Atlantic City, USA – The Chain Reaction Film Club

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

We watched The January Man, because it was January, man…

The Choice

With a plum cast to pick from (Kline, Rickman, Aiello, Sarandon, Steiger, Mastrantonio and Keitel!), I had plenty of options. The most immediately appealing choice was In The Heat of the Night via Rod Steiger. It’s almost been picked a few times before, and would set us up nicely for some more Sidney Poitier, last seen in the enjoyable Paris Blues alongside Paul Newman.


I realised recently that almost all of our seasons have been centred around male actors. In fact we have linked via male actors about 118 times, and female actors 19 times. Now the link isn’t always an integral part of the film – often we’ve linked via actors who’ve had very small roles. But it’s pretty Not Great. So I’ve decided that this year I’m only going to link via female actors, assuming there’s a speaking female role for me to link from in whatever Tim chooses (I haven’t told him yet – I’m going to see how long it takes him to twig).

Bearing that in mind I had a quick scan through Susan Sarandon and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s filmographies and found a likely candidate: Atlantic City, USA.

The Link

JANUARY MAN, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Kline, 1989.

Susan Sarandon with Kevin Kline in The January Man. Poor saps.

Funnily enough Susan Sarandon is the only woman we have to date held a season around. For a long time I assumed that she and Chris Sarandon (Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink!) were brother and sister. Eventually I discovered that he was her husband until 1979, and she’s kept the name – whether that was because she was already professionally established under that name or for some other reason I don’t know. Names are odd things, particularly in the performing arts world. In the UK at least, the union for performers and the most notable casting directory each insist that your name must be unique on their list. But they have different lists. And what if you haven’t joined them, but become established? And by the time you do want to join them it transpires there’s a children’s entertainer in Scunthorpe who goes by that same name. When are you too established to change it, and when are you so established that you can change it and have it stick?

Anyway, Susan Sarandon is plucky as heck, and I wonder what it means to her to drag around the name of her ex husband?

Atlantic City, USA and me

This was a new one to me. Burt Lancaster stars alongside Susan Sarandon, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything, so I was looking forward to that. There’s something about the name Atlantic City that’s just weird though. It seems made up. Obviously all place names are made up to some degree (I live in Penge, so am fully aware of silly place names) but it’s like a fictional place name. I think the first time I became aware of it was a mention in The Simpsons, and I assumed it wasn’t a real place. Like Capital City.

IMDb says

atlanticcity_poster (1)

Atlantic City, USA (1980): In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer find themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs and danger. 7.3 stars.

I says

Some serious spoilers here, as I think a rundown of part of the plot is necessary.

Susan Sarandon’s ne’erdowell ex husband and her sister are an item. They grab a load of drugs from a pickup spot and leg it to Atlantic City to sell them. They turn up on Susan Sarandon’s doorstep and she lets them stay.

Sarandon herself is a trainee blackjack dealer. Every night she washes herself with a lemon, right in the kitchen window with the curtains open. And her neighbour, an elderly Burt Lancaster, who had mob connections back in the Al Capone days, watches and presumably tugs himself silly.


This is how one washes oneself with a lemon

The owners of the drugs turn up and the ex husband winds up dead (it’s in the trailer, don’t worry), meanwhile Burt Lancaster had been enlisted to help sell the drugs and carries on. Eventually he and Sarandon have to leg it out of town. He confesses to watching her wash herself with a lemon and tugging himself silly. Which she finds incredibly appealing apparently, as she immediately shags him.


“She washes with a lemon! Nekkid!”

Oh, and Robert Goulet turns up to sing a song at one point (who I also only know from The Simpsons – weird synergy there).

Here’s an exchange that leads into the septuagenarian getting lucky with the (maybe) 30-something:

Lou: Why do you use lemons?

Sally: The fish smell. I’m embarrassed.

Lou: Oh. I thought maybe it was for some other reasons I didn’t understand. I even went to a supermarket to look at lemons.

Sally: It’s just to get the smell off. It’s nothing weird.

Hot, right? Sizzling stuff.


“I’ve heard you wash with a lemon. Nekkid…”

It’s a strange film, and not a great introduction to Lancaster for me. He’s oddly stilted – perhaps that’s intentional. There’s some fairly heavy handed metaphor going on, with the film ending as a notable block is demolished. The old Atlantic City is being bulldozed to make way for the new. There’s no place any more for Lancaster’s kind of guy.

