Hollywood, it’s the danger of amping up fledgling “auteurs” beyond their stations, with very costly results. First there was the Oscar glory of Michael Cimino, who drove a terminal nail into New Hollywood with his The Deer Hunter follow-up Heaven’s Gate. Later, Roland Joffe would lose a bundle with the pictures he made after The Killing Fields, The Mission and Fatman and Little Boy. And then there’s the case of Hugh Hudson, an ex-adman like Sir Ridders and also (in relative

What about synthetic unity?

Superman III (1983)   Cannon may have put the final nail in his coffin, but it was the Salkinds who killed Superman. Almost everything about Superman III (and Supergirl) suggests they fundamentally misunderstood the property they’d acquired and that the success of the 1978 film was a fluke (it’s perhaps no accident that they’re pissed off or fired many involved). And that the sequel’s salvaging was more luck than design (a clash of directorial approaches could have spelled disaster). Given a free rein here, Richard Lester lends Superman III all the worst reflexes of any Richard Pryor comedy of the

As it turns out, I have this affinity for beachfront property.

Superman II (1980)   The original… Well, the original release version. Richard Donner’s first Superman outing may have been no great visual shakes, but under Richard Lester’s – 50 percent-plus – direction, Superman II frequently boasts a cheerfully tacky quality that ups the humour and relishes the camp. In its considerable favour – and making it the more enjoyable of the two movies overall – is that it has supervillains, and most especially Terence as Superstamp, but as a piece of blockbuster entertainment, rubbing shoulders with Spielberg and Lucas productions, its lack of polish often leaves it looking like a

And you could even say that this party IS that interested party.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)   That a franchise bound up in the art of fakery and impersonation should enter its final (?) furlong taking all necessary measures to conceal the fate of its former star is perhaps appropriate. Even more so, that the plot hinges on an AI capable of impersonation. How many shots of Tom here are AI-assisted (or AI in their entirety)? The preponderance of the remainder, presumably, being his common-or-garden clone put through its paces. One thing’s for sure; the guy playing the Cruiser in public isn’t in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning

We all have our little faults. Mine’s in California.

Superman (1978)   Given the muddle of talent, design, stylistic and effects shortfalls, the success of Superman (or Superman: The Movie) can feel much more like luck than intent. Which would be exactly what you’d expect from the Salkinds. It both lands on its feet and occasionally soars (usually when accompanied by that John Williams theme). It is, of course, responsible for A LOT, paving the way for every big-screen superhero since. But the decade-plus gap between its release and any competitor in that genre field serves to lend it the lofty, hallowed stature of “This is how it should