A Week In Film #582: New year new you

Red Heat title screen
Red Heat
So much less than it should be – mis-matched cops (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi) from either side of the Iron Curtain team up in Chicago to pursue a psycho Georgian gangster (Ed O’Ross) intent on setting up a major drug buy.

Written and directed by Walter Hill, after the prologue – with its weird but iconic scenes of a naked Arnie fist-fighting bad guys in the snow, and then snapping off the hollow leg of a coke mule during a raid – it is surprisingly perfunctory. Schwarzenegger and Belushi never quite gel, there’s lots of pointless traipsing back and forwards to the same locations, and the big action scenes are never really very exciting.

A Week In Film #581: YAAAAY!

The Death Of Stalin title screen
The Death Of Stalin
Armando Iannucci does Soviet accession as farce.

Solo: A Star Wars Story title screen
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Less shit than the reviews would suggest, but definitely underpowered. Some nice little plot points, some decent action, some nice performances. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s rabble-rousing droid L3-37 is particularly delightful.

21 title screen
21
College spods engage in card-counting in Vegas. Jim Sturgess plays the newbie recruited to the team who really, really needs to make $300k so he can go to Harvard, because MIT just isn’t good enough, or something. Directed by Robert Luketic from a script by Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb, based on the to-be-taken-with-a-pinch-of-salt ‘non-fiction’ book by Ben Mezrich. Kate Bosworth plays the love interest, Kevin Spacey the prof who grooms(!) our hero, Laurence Fishburne as the casino security goon chasing after them.

A Week In Film #580: Jingle balls

CHIPS title screen
CHIPS
Had terrible reviews, but I rather enjoyed Dax Shepherd’s reboot of the 70s/80s cops show, with himself as an ageing x-cross rider paired up with Michael Peña’s undercover FBI agent on the trail of a gang of bent California bike cops. Vincent D’Onofrio channels Apocalypse Now-era Brando as the chief baddie.

Underbelly Files: Chopper title screen
Underbelly Files: Chopper
Frankly a bit of a turd in the UB canon. Aaron Jeffery seems to be doing an impression of Eric Bana playing the infamous standover man, and there’s no real exploration of either Read the man or Chopper the legend. Having Vince Colosimo, Kevin Harrington and Debra Byrne reprise their earlier roles is cheap, seeing as none is given anything of note to do. Given that the director Peter Andrikidis previously helmed season one of Underbelly (as well as the imperfect latter-day sidequel Fat Tony & Co), plus decent stuff like Bikie Wars and Killing Time, it looks like the finger of blame may be better directed at screenwriter Justin Monjo.

Get Santa title screen
Get Santa
Nice little Brit Christmas flick, with Jim Broadbent as Santa, in chokey following a sleigh crash, and Rafe Spall as a recently paroled gaolbird persuaded by his son to help salvage Christmas. Written and directed by Christopher Smith.

A Week In Film #579: Variety

The Presidio title screen
The Presidio
Peter Hyams ballses up what could have been an excellent chalk-and-cheese buddy cop movie with an intriguing set-up: Mark Harmon is a San Francisco city cop forced to work alongside his old cob-up-the-ass boss from the Military Police, Sean Connery, when the repercussions from a murder on an Army base bleed out into the wider world.

The basics are all in place, but despite some decent touches, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, with the ultimate twist something that is familiar from a hundred half-arsed TV show episodes. And there’s a distinct lack of tension, peril or jeopardy – just an unconvincing romantic sub-plot between Harmon and Meg Ryan (playing Connery’s daughter).

Bridget Jones’s Diary title screen
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Rather better and more enjoyable than I thought it would be, adaptation of Helen Fielding’s novel (based on her newspaper columns), a diary ostensibly penned by a single thirtysomething provincial bourgeois adrift in London, never quite managing to achieve all she hoped for (love, excitement, career, cool). Renée Zellwegger is a fun lead, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth both excellent as her paramours. One hundred percent middle class and totally a made up American fantasy version of what Britishness is, but amusing enough for what it is.

Gangsta Granny title screen
Gangsta Granny
Fun adaptation of David Walliams’ novel for kids, about the burgeoning relationship between a boy (Reece Buttery) and his grandmother (Julia McKenzie), predicated on his belief that she had been an international jewel thief. Some amusing set pieces, and some touching moments. Directed by telly bod Matt Lipsey, scripted by Black Books’ Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley with assistance from Walliams.

The Report title screen
The Report
Powerful, morally upright unfolding of the tale of the slow strangling of the Congressional investigation into the use of torture by the CIA in the ‘war against terror’. Adam Driver is quietly driven in the role of the Senate staffer leading the report team. A strong, angry piece from longtime Soderbergh confederate Scott Z Burns.

Gettin’ Square title screen
Gettin’ Square
Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky serves up a very likeable if very familiar feeling comedic crime drama, focusing on ex-con Sam Worthington, just out of gaol and trying to look after his younger brother, and Timothy Spall, a one-time shady character who wants only to be a legitimate businessman. The whole show is undoubtedly stolen by David Wenham as flaky-but-lovable junkie Spit. Cast includes solid Aussie actors like Gary Sweet, Richard Carter and David Field.

