All posts by nlclement

After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger, critic, and entertainment reporter. His work has been published in Variety Magazine, and at numerous websites, including Hollywood-Elsewhere, MovieViral, Back to the Movies, Taste of Cinema, and Awards Daily. Some of Nick's favorite filmmakers include Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, with favorite films including The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, and Enter the Void. He's currently writing a book on Tony Scott's filmmaking career.

HAPPY 30th ANNIVERSARY TO GARY GODDARD’S MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE — A RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW BY NICHOLAS LOUIS CLEMENT

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1987 was a big year at the movies for me as a seven year old. Harry and the Hendersons, The Monster Squad, Three Men and a Baby, The Princess Bride, Adventures in Babysitting, Innserspace, Benji: The Hunted, Empire of the Sun, Project X, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Hope & Glory were all theatrical trips that I made with my parents, but nothing came close to the feeling and pent-up anticipation of seeing my beloved He-Man in Gary Goddard’s Masters of the Universe. My mother, being the amazing woman that she is, took my best friend Mike and I to see this on opening night roughly 30 year ago; I can still remember sitting in the theater and just loving every single second of this Cannon Films production, which looked to capitalize on the animated TV-show and popular action-figure toy line that every little boy just had to have. And yes, sure, fine, the movie was made on a budget like many Golan-Globus efforts, but the gee-whiz honesty of spirit that accompanies so much of this film still lives on to this day, and while financially compromised in certain areas, it perfectly reflects this sort of entertainment that was prevalent 30 years ago. Anyone can fire up their computer and make a CGI-dominated He-Man movie in today’s movie world, which makes the quaintness factor of this movie even more special.

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There’s massive Billy Barty as Gwildor POWER, James Tolkan, a.k.a. “Strickland,” as Detective Lubic POWER, and cheesey-wooden-awesome Dolph Lundgren as the blond and ultra-buff hero who must save the day. You also get an impossibly young and adorable Courtney Cox, and Meg Foster as a tough baddie. But the entire film was totally dominated by Frank Langella, who brought a Shakespearean level of gusto and gravitas to his role as He-Man’s arch nemesis Skeletor; the performance is a hoot to watch in retrospect and you gotta love Langella for majorly selling every single scene he appeared in. Written by David Odell (The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, Supergirl), the film centers on He-Man and his band of buddies, going up against the evil Skeletor and his crew, and ending up on Earth as a result of some sort of cosmic gizmo that’s able to bend time and space, sending people from Eternia to Earth and back again, and sounds like some sort of new-age synthesizer. Bill Conti’s robust musical score is excellent, definitely helping to tie the film together, while legednary editor Anne V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Sight, The Elephant Man) was recruited for cutting duties. The film’s visual look from cinematographer Hanania Baer (Breakin’, Ninja III: The Domination) is dark and square-jawed, while William Stout’s production design alternates between truly inspired and clearly in need of a few more dollars. It really does beg to wonder what this film might’ve been like if all of it’s financial ducks had been in order.

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Reportedly grossing $17 million off of a $22 million budget, the film would of course go on to become massively popular on VHS and cable, quickly gathering passionate support from youngsters before becoming a piece of solid nostalgia for older movie fans who remember the days of the sticky-floored theater that WASN’T laid out with stadium seating and wall to wall surround sound. It’s a shame that a sequel never happened as one is hinted at during the film’s final moments. You also have to love any movie that kills the young protagonist’s parents, and then allows them to come back to life at the end. This movie is so 1987 I can barely stand it, and there’s a treasure trove of behind the scenes information that’s available to read at both the IMDB and Wikipedia, as well as on YouTube in the form of retrospective reviews and commentaries. A former Disney Imagineering concept developer, Goddard also created and produced the rather amazing and extremely ambitious hybrid TV-series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, which I was also obsessed with as a kid, before becoming one of the biggest names in the theme park attraction business, with credits including T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, Jurassic Park the Ride, and many others. Masters of The Universe is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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NACHO VIGALONDO’S COLOSSAL — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Colossal is a cute and clever “monster movie” where the CGI is kept to a minimum and done on a cool scale with a unique looking monster and some game performances from Anne Hathaway (long haired Anne POWER!), Jason Sudeikis, and everyone else in the cast, who all signed up for an inherently asinine little film but played it totally straight, and it all works even if the central narrative pull isn’t as compelling as it might’ve been with a few more passes on the script. The notion of an irresponsible person conjuring up a city-destroying monster as a result of their alcoholic behavior is what this Nacho Vigalondo written and directed film is mostly about, and it marks yet another quirky genre-bending effort from this stylish Spanish filmmaker, after the rather excellent Timecrimes and the sly-sexy Extraterrestrial (I’ve not yet seen Open Windows).
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Produced and released independently on a reported budget of $15 million, Colossal is the type of project where I could see all of the creative execs and studio producers reading it as a spec and saying “Damn, that was great and original and fresh, but yeah, we’re not going to make this movie here.” Which is a bummer. Because while not perfect, this is the type of original idea movie that used to get moved along at the studio level, but is no longer seen as important or fiscally responsible. There’s a nice undercurrent of social subtext that runs throughout the loopy narrative, and while I wished that certain elements had been taken a bit further to develop even more conflict, I definitely had some fun watching this off-beat item, and I think it’ll develop into a cult favorite for many people over the years.
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NICK’S NOTES: JANE CAMPION’S IN THE CUT

