A Week In Film #559: Nearly there

[Teen Wolf title screen]
Teen Wolf
Michael J Fox as a beta high school student who discovers he is from a long line of werewolves, which improves his ball game no end. Thoroughly inconsequential but fun.

[A City Of Lies title screen]
A City Of Lies
Very watchable take on LAPD detective Russell Poole’s part in the investigation of and theories around the murder of Christopher ‘Biggie Smalls’ Wallace. Directed by Brad Furman, and it’s far more compelling than his previous movie The Infiltrator, which made a different true crime drama seem rather turgid. With Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, and some strong turns from the likes of Glenn Plummer, Toby Huss, Laurence Mason, Shea Whigham and Dayton Callie. Contrasts interestingly with the TV series Unsolved, which threaded the Poole track into the later Greg Kading-led reinvestigation, which favoured an East-West beef motive.

[Wonder Woman title screen]
Wonder Woman
Ended up not really paying attention, but Gal Gadot seemed about as convincing as anyone could be, as an immortal BDSM cheesecake Amazonian princess. Pretty watchable for a DCU movie. Directed by Patty Jenkins, who did the Aileen Wuornos drama Monster.

[The Great Hack title screen]
The Great Hack
Strong documentary about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Trumpism and Brexit.

[Porndemic title screen]
Engaging doc about the late 90s HIV outbreak centred in the Valley around performer Marc Wallice. Directed by Brendan Spookie Daly.

True Grit (2010) title screen
True Grit (2010)
Tasty un-Coen Bros remake by the Coen Bros of the John Wayne Western, with Kurt Russell perfectly cast as a grizzled Texas Marshal hired by a single-minded young girl to hunt down the outlaw who killed her family.

A Week In Film #558: Back. On. Track.

[A Civil Action title screen]
A Civil Action
Saw it on Prime, thought it was a John Grisham number, but it wasn’t. John Travolta is a sleazy ambulance-chasing lawyer specialising in shaking down companies for settlements, who by chance takes on a class action suit on behalf of a small community over water poisoning. Based on a true story, so not as neat as other legal dramas. Directed and written by Steven Zaillian, based on the non-fiction book by Jonathan Harr.

[The Yards title screen]
The Yards
Tight little mood piece by James Grey, set in the milieu of New York transit yard contract-fixing. Mark Wahlberg is a basically decent kid just out of pokey, returning to his old ends and hoping to make things up to his sickly ol’ ma (Ellen Burstyn). Before long he hooks up with lifelong pal Joaquin Phoenix – the reason he went inside in the first place, naturally – who has clearly risen up the ranks in the intervening years. Oh, and is going steady with Charlize Theron, Wahlberg’s cousin with whom there is more than a little of the forbidden love going on. Soon things go south.

With James Caan (dialling things back a little, serving up a similarly solid supporting role as in The Way Of The Gun, plus minor roles for the likes of Faye Dunaway, David Zayas (later in Dexter) and a pre-The Wire Domenick Lombardozzi. Probably better than Gray’s later bent cop soap We Own The Night, but not as good as his script adaptation (co-authored with director Guillaume Canet) of French crime thriller Les Liens Du Sang, Blood Ties.

[Who? title screen]
Somewhat interesting, if rather plodding, mystery-cum-meditation, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Elliott Gould is an FBI security expert brought in to evaluate whether a man with a metal head repatriated to West Berlin by the Soviet authorities is in fact a valuable American scientist. Is he a Russian plant? Or is he really Dr Lucas Martino, who had been working on a military project when some months ago he was involved in a serious and disfiguring accident?

Played absolutely straight, with some strong acting and some creative moments, but overall a bit drab. With Trevor Howard, directed by Jack Gold from a script by John Gould adapting Algis Budrys’ novel.

[Election title screen]
Black comedy about the corruption of a popular, happy high school civics teacher (Matthew Broderick) when faced with a particularly entitled, precocious student (Reece Witherspoon). Horrifically plays with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and toys mercilessly with the audience – a real dark pleasure. With Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Mark Harelik and Molly Hagan, directed by Alexander Payne from a novel by Tom Perrotta.

[A Simple Favour title screen]
A Simple Favour
Pretty darn good dark comedy about a try-hard single mother (Anna Kendrick) who somehow becomes friends with a cynical, tough fashion PR (Blake Lively). When her new best friend disappears, our protagonist goes all Nancy Drew and investigates the shit out of things. With Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini and Joshua Satine. Directed by Paul Feig, based on a Darcey Bell novel.