There’s an elderly lady in the same apartment block as Lancaster and Sarandon, and a strange friendship strikes up between her and Sarandon’s hippy, drop-out sister. That subplot was more interesting than watching Lancaster getting his fantasies fulfilled.

The Verdict

I couldn’t really get beyond the creepiness of Lancaster ogling Susan Sarandon and him being rewarded for it. Still, when life gives you lemons…

Coming Attractions

It’s Tim’s choice next. He doesn’t know yet that I’m intending to only pick films I can link to by using female actors. He’s also quite tempted to pick My Dinner With Andre, which stars only men, so that could scupper the whole thing entirely. We’ll find out soon enough!

The January Man – The Chain Reaction Film Club

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

We (finally!) finished Paul Newman season with the pool-hall sequel The Color of Money.

The Choice

The plan was to segue from Paul Newman season into Tom Cruise season. But no plan survives contact with the enemy Tim, and as it was his turn to choose he decided to throw a curveball. He found a hitherto unknown (to us) film with a cracking cast: The January Man.

The Link

Technically we could link from The Color of Money to The January Man with either Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio or Bill Cobb, as they’re both in both. But Tim specified that Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was the link.

Mary, Tom and Paul too

Looking through her filmography, I’ve only seen the most famous films she’s been in – The Abyss, Scarface and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – none of which I have much intention to rewatch. And the Color of Money too of course, where she held her own with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman.

The January Man and me

I hadn’t heard of this before Tim chose it, but let’s have a look at that cast… Kevin Kline (last seen here in Silverado), Alan Rickman (his next role after Die Hard!), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harvey Keitel, Rod Steiger, Susan Sarandon, Danny Aiello… It’s a plucky bunch. I saw the poster when checking it out before watching it, and with Kevin Kline’s involvement was expecting a deft comedic touch…

IMDb says

The January Man (1989): Two years after being forced out of NYPD, quirky Nick is rehired by the mayor to catch a serial killer after the 11th murder of a woman. 5.6 stars.

I says

There’s a thing going round on Twitter at the moment about whether you should continue a relationship if your significant other isn’t engaged with your work (it’s a novelist, I think). Well the year after this dropped, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio married the director, Pat O’Connor. So presumably she found something to recommend in it… But quite what that was I can’t begin to guess.

It’s the tone that’s off here. The poster (see above) and trailer (which I watched after the film) definitely try to paint this as an offbeat comedy. And indeed, there are some elements here that resemble that – Alan Rickman is a louche painter who Kevin Kline’s detective ropes into becoming his sidekick. Wacky! There’s an extended sort of action sequence at the climax where Kline and the killer slide/fall all the way down the staircase of an apartment building while fighting, with residents watching on bemused. Double wacky! But no one else got the memo.

Is wackiness ensuing?

Harvey Keitel and Rod Steiger are playing it super straight as the Police Commissioner and Mayor desperate for a resolution. Keitel in particular appears to be in a different film, with half of his scenes either pure exposition or alluding to things that may not have quite made the final cut. Kline may have a wacky fight scene, but otherwise he’s psychologically tortured detective by the numbers, needing the love (and mothering) of a good (much younger) woman to get him through.

Kline and Keitel play brothers, and the crime that originally got Kline kicked off the force was actually a grift that the Commissioner and Mayor had cooked up… But the subplot doesn’t really get going at any point. Sarandon is the commissioner’s wife but has always had stronger feelings for Kline… But the subplot doesn’t really get going at any point.

The murderer has a hankering for killing on prime-numbered days. And also a zodiac fixation. And also a music fetish. Why? Who cares. Just to sprinkle a couple of clues that are solvable by a psychologically tortured detective and his painter (and computer whizz?) buddy.

I’d love to see Kline and Keitel as brothers in something else, as I think they could make an interesting pair. But not in this.

And Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio?

Her best friend is killed, she gets topless and has to mother Kline’s character, is compared to a cigar for reasons I didn’t quite understand, and is used as bait to catch a killer. The director must’ve been really nice.

The Verdict

Searching the film to find Colin Mochrie after seeing his name in the credits was more fun than the film itself.

Coming Attractions

It’s my choice next. I have more headspace than last year, so hopefully we can go back to swapping the link every week or perhaps brief seasons. There’s certainly no shortage of films to choose from with a cast like this.