KINO LORBER PRESENTS: ROBERT PARRISH’S THE DESTRUCTORS/THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Destructors, aka The Marseille Contract, is a 1974 British thriller from director Robert Parrish (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, A Town Called Hell) and producer/screenwriter Judd Bernard (writer of Inside Out, producer of Point Blank), and features a very solid cast including Michael Caine, Maureen Kerwin, Anthony Quinn, Marcel Bozzuffi, Maurice Ronet, Alexandra Stewart, and James Mason. The plot hinges on a U.S. drug agent who teams up with an old friend and assassin in order to take down a French drug kingpin. The film’s action centerpiece is a superb car chase between a Porsche 911S and an Alfa Romeo, and of course, because it was all done for real, the entire segment feels that much more dangerous and exciting. Roy Budd (Get Carter, The Wild Geese) composed the film’s robust musical score, while the legendary cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (the first three Indiana Jones films, Julia, Rollerball, Never Say Never Again, The Italian Job, Lion in Winter, The Great Gatsby) brought the appropriate amount of visual grit to the proceedings while still allowing for the beauty of the streets of France to be captured in numerous spots. Willie Kemplen’s crisp editing keeps a fast pace. Parrish directs in a no-nonsense fashion, allowing the layered plot to move along quick, while emphasizing the violent showdowns with a clear-eyed sense of fatalism. The Destructors feels as if it could have been directed by 70’s-era John Frankenheimer, with melodrama and crime genre elements confidently mixed-up into the narrative. Kino-Lorber’s visual and audio presentation on the Blu-ray are strong as usual, but the lack of special features is a little disappointing. But for fans of gritty crime cinema from this time period, this is a total keeper and tons of fun.

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NICK’S NOTES: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

3Close Encounters of the Third Kind is my favorite film by Steven Spielberg. This movie makes me smile during every single second of its running time. It simultaneously scared the crap out of me as a kid and filled me with an overwhelming sense of wonder, and it has never left my imagination since the first time I viewed it with my parents on VHS in the old-school living room on the old-school “box” TV. I projected myself into this film; I became everyone in the narrative at a certain point, and over the years, every single time I watch this movie, I’m taken back to my childhood, and I’m also reminded of just how damn good everything is in this fantastic piece of work. It’s gorgeous (massive Vilmos Zsigmond POWER), it’s got tons of heart, the performances by everyone in the deep and varied cast are magnificent, it’s extremely funny, the close-up/reaction shots are some of the best ever captured, and the ending is so awe-inspiring and so thought provoking and so filled with wide-eyed joy that it’s impossible for me not to think about its general existence at least once a week. The lens flares used in this film are downright magical, the musical score and various melodies are infectious, and I’m still afraid of toys that feature a monkey playing the cymbals. Mashed potatoes have never looked the same, I think we can all agree on that. And those feverish moments with Dreyfuss acting like a personal disaster in his living room with half of his garden on the living room floor – it’s all of a piece and massively enjoyable and I can’t wait until it’s re-released in theaters later this year to celebrate its 40th anniversary, as I’ve never seen it on the big-screen. I’ll need to bring a change of pants for sure. 
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KINO LORBER PRESENTS CHRISTIAN MARQUAND’S CANDY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Candy, released in 1968, is a completely crazy little film that offers up so many odd-ball surprises that it’s nearly impossible to describe the bizarre culmination of all of its psychedelic pieces. Directed by prolific actor Christian Marquand and adapted by the brilliant Buck Henry from the 1958 novel of the same name by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, the film charts the sexual exploits of an alien in teenage disguise, who wanders from one strange encounter to the next, with danger, satire, and off-the-wall-humor mixed into the proceedings. I’ve definitely not seen anything remotely like this one, which at times feels like a farcical precursor to something like Under the Skin, but of course minus that film’s sense of bracing modernity and serious existential themes. The lead role was taken on by Ewa Aulin, who was a former Miss Teen Sweden, and it can’t be denied that she was most certainly extremely photogenic, and perfectly cable of projecting the blank-slate stare and empty emotional behavior that was no doubt required by the filmmakers.

