A Week In Film #506: So tired

[Stalin (1992) title screen]
Stalin (1992)
Sort of okay HBO biopic with an unrecognisable Robert Duvall as Jughashvili, running through the greatest hits… Revolutionary bit-part player, the blagger nobody likes, wheedles his way into the inner sanctum by agreeing to do the shitty admin no one else will do, elbows out Lenin’s pals when the auld fella karks, does for the kulaks, secret police business, has a few more Old Bolshies knocked off, bit of Terror, purge the army, crap taste in art, show trials, quite big on anti-semitism, not a huge fan of doctors, Molotov-Ribbentrop, oh shit that didn’t go so well, war, hunger, destruction etc, win the war, few more put on trial, bit more purging, oh shit I’m having a stroke FIN. Directed by Czech New Wave dude Ivan Passer, whose big flick after coming West was Cutter’s Way.

[JFK title screen]
Infuriating Oliver Stone conspirobollocks, but with many nice elements to it – the structure, despite it all, and many of the performance notes, and the confidence with which such a big bag of ‘maybe’ is shaken about and emptied over the screen.

[Sleepers title screen]
Barry Levinson’s indulgent (TWO AND A HALF HOURS) adaptation of Lorenzo Carcaterra’s period novel about who a group of New York kids in the sixties had their childhood stolen from them at a Borstal, and how they came to wreak revenge on those who tormented them. Silly, portentous, but very watchable, with son Patric, Brad Pitt, Ron Eldard, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Bruno Kirby, Frank Medrano, De Niro, Hoffman etc.

[The Thing (2011) title screen]
The Thing (2011)
Terrible, misguided preboot, getting us to the start of the 1982 John Carpenter horror classic. Frankly completely redundant, unnecessary, unasked for, pointless. Too much of it rehashes bits from the earlier film, which doesn’t even make sense, and without the charm or wit of the in-camera, physical effects that gem of a movie put before our eyes.Decent enough cast – Mary Elizabeth Instead, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuouye-Agbalje etc – but truly AvP levels of script bodging. Never even heard of director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. before. Probably won’t again.

[They Who Dare title screen]
They Who Dare
Somewhat tedious, non-action filled Lewis Milestone wartime sting, with Dirk Bogarde leading an SAS team into Occupied Greece (Crete) to fuck shit up at some Axis airfields. It all goes a bit tits, almost everyone dies.

[Presumed Innocent title screen]
Presumed Innocent
Enjoyably silly court room thriller with straight arrow prosecutor Harrison Ford finding himself in the frame when an ambitious young colleague, with whom he had a brief affair, winds up murdered. Takes itself a bit serious, but not bad. Adapted by Alan J Pakula from a Scott Turrow novel.


A Week In Film #503: Ramping

[Logan Lucky title screen]
Logan Lucky
Quite enjoyably slow, unadrenalinised heist comedy-drama from Soderbergh, with Channing Tatum and Adam Driver brothers at the heart of a plot to rob a North Carolina speedway.

[Ghostbusters (2016) title screen]
Ghostbusters (2016)
I wanted to enjoy it, but it just wasn’t good enough. Precious resources – a strong cast, including Kirsten Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth, plus all the goodwill that comes with the original plot – are squandered, the script is flabby, and director Paul Feig tries too hard with the staged improv shtick.

[A Bridge Too Far title screen]
A Bridge Too Far
Dickie Attenborough does Cornelius Ryan’s book about Operation Market Garden, seemingly with a cast of thousands – Dirk Bogarde, James Can, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Edward Fox, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Larry Olivier, Ryan O’ Neal, Robert Redford etc etc etc. Somehow feels a bit flat, but some notable scenes.

[Westworld title screen]
Only Michael Crichton’s second directorial stint, and it’s a pretty solid high concept SF effort: rich holiday-makers in the near future visit a triple-zoned theme park (mediaeval castle, Roman villa or Wild West frontier town) filled with realistic-looking robots, who can be seduced, killed, abused, fought… Only THEY’RE BECOMING SELF AWARE! Josh Brolin and Richard Benjamin find out the hard way that you don’t piss off Yul Brunner.

A Week In Film #500: Twenty ponies or a monkey

[The Long Good Friday title screen]
The Long Good Friday
For all its awkward period moments, an all-muscle-no-fat, lean mean pure film machine from screenwriter Barrie Keeffe and director John Mackenzie, along with a superlative cast headed by Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. Every line is memorable, every look underlines a thought, every action has consequences.

[Stalag 17 title screen]
Stalag 17
Another can-watch-it-anytime stone cold classic – Billy Wilder’s funny little tale of Nazi spies and betrayal and murder in a PoW camp.

[Jurassic World title screen]
Jurassic World
Pretty smart reboot of the Crichton-sourced dino theme park franchise, with enjoyable performance from Chris Pratt.

A Week In Film #495: B&W classics

[The League Of Gentlemen title screen]
The League Of Gentlemen
A bunch of ex-military types led by gruff Jack Hawkins plan a daring heist. Peerless stuff from Basil Dearden, working from a script by Bryan Forbes adapting the novel by John Boland, with a great cast rounded out by Roger Livesey, Dickie Attenborough, Nigel Patrick, Kieron Moore, Terence Alexander, Norman Bird and Forbes himself.

[The Blue Lamp title screen]
The Blue Lamp
More Basil Dearden, with antisocial young hoodlum Dirk Bogarde going on the lam in post-war Paddington after a robbery goes wrong and kindly beat copper George Dixon (yes, he) (Jack Warner) ends up cold on a slab. Weaves together kitchen sink drama, film noir and police procedural in a very satisfying bundle.

A Week In Film #494: Nuevo duo

[Lethal Weapon 3 title screen]
Lethal Weapon 3
By now thinks were getting a little tedious – the tetchy interplay between Murtagh and Riggs bringing to mind the ill-rendered freestyle bants of Dyer and Hassan in Dead Man Running (no, that’s not a compliment). Rene Russo’s character helps mix things up a bit, but it’s very much a retread, and a mish-mash.

[Cardboard Gangsters title screen]
Cardboard Gangsters
No, not the most original story – a young fella and his mates get drawn more and more into criminality by the lure of seemingly easy money, until it’s not fun anymore, its actually Really Fucking Dark – but it’s well executed by writer-director Mark O’Connor and co-scripter/star John Connors (him from Love/Hate).

A Week In Film #493: Newfers

[Lethal Weapon title screen]
Lethal Weapon
I’d never actually seen this 80s buddy cop classic, only ever known it through the prism of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Hot Fuzz and the like. Hardly Richard Donner’s directorial peak, but pretty watchable if unexceptional, with a nice rapport between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as a pair of chalk-and-cheese LA cops thrown together by circumstance.

[Lethal Weapon 2 title screen]
Lethal Weapon 2
A sequel that’s actually better than its parent movie – thanks in large part to the addition of Joe Pesci to the cast, and some cardboard cut-out Seff Efrican bad guys.

[Garfield: The Movie title screen]
Garfield: The Movie
Crappy live action/CGI mash-up of Jim Davis’ lazy cat comic strip, with Bill Murray on feline voice duties, his fellow Groundhog Day alumnus Stephen Tobolowsky one of the few good things as a bad guy, and Breckin Meyer (the stoner dude from Clueless) as Jon.