New Year, Newman (again) – The Chain Reaction Film Club

I started 2019 with a post about Paul Newman, and here we are again 12 months later. I’m a little behind with Chain Reaction Film Club blogs – the last one was in October, but we haven’t actually managed to watch many films since then. Over the last couple of months of 2019 we watched three more Paul Newman films which I’ll cover in this one post. But What that does mean is that over the course of the year we only watched Paul Newman and Robert Redford films, which is quite something.

So what are the three Newman films?

Sometimes a Great Notion 01

First up is Never Give an Inch (AKA Sometimes a Great Notion…) from 1971. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to have a quick read of the IMDB page to remember what it was all about, but essentially Henry Fonda is a crotchetty patriarch of a family of loggers holding out against a union strike. Michael Sarrazin is his somewhat estranged son who returns to the family business. Paul Newman is the son who has remained by the father’s side the whole time. As a whole it’s not particularly memorable, but two things stand out. Firstly, it felt slightly odd to see Paul Newman in a film where the union is presented as nothing but the bad guy. And it’s not just that he starred in it, he’s the director too. Secondly, there’s an incredibly harrowing scene of a worker being pinned under a fallen tree in a river, then the tide starts to rise…

Sometimes a Great Notion 02

Waterworld 1971

Other than that there’s not a whole lot to recommend (or remember, it turns out). The soundtrack, comprised mainly of chainsaws, was grating, and the characters were on the annoying side…

Tim chose the next film, and went with Harry & Son from 1984.

Harry and Son 01

Paul Newman is Harry Keach, a recently(ish) widowed crane driver on a demolitions crew. Robbie Benson is his son, a stay-at-home wannabe writer that Harry is desperate to see gainfully employed. It’s a quiet, relatively gentle film (a bit of 80s misogyny aside) and again was directed by Newman.

Harry and Son 02

Acting, directing, racing, salad dressing, charity, politics… Is there anything he couldn’t do?

Robbie Benson was somewhat unfairly nominated for a Razzie for his performance. It’s definitely not a stone cold classic, but mystifyingly Harry & Son has 5.8 stars on IMDb whereas Never Give an Inch has 7. If you had to watch one of them, it’s Harry & Son all the way.

A little while ago we decided to end Paul Newman season with The Color of Money, and so, mindful that it would be our last film of 2019 too, that’s what I chose next. We tackled The Hustler a while back and this is the sequel, catching up with Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson 25 years on from the first film. This time he’s the experienced hustler, and Tom Cruise is the hotshot rookie with everything ahead of him and a canny Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio fighting his corner.

The Color Of Money - 1986

Left: Me when we started CRFC. Right: Me now.

It’s a solid film, with decent performances from the main trio underpinning the whole thing. It led to Paul Newman’s only Best Actor Oscar victory which seems ridiculously overdue by 1987.

On the subject of Newman’s filmography, we’ve now watched 29 of his films as part of CRFC. He’s pretty good, you know. If I had to pick some favourites, it’s still the likes of The Sting, Butch Cassidy and The Hudsucker Proxy that would top the list, all of which I knew and loved before we started CRFC. But the ones I think about most often that have been new to me include Hud, with its stellar performance by Patricia Neal, The Prize for goofy charm, Sweet Bird of Youth despite the impotence of its ending, and Paris Blues for it’s wonderful jazz battle royale between Newman and Louis Armstrong. Sure there have been a few duds along the way but it’s a hugely impressive filmography. And that’s not even looking at his charitable or political work. He really was a titan and I’m pleased we’ve been able to watch so many of his films together to place them in context.

Color of Money

Are there more Paul Newman films? Sure. We’re only a little over half way through his whole filmography so we may well return to tidy a few more up. But for now that’s the end of Paul Newman season.

What next? Well part of the reason we ended on The Color of Money was so we could segue into Tom Cruise season. But I’ve just changed jobs and have a little more head space for jumping around so perhaps we’ll revert to a different linking actor every week…

Fort Apache, The Bronx – The Chain Reaction Film Club

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

We watched The Hudsucker Proxy, and it’s still a doozy.

The Choice

Tim and I have an unofficial agreement to end Paul Newman Season on The Color of Money and swap to Tom Cruise for a while. It was Tim’s choice so the decision very much rested with him. We’ve tackled a fair old chunk of Paul Newman’s filmography now, and while there are some well-regarded films left still, I thought perhaps this might be the moment to jump ship before we get stuck in more mediocre territory.

Not so! Tim fancied more Newman, and chose Fort Apache, The Bronx.

