After Turkish Delight (1973) became the highest grossing and highest attended Dutch film ever, director Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Gerard Soeteman and producer Rob Houwer teamed up with the stars for another film, this one based on the memoirs of Neel Doff. It was a nightmarish shoot and it's difficulties show on screen, despite the best intentions by all concerned. It begins in 1885, when the Tippel family, stricken by poverty sail from Stavoren to Amsterdam in search of a better life, Keetje (Monique van de Ven) gets a job in a dye-mill, but quits when her boss comes onto her sexually, then in a hat shop, where the boss rapes her. Keetje soon discovers that her sister Mina (Hannah de Leeuwe) has succumbed to prostitution in order to survive, and after Mina turns to alcohol, their mother (Andrea Domburg), makes Keetje go into prostitution in order to keep the family. Things look bad for Keetje at first, but things take a change when she meets banker Hugo (Rutger Hauer), who disapproves of the lifestyle she's been forced into, and he helps her in a social education, eventually becoming one of the bourgeoisie. It's a film about class in Holland, and the contrasts between the two, despite good performances and brilliant sets, Verhoeven, and the cast and producer were at each others throats over some of the more questionable aspects of the story. Verhoeven nearly quit, and has even expressed a desire to remake the film. Yes, there is more sex and violence, but Verhoeven was about to make a very personal film next, Soldier of Orange (1977).
Directed by Ridley Scott, who had made his feature debut 2 years before with The Duellists (1977), he chose something completely different for his follow-up, written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett (Total Recall (1990)) and produced by Walter Hill. This little low budget film was made at the right time, and it started a massive franchise which comes and goes to this day. The first one will always and forever be the best. At some point in the future, the spacecraft Nostromo, which is transporting cargo across space, the ship's computer awakes the crew from a deep sleep statis to investigate a distress signal. The crew consist of Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Kane (John Hurt), Ash (Ian Holm) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto). They go to where the signal is coming from, an alien spaceship with eggs on board. While Kane investigates the eggs, a creature bursts out of one of them, smothering his face. The creature has acidic blood, but when Kane awakes, that isn't the end of it... Even 35 years later, this is still a very engaging and suspenseful horror/sci-fi/thriller, which was meant to be a reaction against the wholesomeness of Star Wars, and something altogether nihilistic. It managed to get Ridley Scott recognition in Hollywood, and it made a star out of Sigourney Weaver as well, who returned for 3 sequels.
Written by novellist Dennis Lehane, author of novels like Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone and Shutter Island, this was adapted from a short story Lehane wrote in 2009 called Animal Rescue, this adaptation is directed by MichaÃ«l R. Roskam (Bullhead (2011)), and it's a good crime drama with a well put together cast, and while there have been loads of films like this before, this benefits having a good script. Set in Brooklyn, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) works as a bartender in a bar called Cousin Marv's, which is ran by Marv (James Gandolfini), who is Bob's cousin. The bar is used as a drop point for local criminals to launder money. Bob meets local girl Nadia (Noomi Rapace) when Bob finds a pitbull in Nadia's bin outside her house, but he later finds out the pitbull belongs to Nadia's brutal and unpredictable Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). There's also a robbery at Cousin Marv's, and Bob is able to identify one of the thieves, which seems to upset Marv a lot, even though Bob thought he was doing the right thing reporting it. While there's a lot of films like this, parts of this have the feel and structure of a chamber piece, a tight character piece which is blessed with some good performances, but it has added poignancy, as it's James Gandolfini's final film, and he puts in a great performance, and he definitely had more to offer as an actor.
Based on the 1983 book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, and directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters (2011)), this is a biopic about Alan Turing, an eccentric mathematician who managed to achieve the impossible, in face of adversity and scorn from his peers. It's a well made character piece with a powerhouse lead brilliantly capturing how this man helped crack an enigma. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a mathematician who was employed by Major General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) and Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) to work at the top secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, to help crack the German Enigma code that could help them win the war. Turing has come up with a blueprint for a machine that could break the code, but despite scorn and opposition from fellow code-breakers Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) and Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), Turing is determined to succeed, but he has a dark, illegal secret that will be his downfall. Benedict Cumberbatch really excels at playing Turing, a man who was notoriously impossible to get along with and always kept to himself, but knew what he was doing when it came to solving the impossible. It's backed by a good cast, and while it does go back and forth across Turing's life a bit rapidly, it's a well made film.
Written and directed by George A. Romero, better known for making horror films like Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Crazies (1973) and Dawn of the Dead (1978)), makes something completely different. An action-drama set around a medieval fair troupe. It's a long film, but it's Romero's most personal film, and one where he opens his heart and soul. It makes you wish he'd made more films like this one. Billy (Ed Harris), leads a group of travelling performers who specialise in doing jousts on motorbikes, and Billy has the title of 'King William'. The troupe, also consisting of Morgan (Tom Savini), Alan (Gary Lahti), Merlin (Brother Blue), Little John (Ken Foree), Linet (Amy Ingersoll) and Julie (Patricia Tallman) live on the road and live off what they can, but the strain is beginning to show as they can't afford to keep up this lifestyle, and when Billy ends up in jail after an altercation with a corrupt cop, the rest of the group get tempted with an offer by promoter Bontempi (Martin Ferrero), who offers them good pay and better living and working conditions. It's a good film with some very well done motorbike stunts, and for Romero, the change of direction was just what he needed. But hardly anyone got to see it when United Artists, already on their knees because of Heaven's Gate (1980), had to sell off the U.S. rights to a smaller distributor. Which is a shame, as it's an original breed of film.