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The supporting cast is just ridiculous, with every single actor behaving in a maniacal, over the top, or oddly threatening manner which increases the strangeness factor; look out for Marlon Brando (as a phony Indian guru!), Richard Burton, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr, John Huston, John Astin, Charles Aznavour, Elsa Martinelli, and Enrico Maria Salerno, with cameos from Sugar Ray Robinson, Anita Pallenberg, Buck Henry as a mental patient, and many more. Dave Grusin’s groovy music sets the stony-acid-retro vibe, Dean Tavoularis’ funky art direction adds lots of flavor, and the too-cool cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno keeps everything visually interesting and distinctive. Kino-Lorber released Candy on Blu-ray last year, and the picture and audio quality are both strong. There’s also a very funny and informative 16 minute interview with Henry who re-counts the film’s asinine production, as well as trailers, radio spots, and a interview with film critic Kim Morgan. For some reason, I could see Candy playing really well on a double bill with An American Hippie in Israel, or Duke Mitchell’s unintentional masterwork Gone with the Pope.

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KATHRYN BIGELOW’S DETROIT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I was so ready for a hug and to see some smiles from my 20 month old son after viewing Kathryn Bigelow’s devastating and purposefully harrowing docudrama Detroit. Working again with screenwriter Mark Boal (they previously created the one-two punch of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, which are two of the best topical thrillers ever), this time they delve into one of America’s most disgusting chapters of racially motivated violence, the Algiers Motel killings and the 12th street Detroit riots of 1967. After an unexpectedly gripping animated sequence that opens the film and dispenses with some societal context, the film gets right to business, and never lets up for a moment. Bigelow’s highly visceral aesthetic style is in full view during Detroit, with expert cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (United 93, Captain Phillips) get up-close and personal with the actors (everyone in the cast is dynamite) during the vividly staged riot sequences which comprise roughly the first third of the film, putting the viewer smack dab in the middle of the action, with a darting sense of spatial focus that both startles due to its seeming randomness, but feels visually coherent in the best way possible. William Goldenberg’s blistering editing makes every single scene count, with the brilliant sound work (those gunshots sound REAL…) adding further dimension to the stylistic package. This film takes a microscopic look at one event but places it in within a larger contextual sense, one that unfortunately feeds into the future.

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On a production level, the film is simply tremendous, and because each performer was fully dedicated to their role, and because every craftsperson brought their A-game, Detroit feels both intimate and epic in the best way possible. Massive kudos for Megan Ellison’s continuous quest to produce (and now distribute) intelligent films made for adults who don’t care about seeing anyone in spandex. People have been complaining that Detroit is “one-note” and that the extended sequence inside the motel goes on for “too long” or that, rather absurdly, Bigelow and Boal “shouldn’t” have made the movie because “they’re white.” I am not going to entertain any of these idiocies with responses; if you can’t figure out that the ENTIRE POINT of the movie is to suffocate you in terrible and grotesque human behavior without full catharsis, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Bigelow and Boal want to force everyone – black, white, brown, purple, etc – to confront the vile thought processes that informed the senseless and pointless killings in that motel. This is the reason why Detroit exists – to outrage and to make links to our current society where African Americans continue to be targeted by certain law enforcement officers for crimes they didn’t commit. In our appalling Trump era, this film means even more than it ever could mean, so I guess it’s no surprise that the vast majority of ticket-buyers turned a blind eye to Detroit on its opening weekend.

3Detroit is frustrating, and compelling, in the same way as David Fincher’s Zodiac in that there’s no emotionally satisfactory ending, and both Bigelow and Fincher, in their respective films, ratchet up the anxiety and never stray too far from the facts of the situation. In many respects, and rightfully so, Detroit, also like Zodiac, resembles a tightly constructed horror film, because, let’s be honest, the situation that unfolded in that motel was nothing short of horrific for the people being terrorized and murdered. It was Bigelow and Boal’s bold decision to be fully unrelenting with their approach, and I applaud them for it, even if it meant that the filmmaking made me upset and uncomfortable.  I totally understand, accept, respect, and embrace poetic license on the part of filmmaker, and conjecture when needed. It’s abundantly clear that Bigelow and Boal did their research, and since the story that they’re telling has no happy ending, I’m glad they didn’t try to manufacture something that would have felt false. This movie is supposed to knock the wind out of you (I felt gut-punched walking out of the theater) and it’s supposed to make you angry (this is a very grim and volatile piece of work that rarely offers any easy answers). I’m sure I’ll see other films that will entertain me more this year, but I doubt I’ll be as galvanized by any one piece of storytelling the way I was with Detroit.

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