Fort Apache 01

Fort Apache, The Bronx and me

I hadn’t heard of this film before scouring Paul Newman’s filmography for CRFC. In fact, having scoured his filmography a few times over the last 6 months or so, it was only recently that I really looked beyond the first two words. I’d been assuming this was a Western. I’m not a massive Western fan (that’s more Tim’s forte), and so the thought of a Western (from 1981, no less) was really not tickling my fancy. But lo and behold, after reading more than the first two words of the title I finally twigged. Turns out it’s a thoroughly depressing-sounding cop film, not a western.

Oh great joy, oh endless delight.

IMDb says

Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981): In New York, South Bronx’s main police precinct is nicknamed Fort Apache by its employees who feel like troopers surrounded by hostiles in a wild west isolated outpost. 6.7 stars.

I says

I tried to make myself a little better-informed before writing this; I wanted to watch the documentary Rubble Kings, but unfortunately it seems to have vanished from Netflix. So I will add a caveat now that I really know nothing of The Bronx in the late 70s and early 80s other than The Warriors drew heavily (and stylistically) on some of the gang culture.

Fort Apache 02

Rubble in The Bronx

The reason I wanted to be better-informed is because the film starts with a disclaimer, one that was added as an attempt to mollify the sentiment of residents of The Bronx towards the depiction of African American and Hispanic characters in the film. Spoiler: they ain’t the good guys. Here’s that disclaimer in full:

The picture you are about to see is a portrayal of the lives of two policemen working out of a precinct in the South Bronx, New York. Because the story involves police work it does not deal with the law abiding members of the community, nor does it dramatize the efforts of the individuals and groups who are struggling to turn the Bronx around.

Indeed, a character almost says this verbatim during the film too, but that doesn’t affect the overwhelmingly negative portrait of the area’s Black, Puerto Rican and Latino communities. That’s not to say the police are all saints – to paraphrase a bigot, there are very bad people on both sides. It’s just there aren’t really glimmers of much else from the Bronx residents. So we are where we are… This was felt to be offensive at the time (there were protests at the film’s release – unsurprisingly the prologue was not enough to counterbalance things), and that’s only aged poorly.

Hasselblad/Flextight X5/Transparent

What about everything else?

I’d been expecting an overwhelmingly depressing experience but, while not exactly uplifting, the film does nip along at a decent pace and there are a few flashes of lightness. I could have spent more time with the grizzled desk sergeant Pantuzzi as he out-quips the precinct’s new chief. Newman is excellent (although seems about 10 years too old according to the script) as the more experienced of our two main cops and Ken Wahl is a likeable foil.

Fort Apache 03

Wahl and Newman: Acres of chin

Across the board there are strong performances – Pam Grier is fearsome as the drugged up serial killer that kicks the film off by assassinating two rookie cops, and Rachel Ticotin has a particularly harrowing standout moment that I won’t spoil.

Fort Apache 04

It’s less harrowing in colour

For all that though, it falls between two stalls. Parts of the plot (Pam Grier’s role most notably) kind of seem bolted on from a different film. While the dramatic tension of the cops having a bunker mentality as a cop killer stalks the streets is a fairly playbook move and perhaps explains some of the poor decision-making on the part of the cops, it could be fairly well excised without harming the meat of the film (a burgeoning romance between Newman and Ticotin, dirty cops and conscience-wrestling, policing a community on the edge of riot).


Fear Grier

On the other hand, there’s the whiff of the generic about things. In fact it was a court case that had the most damning indictment of the film’s shortcomings. The writer of the 1976 book Fort Apache sued the film studio for ripping off his novel. He argued that “both the book and the film begin with the murder of a black and a white policeman with a handgun at close range; both depict cockfights, drunks, stripped cars, prostitutes and rats; both feature as central characters third- or fourth-generation Irish policemen who live in Queens and frequently drink; both show disgruntled, demoralized police officers and unsuccessful foot chases of fleeing criminals”. But the court ruled that these are stereotypical ideas and so found in the studio’s favour.

Oh, and Paul Newman gets his torso out again.

The Verdict

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, though the racial stereotyping issues that were noted in 1981 sure don’t look any better now. I’m still keen to see Rubble Kings and find out more about what was going on in The Bronx generally at the time though, so count that as a win.

Coming Attractions

We’ve had a few fallow weeks recently, and so with the excellent Hudsucker Proxy and now this being better than expected, I’m starting to feel the Newman love again. We’ll definitely jump ship soon, but maybe not quite yet…


Talk Radio – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 73: Talk Radio

Talk Radio 01

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

We watched The Three Musketeers. The 90s one. Why do we put ourselves through these things? It’s all for love.