[Apollo 13 title screen]
Apollo 13
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with Ron Howard’s solid account of the later aborted mission led by Jim Lovell.

[Look Away title screen]
Look Away
So-so psychological horror, with emo teen India Eisley fighting back against her high school bullies with the help her feisty mirror image, who might or might not be her twin sister. Assaf Bernstein writes and directs, strong support from Mira Sorvino and Jason Isaacs. Nothing speacial.

[The Campaign title screen]
The Campaign
Quite droll, broad satire on American politics, with sleazy incumbent Will Ferrell forced to up his game when a Boy Scout candidate (Zack Galifianakis) selected and supported by Koch-like billionaire brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) starts to threaten his chances. Directed by Jay Roach from a Chris Henchy/Shawn Harwell script, with a great cast – Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, Karen Maruyama.

A Week In Film #557: Clocking up

[Zero Dark Thirty title screen]
Zero Dark Thirty

[The Raid: Redemption title screen]
Serbuan Maut AKA The Raid: Redemption
Gareth Evans announces pencak silat onto the international stage, with this low budget immense fight-your-way-out-of-the-labyrinth actioner about a squad of Indonesian police launching a raid on a crime boss’ stronghold. Iko Uwais is a ready-made star as incorruptible cop Rama; Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah and Alfridius Godfred are all memorable as the bad guys. Some of the best ever on-screen fight choreography.

[Atomic Blonde title screen]
Atomic Blonde
David Leitch, one of the team behind John Wick, brings a similar non-CGI sensibility to this adaptation of a muscular Cold War mystery comic, set against the backdrop of the imminently collapsing Berlin Wall, Charlize Theron is a British spy sent out to the German capital to investigate the murder of a colleague. James McAvoy is the quirky head of station meant to be assisting her. Some great physical sequences, and impeccable period touches – music, set dressing, vibe – but ultimately it falls short of excellent.

[Layer Cake title screen]
Layer Cake
The directorial debut of Guy Ritchie’s producer Matthew Vaughn is confident and colourful and enjoyable, though at times the dialogue is somewhat ropey. But a tasty little tale of the drugs trade and gangsters and double cross, with Daniel Craig auditioning for 007, and a heavy-hitting supporting cast doing the heavy lifting – Colm Meaney, George Harris, Kenneth Cranham, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy, Tamer Hassan, Ben Whishaw, Marcel Iureş, Dexter Fletcher, Steve John Shepherd, Louis Emerick, Stephen Walters, Francis Magee, Jamie Foreman, Sally Hawkins, Burn Gorman, even Sienna Miller.

[Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed title screen]
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Now, I unexpectedly really enjoyed the first live action one; this one, however, despite involving pretty much the whole creative team, is something of a turd.

[Beverly Hills Cop II title screen]
Beverly Hills Cop II
So long as you don’t expect it to be as good as the first, then you’ll be alright. A lot slicker, in a coked-up Tony Scott/Simpson/Bruckheimer way, with Jürgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen and Dean Stockwell making a colourful crime triumvirate for our heroes Eddie Murphy, John Ashton and Judge Reinhold to face.

[Fargo title screen]
Peak Coen Bros, with thoroughly competent local cop Frances McDormand almost immediately solving the case, thanks to her adversaries being arch-incompetents William H Macy, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare.

[We Were Soldiers title screen]
We Were Soldiers
Goes on a bit. A LOT. Relentlessly bloody – and yet in no way critical – account of the Battle of Ia Drang between Vietnamese forces and a newly deployed airmobile 7th Cavalry, led by God-fearin’ Mel Gibson. Both effective and horrifically partisan. Directed by Braveheart scripter Randall Wallace.

[Thunderbolt And Lightfoot title screen]
Thunderbolt And Lightfoot
Lovely 70s caper movie, with wisecracking young drifter Jeff Bridges teaming up with taciturn ex-soldier turned safecracker Clint Eastwood (and later his chippy old comrades George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis) to take down a score in Montana. Directed by Michael Cimino.

