(On Cable TV, December 2018) There are so many terrible low-budget movies on Cable TV channels that it’s easy to question why I still take a chance on lesser-known titles without much of a profile or track record. Part of the answer may be with films like Made in Romania, a satirical take on making-of movies that details the production of a Victoria-era drama made … in Romania. Written and directed by Guy J. Louthan, it takes aim at the state of the movie industry circa 2010, and cranks up the madness to 80%. As a very English story is sent packing to Romania for hazy tax purposes, the problems start piling up when actors, directors, financiers and eventually gangsters all have their say. Made in Romania is not a particularly good movie, but it does have its charms—starting with a surprising number of recognizable cameos, from Jennifer Tilly and Jason Flemyng as the leads of the movie-in-the-movie, as well as Elizabeth Hurley and Danny Huston in smaller roles. The potshots at the industry spend more time on the producing aspects than other similar movies more focused on shooting (Louthan is best known as a producer), but some of the jokes are decent enough, and the increasing nightmare of the production is often well rendered within the confines of the faux-reality style of the film. It’s often unexpectedly funny, and it does get a few audible laughs despite some lulls along the way. Some freeze-frame gags and in-jokes help a bit. I can’t say that I’ll defend Made in Romania as a must-see, but I do have a bit of a liking for underseen underdogs, and so I’ll suggest it at least to those viewers with an interest in filmmaking satires.
(On TV, November 1999) A triumphant revision of noir thrillers, with the assorted background of mafia, greed, smouldering sexual tension and pervasive gritty atmosphere. This is the Wachowski Brothers’ first feature (their second would be The Matrix) and it already shows the mixture of mesmerizing direction, borrowed influences and comic-book plotting that made their follow-up features so successful. This is a film that isn’t really complex, but looks so damn polished that it’s impossible to avoid being favorably impressed. Cool scenes, cooler visuals, focused script and femmes fatales (Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon! Woo-hoo!)… I don’t need much more to recommend this one.