The Choice

There wasn’t a shortlist this time as Tim decided to play his cards close to his chest. So the lights dimmed, the credits rolled and I discovered we’d be watching…. Talk Radio (1988).

The Link

Michael Wincott

Talk Radio 04

Plays villains you say…?

He’s the badassest villain in The Crow, he’s the slightly rubbish right hand man of the villain in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Three Musketeers, he’s the dead-too-soon captain in Alien Resurrection… And presumably some other things too. He’s got a voice and cheekbones to die for, I know that much.

What will he be up to in Talk Radio? If I had to guess (which I don’t, but will anyway), he’ll be a late night radio show host with some kind of grudge against the main character. He’ll be a nemesis, but not as nemesis-like as (let’s assume) the station owner. There’s always a villainous station owner.

Talk Radio and me

I’ve heard of it, but little more than that. It falls into a mass of broadcasting films that I don’t know well enough – Broadcast News, Network, A Face In The Crowd and I think a couple of others. Presumably there are others, otherwise that’s an embarrassing quartet to muddle up.

I used to listen to talk radio a fair bit while going through a lonely patch in my early/mid teenage years. I still remember Queenie from Margate calling up Adrian John for a natter every night on Radio Kent, so that’s the dramatic benchmark I’ll be holding this film up to.

But I bet there’ll be a villainous station owner.

IMDB says

A rude, contemptuous talk show host becomes overwhelmed by the hatred that surrounds his program just before it goes national.

I says

Well this was a nice surprise. Eric Bogosian is a late night talk show host on local radio. Station manager Alec Baldwin has big news for him… as of next week he’ll be syndicated nationally, but will his signature rudeness cut the mustard with the powers that be, and just who is he pissing off on the other end of the phone?

Talk Radio 02

Eric Bogosian taking his late night calls very seriously

This was based on Eric Bogosian’s play, and it shows. Most of the action happens over two show broadcasts, and the snippets we see outside those moments – added in for the film – seem very much tacked on. For largely all happening in one room with a static protagonist the film fair zips along and manages to keep a surprising amount of energy. Oliver Stone directed, and I think I normally associate him with a deal of ponderousness. Not so much here.

Eric Bogosian. Who he? Apart from looking like the missing link between Jeff Goldblum and Elliot Gould he didn’t seem familiar as an actor. I read one of his plays when I was auditioning for drama school and hunting for monologues so I’ve always assumed he was a playwright. Knowing what I do about the creative industries it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he has many feathers to his cap, but somehow it always does. It’s like being surprised Bradley Walsh has an album out. No, wait, it’s nothing like that.

Funnily enough the play I looked at for drama school didn’t yield any useful monologues. As I watched Talk Radio it occurred to me that this would have been a much better play to read… until I remembered that I had been looking for monologues for a playing age of 18-25. Talk Radio would suit me now at my, ah, more mature age.

Important things to note:

1. There wasn’t really an evil station manager. Alec Baldwin came close but ultimately any undoing was more as a result of Bogosian’s character. Nice to be wrong for a change.

Talk Radio 05

Baldwin on the right with an inadvisable haircut. Or John C McGinley as he’s better known. 

2. The credits list the actors Park Overall and Rockets Redglare. Those are incredible names. Scarcely more incredible is Rockets’ bio on wikipedia.

3. Michael Wincott. Wow. He was reprising his role in the stage version (as were Bogosian and John C McGinley) which is always good to see. I didn’t know he was also a stage actor (usually a given in the UK, not always in the US) but it makes sense. His voice, presence and stillness make a bit more sense in that context. But he is utterly different here to the measured villainous roles I know him from. He’s a street corner Jon Bon Jovi, a big-haired, stoned, hooting gutter punk. And it works very well.

Talk Radio 03

Women want him, men want to be him…


This is the quickest a film has ever spoiled itself in my recollection. The opening credits roll. The text ‘Based on the play Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian’ appears. Below it also appears ‘And based on The Life and Death of….’ blah blah blah. So. In the opening credits they plant a pretty strong implication about where the plot is going. Sigh.


The Verdict

Thoroughly enjoyable with plenty of drama and also a few Queenie from Margate moments. An overwrought ending and dodgy flashback away from greatness though.