Primates Of The Caribbean title screen
Primates Of The Caribbean
Strange little animated tale of a monkey beach cop taking on a developer, with a casino that turns into a robot. I didn’t have much hope for it but somehow it captivated three kids for an hour and a half. First time director Jan Rahbek apparently has something, then.

Good Time title screen
Good Time
Superb drama from the Safdie Brothers, packaged as and starting off as a quirky seventies-style crime caper/heist movie, but very quickly becoming something a whole lot more complex and trope-resistant.

Low level robber Connie (Robert Pattinson) all but kidnaps his developmentally-challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from a therapy session, before taking him to assist in a stick-up at a bank. It does not go well, and for the rest of the movie Connie is desperately trying to beat the system, but always, always coming up short.

Great little character turns from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress, Necro, Taliah Lennice Webster, Peter Verby and Eric Paykert.

A Week In Film #578: Gumbo

Ronin title screen
Ronin
John Frankenheimer delivers high octane thrills right up until the last reel, when it drifts off a little. De Niro gives us the world’s worst pronunciation of ‘Hereford’. Sean Bean throws up.

Spinning Man title screen
Spinning Man
DEcentish thriller from director Simon Kaijser, with driven cop Pierce Brosnan nipping at the heels of flawed college philosophy teacher Guy Pearce when a young woman is found dead. The twist is somewhat leftfield but ultimately somewhat disappointing.

Alive title screen
Alive
Straight-up depiction of the 1972 Andean plane crash that led to survivors having to eat their dead friends to survive. Frank Marshall directs.

The Angry Brigade title screen
The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain’s First Urban Guerilla Group
Gordon Carr’s excellent and detailed contemporaneous look at Britain’s Angry Brigade, including interviews with many of the key players.

Internal Affairs title screen
Internal Affairs
Richard Gere impresses as a shady LA cop being investigated by Andy Garcia’s rubber heeler. Directed with class by Mike Figgis.

A Week In Film #577: Yule be seeing me

Two Weeks Notice title screen
Two Weeks Notice
Amusing romcom with Hugh Grant as the British real estate tycoon who falls for feisty liberal lawyer Sandra Bullock. Written and directed by Marc Miss Congeniality Lawrence, who a few years later improved off his shtick with Music And Lyrics

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator title screen
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
Creepy Indian yoga dude goes to America, is even creepier, makes a mint, is exposed. Interesting doc from Eva Orner.

The Irishman title screen
The Irishman
Scorsese retreads Goodfellas, and mangles the Jimmy Hoffa story. Nothing you can definitively say is ‘bad’, but it is as reactionary a movie as you can get, repackaging uncorroborated claims as a true narrative.

A Week In Film #576: Basically all new

The Interview (1998) title screen
The Interview (1998)
Took ages to actually knuckle down and watch it in full, but it was worth it. Starts off with some kind of a police raid on the modest flat of a quiet, shy man, Eddie Fleming (Hugo Weaving). He doesn’t know what’s going on, and nor do we, even as he is dragged to an interrogation cell in some imposing looking police building. That sense of unease and bewilderment is stretched out until there is a moment of exposition behind the curtain, with detectives Steele and Prior (Tony Martin and Aaron Jeffery) giving us a hint of what it is all about. And so the game is afoot, incrementally drip feeding us with information which makes us lean first one way then another.

Whilst the last act pulls together the threads in something more orthodox, the journey which gets us there is exhilarating. Directed and co-written by Craig Monahan, with Gordon Davie; memorable turns by Michael Caton as a serpentine, jovial journalist, and Paul Sonkkila as a battle-hardened senior police officer.

Crown Vic title screen
Crown Vic
A day-in-the-life, Training Day-type police thriller, with weary LAPD patrol officer Thomas Jane assigned rookie Luke Kleintank for a night on duty in Olympic Division. Josh Hopkins and David Krumholtz make a memorable pair of fuck-knuckle task force team members. Drifts well into the silly, but overall a decent enough effort from Joel Souza.

Name Of The Rose title screen
Name Of The Rose
Rather confusing mediaeval murder mystery, with Sean Connery as a worldly monk drawn into investigating murder at an Italian monastery, assisted by young novice Christian Slater. Adapted by Jean-Jacques Annaud from Umberto Eco’s postmodern novel, and it seems that all manner of nuance and layers of meaning were stripped away in order to make it a semi-functioning movie.

You Were Never Really Here title screen
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix as a majorly PTSDed up military veteran who ekes a living rescuing trafficked girls in as violent a fashion as possible. One such job does not go as originally planned. Dark, brutal, very well made, with Lynne Ramsay adapting from a novella by Jonathan Ames.

[Captain Marvel title screen]
Captain Marvel
Fun, 90s-set MCU effort, with a different vibe and pace to most of the Marvel movies. Total military propaganda, mind. With Brie Larson as USAF pilot-cum-superhero Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Lashana Lynch as her wing man, Ben Mendelsohn as the baddie, and Sam L Jackson and Clark Gregg as S.H.I.EL.D. agents Fury and Coulson. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who did Half Nelson.