Film Review: NIGHTMARE CINEMA (USA 2018) ***

Nightmare Cinema Poster

Five strangers converge at a haunted movie theater owned by The Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Once inside, the audience members witness a series of screenings that shows them their deepest fears and darkest secrets over five tales.

NIGHTMARE CINEMA is a horror anthology, something quite common in horror flicks of the past and re-appearing now again with 5 stories.  The common thread is the cinema theatre where several characters converge only to watch their scariest nightmares on screen.  The theatre owner is the projectionist (Mickey Rourke) who is as scary as the nightmares.

The first story is THE THING IN THE WOODS directed by Alejandro Brugues.  There appears to be a serial killer nicknamed the welder who is doing away with a group of teens.  There is a reason the welder is carrying on these violent killings which is revealed later as the thing in the woods.  This episode is passable at best and works like a slasher film with lots of blood, gore and flying body parts.

The second entitled MIRARE directed by Joe Dante is the second best of the lot as it involves besides the horror, paranoia.  The theme has been done before – where the plastic surgeon is not what he seems.  A young bride disfigured from a car accident is convinced by her fiancé to undergo plastic surgery for the wedding.  Upon recovery, she discovers other disfigured bodies in the hospital besides hers.

The third of the anthology MASHIT (the name of a spirit) has the most promise but unfortunately is the most muddled of the lot.  Perhaps Japanese director Ryūhei Kitamur is working in unfamiliar territory here.  A priest and a nun has a sexual relationship amidst some possession that is taking place with the children under their care.  One suicide leads to another.  A young girl is currently under prey but tuns out that it is her mother who is possessed.  

The next one, THIS WAY TO EGRESS, directed by David Slade where everyone speaks with a British accent involves a woman visiting a doctor after things get weirder and weirder with her.  She wonders if she is crazy but is ushered out the door by the doctor without the answer.  This one has the best cinematography and excellent disgusting looking production sets, black and white with interiors all seemingly covered in blood.   Everything looks very sinister as the woman keeps asking strangers (with faceless features) if they have seen her children.  The ending is a tad of a disappointment given the tense buildup.

The best is reserved for the last and indeed, the last episode DEAD directed by Mick Garris (who also directed the inter-joining projectionist parts) is an excellent horror piece combining a return from the dead and slasher scenarios.  After performing his concert piece, a boy and his parents are attacked while in their car in the parking lot.  The parents are killed while the boy survives a bullet wound.  Things get complicated in hospital recovery where the boy’s mother appears and ask him to cross to other side, the side of death.

Though a bit inconsistent, the horror anthology works, bringing back memories of those old anthology classics like TALE FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and DEAD OF NIGHT (1945).  The anthology ends up a mixed bag of tricks – some good and some bad segments.  For horror fans, NIGHTMARE CINEMA should still satisfy.


Fim Review: TIGER (USA/Canada 2018)

Tiger Poster

A practicing Sikh is banned by the boxing commission for refusing to back down from his religious beliefs. Through racial profiling and stereotypical threats, he does what any strong American would do, fight back.


Alister Grierson

TIGER tells the story of a boxer (based on true events) who also had to contend with battles outside the ring – for his Sikh religion.   He was not allowed by the American Boxing Corporation to box unless he shaved his beard claiming that they held the best interest of boxers in mind for cuts and bruises might not be seen underneath the facial hair.

The film is inspired by the true story of Pardeep Singh Nagra (Prem Singh) aka Punjab Tiger, a practicing Sikh man who was banned from the sport of boxing.   Pardeep fights back with the support of his coach and mentor (Mickey Rourke), family and a community lawyer (Janel Parrish) who he falls in love with.   Obstacles faced include racial profiling by public officials, overtly racist threats, jealous rival boxers and pressure to change from loved ones.  It is within the course of these challenges and at his weakest moment that he discovers love.

One wonders the reason the film is entitled TIGER instead of PUNJAB TIGER, which would be the more appropriate title.   One might think that for an anti-racist film, dropping the PUNJAB word might be taking a prejudiced view that the title might put off general audiences.  On the other hand, one could also argue that the simple TIGER will fetch a larger audience and likely the ones to learn a lesson or two about racism.