Coming Attractions

Plenty to pick from for me. Baldwin, McGinley, Redglare (he’s in Big!), Bogosian and more besides.


Risky Business – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 71: Risky Business

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re looking for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems, oddities and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

Hackmania 2017 is over, six Gene Hackman films were watched and the winner was… Me and Tim of course, we got to watch six Gene Hackman films. Read about them here and here.

The Shortlist

Timecode (2000)

Risky Business (1983)

Collateral (2004)

Into The Wild (2007)

Once Around (1991)

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

The Link

Tom Cruise

Tom’s the one on the right

He’s a funny old one, isn’t he? There are some massive Tom Cruise films I’ve never seen, but plenty I have – Legend, Interview With The Vampire, Born on the Fourth of July, Mission Impossible and A Few Good Men all hit when I was at impressionable ages. He’s never less than solid, he’s seldom more than engaging. Oblivion is dull as ditchwater but he holds it together well enough, whereas Edge of Tomorrow (or All You Need Is Kill, or Live, Die, Repeat) was a surprise pleasure. And boy does he look good running.

Risky Business and me

I know the scene from Risky Business. Well, not really the scene. The shot. I know that shot where Tom Cruise slides into shot in his undies. But that’s about it.

I assume it’s a sort of Ferris Buellery thing, but I haven’t seen that either. The whole 80s American teen thing has never really tickled my fancy. I have seen Breakfast Club, that’s one… and… does Lost Boys count? I saw that once… St Elmo’s Fire? Nope. Pretty In Pink? Nope. Sixteen Candles? Fast Times At Ridgemont High? Weird Science? Noooooooooooooooope.

IMDB says

A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.

I says

Firstly, and most importantly, someone sound the Raphael Sbarge alarm.

Mr. Sbarge on the right

I didn’t even recognise him, he’s so young in it. My love for Mr Sbarge stems from his dulcet tones playing Carth Onasi in the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The game itself is fab and directly led to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, and the joys of romancing NPCs in games. Largely down to how frickin’ great Raphael Sbarge’s voice acting was. That game man, that and Fable hooked me back into gaming which has become one of my great pleasures.

Anyway. Just imagine the Raphael Sbarge alarm is going off through the rest of this. Next up, Curtis Armstrong. Sure, Tom Cruise looks like Tom Cruise and is all eyes and grin, but I want a film about Curtis Armstrong’s character. He has moxie, chutzpah and other such words. He looks like a slacker, has moxie and is going to Harvard. He sets everything in motion only for Tom Cruise to slide into the frame in his undies and steal the film away.

What’s that I can hear under the Raphael Sbarge alarm? Why, it’s only the Joe Pantoliano alert!

We last saw Joey Pants in buddy cop romp Running Scared. He played a whiny criminal. And here? A whiny (yet slightly smooth) pimp. You need whiny? Get Pants.

And then I suppose we ought to talk about Tom Cruise… He looks almost no different in this than he did in The Firm, despite the intervening years. And he didn’t look that different in The Firm to how he looks now. That’s some dark magick he’s involved in. He’s Tom Cruise. He turned up fully formed. After the scene where he slides in in his undies he dances around the house, ending up throwing himself onto the sofa and gyrating. He was always that Tom Cruise – Oprah shouldn’t have been a surprise.

And the film? That ol’ thing? It’s not what I was expecting. It’s almost a teen sex comedy, and it’s almost something quite searing about capitalism. The Tangerine Dream score makes the film seem like it’s meant to be taken more seriously than I thought, backed up by the odd slow-mo shot. Tom Cruise getting a call-girl because he doesn’t seem able to get a date makes it seem like it’s meant to be taken less seriously. It reminded me of Wolf Of Wall Street in an odd way. It’s up to us to find Cruise reprehensible, the film isn’t going to do it all for us. But the camera zooming in on the black of the sunglasses lens / Cruise’s soul did enough to flag up the intentions. In a society that’s teaching kids to commodify everything, of course making a quick buck from pimping out prostitutes follows.

The Verdict

Wolf of Wall Street: The College Years

Coming Attractions

It’s my choice next, and I’ve got plenty to pick from. As I mentioned earlier, there are some really big Tom Cruise films I should have seen, but then there’s also Raphael Sbarge… He’s not actually in that many films, appearing more on TV and voiceovers. If I’m in the mood for whininess I’m sure Joe Pantoliano is prolific. And there’s also Rebecca De Mornay, the hooker with a heart of gold in Risky Business, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else at all… Who knows!