SHERLOCK HOLMES

The first thing about mystery novels is its constant reference to itself. The mockery of detective fiction techniques is on full blast with Robert Downey Jr.’s display of Sherlock Holmes. The man is obsessed with logic and finds himself falling out of reality and through the fantastical mystery with Sir Blackwood does he finally get back on his feet and tackle the unexplainable with confidence.

HUNT THE MAN DOWN

HUNT THE MAN DOWN is a routine little noir of slightly more than an hour in length but rich in its characterizations so not a total waste of time. It’s a strange combination of CALL NORTHSIDE 777 and Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, which was filmed as MURDER MY SWEET. A short order cook in a one arm joint thwarts an armed robber and his photo in the paper reveals him to be an escaped murderer who escaped his trial 12 years previously just before the verdict was to be read. Now if you ignore the plot hole that a man wanted and nearly convicted of murder and facing the gas chamber would stick around Los Angeles you can watch him as he passively is re-arrested. He draws Gig Young as his public defender who, though initially skeptical of his client’s innocence, goes about proving it.

NO LEAVE, NO LOVE

There is absolutely no reason to see NO LEAVE, NO LOVE. It’s not really awful, or terrible, just a lot of milling about to little effect. Just another routine offering that aimed at mindless entertainment and failed. It is of some historical importance however as it represents the fault line between wartime entertainment and post-war films.

JULIE & JULIA

I missed going to a screening of JULIE AND JULIA because I had written it off as a Type 2 chick flick. For the record, a Type 1 is concerned strictly with who is going with whom. Type 2 is aspirational. I saw a longer preview and suddenly it came to me that director Nora Ephron might have been going for something more here. This is a study of two generations: her parents and her children’s. Parallel lives in different times. This, in the strictest sense, is a comedy of manners.

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION!

They came from a land Down Under, demented filmmakers determined to overthrow repressive censorship, which made the Brits look like libertines, and tell the true story of mates, Sheilas, muscle cars and the desolate Outback inhabited by crazed biker gangs, rabid koalas and possessed kangaroos — and that was on a good day. After taking over the Australian box office and overshadowing the Australian New Wave of MY BRILLIANT CAREER, BREAKER MORANT and PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, among others, (all great films deserving a theatrical re-issue), the plethora of future exploitation classicdom set its’ sights on conquering the overseas drive-ins and grindhouses. In New York it was the infamous Forty-Deuce (where I enjoyably wasted my youth), Boston had its’ Combat Zone, San Francisco the Tenderloin and beyond to cities like Toronto where Yonge Street was never the same after the Ozzie invasion — which in itself contributed to Canada’s burgeoning New Wave. The Hong Kong action films of the ’80s/’90s by the likes of Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam also pay homage to the Antipodean genre masters.

LAVOE aka THE KING HECTOR LAVOE

Makes EL CANTANTE look like an Academy-Award caliber film. Hector Lavoe was a complicated brilliant artist who deserves better than films like this and the Marc Antony-Jennifer Lopez fiasco EL CANTANTE. The current poster for the film is titled THE KING OF SALSA: THE UNTOLD STORY OF HECTOR LAVOE and implies that the film is a documentary which alas it is not.