Good intentions aside, TIGER feels like a poor man’s version of ROCKY.  There are similarities between the two boxing films.  Both are based on real life characters and both do not qualify as a true biographies.  Rocky Balboa’s character emphasized his Italian background while Pardeep Singh his Sikh background.   Both rely on the expertise of their experienced coach, who were real boxers, Mickey Rourke in TIGER.  There is also the romantic element in both films that show the boxer also as a human being.

Prem Sing delivers as the feisty boxer.  It is good to see Mickey Rourke (Academy Award nominee for Best actor in THE WRESTLER) again on screen though the man is definitely showing his age (and his glass eye).  A photograph of Mickey Rourke int he film shows the boxer/star in his hey day.

The film’s climax is expectedly the middleweight championship fight between The Tiger and the racist bully, Bryan Doyle (Michael Pugliese).  (Pugliese and the real Nagra wrote the script for this film.)  Everyone loves a good boxing match.  The camera work is sufficiently effective, well cut to the fight, the spectators’ reactions and the agony on the fighters’ faces.  Director Gierson cannot resist using the roar of the tiger on the soundtrack during the final bout.

TIGER ends up a predictable and cliched though relatively entertaining part-biography of boxer Nagra who discovers that winning a fight need not always be in the boxing ring.  The film won the Best Film at the San Diego International Film Festival.


1987 Movie Review: BARFLY, 1987

Barfly, 1987
Classic Movie Review
Directed by Barbet Shroeder
Starring Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway and Frank Stallone
Review by Carey Lewis


A slice of life film about an admitted drunk and his adventure.


There was a time in the 80’s when Mickey Rourke was on his way to becoming the biggest movie star; if he wasn’t already at that status for a brief moment. It was in roles such as Barfly, Diner, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Nine and ½ Weeks, and Angel Heart that was showing his tremendous talent, and solidifying him as a Hollywood heavyweight with a bright future ahead of him. Then it all kind of fell apart.

But this is a review about the movie, not the man, and google will be your friend if you’d like to know the story about Mickey Rourke. Barfly is simply one of the films that you can see how good of an actor Rourke was, and how much talent has been squandered. Sure, he’s back now, mainly smaller roles in Rodriguez films, but who knows what might have been? Another question that arises is, “can he still deliver on the talent he was given if only given the chance of bigger, juicier roles?” Well, I’m personally hoping someone asks that question and puts Mickey to the test.

So enough about Rourke, let’s talk about Rourke in Barfly.

Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, a self acknowledged drunk that repeats the same routine, day in and day out. He gets to his local bar, gets drunk, goes home to write a bit, goes back to the bar, gets drunk(er) and picks a fight with the bartender Eddie (Frank Stallone). Eddie always wins, Henry goes home, and the cycle repeats the next day.

However, one day Henry manages to beat Eddie, and as he tries to get a beer to celebrate his victory, Eddie refuses to let anyone serve him. Rather than mope or cry about it, Henry goes to another watering hole, where he meets Wanda (Faye Dunaway), another drunk, or “barfly.” Both are weird to say the least, so they hit it off immediately.

The next day Henry moves in with Wanda, and their rocky relationship begins. At one point she tells Henry that “she’ll leave with anyone who has a fifth of vodka.” At least she’s straight up and honest. Facing rent payments, and the bill for booze to be had, Henry goes out to get a job. While gone, Eddie happens to be around with a fifth of vodka.

This is the one person that Henry despises the most in the world. Not because Eddie is always handing Henry his ass, but because he sees the polar opposite of himself in Eddie. Eddie is all the things in life and the world which Henry hates. After a brief moment in the film, Wanda returns back to her apartment, and the two reconcile.

Meanwhile, throughout the story, Henry is being followed by Tully (Alice Kruge). It is unknown why, as Henry has blown her off every time she’s contacted him, until the final third of the film. It turns out Henry has submitted some of his writing to her magazine, and they have decided to publish it.

It is in this final bit of the movie that the film took a left turn that didn’t quite work for me. Tully sleeps with Henry the first day they finally meet and is ready for him to move into her guest house and become a writer and be with her. Now, I can understand the drunks getting together quite easily, but a highly established, educated publisher? That’s kind of a stretch for me. It’s alluded to that she fell in love with his writing and his way of life, but I wish a little more time would have been given to her motivation for this action. Yes, I know it fits into the themes of the movie, and definitely works to the favor of Henry’s character, but I wished it would’ve been down without the sacrifice to the Tully character.