[The Terminator title screen]
The Terminator
It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead! Oh, and viene una

[Peppermint title screen]
So-so revenge fantasy – Jennifer Garner is a suburban soccer mom who goes on the offensive against the gangsters who killed her daughter and husband, and against those corrupt officials who helped the killers go free. Totally just a shuffled-around Death Wish. The odd nice action sequence; from director Pierre Morel.

A Week In Film #556: RE:WHINED

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy title screen
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Keep going back; it doesn’t get better. Still bugs me, the Hungary thing.

Black Hawk Down title screenBlack Hawk Down
And still with this one – it’s just too good an action movie.

Elizabeth Harvest title screen
Elizabeth Harvest
Moderately diverting SF horror; creepy old dude marries pretty young woman, takes her back to his techno palace, weird shit happens, a death occurs, a discovery is made, all is not as it seems, etc. With Abbey Lee, Ciarán Hinds, Carla Gugino, Matthew Beard and Dylan Baker, written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez.

Shaun The Sheep Movie title screen
Shaun The Sheep Movie
Umpteenth watch, and still there’s bits I’m catching for the first time. Definitely one of the best feature lengths done by Aardman.

A Week In Film #555: Genuine triple

Damn fine crime drama thriller, with hints of things like Chinatown, Charlie Manson and Rush, with Nicole Kidman a grizzled, sodden and largely spent California police detective, trying to make peace with herself by solving a mystery which shines a light onto the past. Directed by Karyn Kusama.

Last Breath
Interesting documentary, pitched in the vein of Touching The Void, about an incident in which a deep sea diver became cut off from his diving bell whilst undertaking repairs on an oil rig from the ocean bed. Definitely an interesting story, but not the best ever film. Directed by Richard da Costa and Alex Parkinson.

Hotel Mumbai
Powerful and relatively accurate big screen take on the 2009 Mumbai attacks from Anthony Maras, who opts for multiple viewpoints – Sikh hotel worker (Dev Patel), Indian-American power couple (Nazanin Boniadi and Armie Hammer), Russian oligarch (Jason Isaacs) and Australian backpackers (Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Angus McLaren). With visceral bursts of violence.

A Week In Film #554: 67% NEW

Suspect title screen
A totally 80s movie – Cher, Dennis Quaid, a mute Liam Neeson, courtroom shenanigans, half-serious cynicism and world-weary idealism, cracking score by Michael Kamen, taut direction from Peter Yates. Never tire of Cher’s (unscripted?) giggle at the very end.

[Hunter Killer title screen]
Hunter Killer
Obviously not great – a big action movie with Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman and Common that you have not ever heard of? There’s your first klaxons right there – but surprisingly not actually 100% terrible. Perfunctory would seem to cover most bases. Maverick US sub captain (Butler) finds himself on a rescue mission when renegade Russian defence minister (Mikhail Gorevoy) stages a coup against his more liberal minded president; hawkish American admiral Oldman wants to start tapping out nuclear codes, but cooler naval mind Common pushes for a SEAL team extraction (led by The Camomile Lawn’s Toby Stephens). Michael Nyqvist serves as the obligatory Russian sub commander trying to outwit the Yanks on the sea bed. Directed by Donovan Marsh,

Murder Mystery title screen
Murder Mystery
Not the worst Netflix Original starring Adam Sandler – here as a shlubby New York cop who finally takes his wife (the very excellent Jennifer Aniston) on the trip to Europe he always promised her; quickly they become embroiled in a silly murder-mystery surrounding the family of rich idiots they’ve accidentally become attached to. Directed by Kyle Newacheck, written by James Vanderbilt.

A Week In Film #553: Borrowed, blue

The Late Shift title screen
The Late Shift
Really rather dull HBO ‘dramatisation’ of a book about the 1991-1993 battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson at <i.The Tonight Show. Could have been far more compelling – or at the very least, funny – than it is here. Directed by Hill Street Blues alumna-turned-successful helmsman Betty Thomas. This is not her best outing.

[Independence Day title screen]
Independence Day
Not seen this all the way through, ever since I fell asleep during a cinema date in 1996. Still not seen it all in one go. But it’s less rubbish than I remember it, though hella cheesy.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 title screen
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Absolutely too long, but dang, some lovely fight sequences – Veronica and Crazy 88s fights in particular.

Avengers: Infinity War title screen
Avengers: Infinity War
Absolutely no fucking idea what was going on, but the odd interesting moment, and the kids were into it, so…