Now, you may know that I usually do a shorter synopsis of the movie, stopping before giving away any major plot points of the film. I didn’t do that here. I gave away the whole film because this isn’t a film about a plot, this is a film about characters. It’s a classic character study that feels like a slice of life film. Shroeder plops you down onto a bar stool in a dive and says “hey, check these people out.”

Shroeder also does a great job of letting the actors “act” in their scenes together. He doesn’t force the pace with editing or weird camera angles. In fact, the way this film is directed by Shroeder, and shot by Robby Muller, you’d swear this film is from the 70’s. I was actually surprised to find out it was made in 87, and not in the earlier part of the decade.

The cinematography is definitely something to note here. This is one of the most naturally lit films I’ve seen in awhile. The light seems to always come from natural sources, such as windows, open doors, or lamps. The nighttime scenes are obviously lit, but not in a way that makes you notice that it’s been “lit.” The production design by Bob Ziembicki is also something to note as well, as the whole film looks dirty with stains on the walls, grungy locations, old mismatching furniture, and small apartments looking on the verge of being condemned.

Another ingredient that makes this film feel like the reality obsessed films of the 70’s is the lack of music in the film, other than source music. Source music in a scene, is when the music being heard is coming from somewhere within the movie, such as a character listening to the radio, or passing by an apartment with blaring music. Sydney Lumet also used this technique wonderfully in a couple of his masterpieces “Network” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” It is these key components of cinematography, production design, direction, lack of music, and writing, which sell this as a quality character film that seems very realistic. Because of these elements, it really does feel like you’re dropped on a stool at the Golden Horn.

The writing by Charles Bukowski is seemingly simple, but complex. Rather than take the easier choices out of a situation, Bukowski instead stays true to his characters and never at any point in the film, does it feel like the film’s “written.” The characters never wallow in self-pity, but rather seem to accept who they are, and are happy being who they are. At one point, Henry has the opportunity to make it out, but that’s not what he wants, and Bukowski stays true to that.

Like most films dealing with alcoholics, a voice is heard telling the characters what they are doing, and doing to themselves, is wrong. This is often times a staple in this type of movie, and can easily come across as condescending. This film doesn’t do that. In fact, I would say it romanticizes the inebriated lifestyle. As I understand it, it is somewhat based on Bukowski’s life, which could be a reason for the romantic feel of the drunks. Oddly enough, they make you happy, and that’s a hard thing to do to make drunks make you happy when they have no desire to change at all. With the subject matter, you’d think this film would be either a slap-stick comedy, or a serious drama. Bukowski manages to make it fit comfortably in the middle.

Faye Dunaway is good in this film as Henry’s love interest; a girl who likes to drink and talk. After all, you don’t become “Faye Dunaway” by not being good. Normally, I’d say she was great in this film but truthfully, everyone else pales in comparison to Rourke in this show. In contrast to Rourke, Dunaway looks like she matted her hair after not washing it for a few days, and threw on some clothes that were in the hamper for a week. That’s not to say Dunaway is bad in this film, it’s just that Rourke’s so damn good. Yes, the lovable, charming drunk has been done in movies before, but they’re usually a supporting character. Rourke is the lovable, charming drunk in a lead role that almost begs you not to like him. He walks weird, he talks slow, and he has no ambition to be anymore than what he is. Rourke is also not afraid to look ugly either, which is definitely a necessity for this type of role. He doesn’t do good things, and he certainly doesn’t say good things, but there’s something about him that makes you think you just might want to be his friend. Maybe it’s because he’s more honest and sincere than most sober people, and those traits are rare.

So if you feel like getting to know some entertaining people and having them show you a little slice of their life, I recommend you grab a stool, order a beer, and watch the barflys in The Golden Horn. Or if your only experience to Mickey Rourke is Sin City and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, take a look at what this guy could do more than twenty years ago.

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Happy Birthday: Mickey Rourke

mickeyrourke.jpgMickey Rourke

Born: September 16, 1952 in Schenectady, New York, USA

I lost the house, the wife, the credibility, the entourage. I lost my soul. I was alone … I’m sort of OK with it now, but the first time I’m in there, pushing a f***ing cart, getting my supper. I used to go to the 24-hour place in gay town, so no one would recognize me. The only thing I could afford was a shrink, so that’s where my money went. Three times a week for the first two years. The year after that, twice a week and now I’m down to once a week. I’ve only missed two appointments in six years.

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