A Week In Film #469: Hallowe’en

[The Little Vampire title screen]
The Little Vampire
Really fucking terrible adaptation of a book series about an American kid transplanted to Scotland who befriends a vampire. Seriously, nothing to recommend. I was rather astounded when I realised it was directed by Uli Edel, who did Der Baader Meinhof Complex and Last Exit To Brooklyn.

6 Days title screen
6 Days
So-so take on the 1980 Princes Gate Iranian Embassy siege, and subsequent storming by the SAS. Mark Strong turns the mournful eyes up to 11 as the police negotiator, but it’s Jamie Bell as the soldier in charge of the assault who impresses most, with virtually no dialogue. Directed by To a Fraser.

Wheelman title screen
In the vein of The Driver, Drive, The Transporter et al, here with ex-con Frank Grillo forced to work as a getaway driver for never-seen clients setting up heists through a middleman in order to pay off a debt. Jeremy Rush conducts some excellent chase sequences, and there is a mild twist to it which keeps things interesting.

The Duel title screen
The Duel
Modern Western from Kieran Darcy-Smith, with Liam Hemsworth as a Texas Ranger gone undercover in a remote frontier town under the thrall of a sinister preacher (Woody Harrelson). Not great, but something a little different.

Black Hawk Down title screen
Black Hawk Down
The more times I see it, the more distasteful it seems, despite some strong performances and action sequences.



A Week In Film #468: Births, deaths & marriages

Final Destination 2 title screen
Final Destination 2
Some great scares and shocks, but overall a weak entry in the franchise.

[No One Lives title screen]
No One Lives
Potentially good horror movie, but ultimately one long fumble from director Ryuhei Kitamura. A mysterious drifter (Luke Evans, High-Rise) turns out not to be the pushover a feral gang of rural hoodlums think he is. The movie then unfolds in furtherance of its Ronseal title.

A Week In Film #467: Quiet

[Kagemusha title screen]
Kurosawa’s superb mournful late period samurai picture, sort of I Was Monty’s Double with more swords and extra pathos. Tatsuya Nakadai gives the performance of his life as a lowly criminal saved from execution to act as a doppelgänger for the recently deceased daimyo of a royal house; slowly he takes to the role, only to succumb to hubris, and fuck everything up. The recreation of the Battle of Nagashino at the end is stupendous, as is the use of colour throughout.

A Week In Film #462: Genre

Red Eye title screen
Red Eye
Joyously silly genre thriller (shades of Nick Of Time) with hotel manager Rachel MacAdams tying to escape the clutches of a dangerous blackmailer whilst on a plane home at Christmas. Fun stuff from Wes Craven.

[Murder At 1600 title screen]
Murder At 1600
DC cop Wesley Snipes teams up with Secret Service agent Diane Lane to investigate a murder with political implications at the White House. Throwaway fluff of the sort I will lap up.

Spectre title screen
Dense but enjoyable neo Bond, with a satisfying plot that ties together the whole Craig era with previous canon. Strong work from Sam Mendes, with some excellent set pieces (continuous take Mexican day of the dead cold open, the Dennis Wheatley-eqsue meeting infiltrated by Bond, Bond’s capture and torture, the climactic chase) and energetic performances by Christolph Waltz Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott.

The Incredibles title screen
The Incredibles
Top animated superhero shenanigans from Pixar, directed by Brad Bird.

[Aladdin title screen]
Breezily fun Disney Renaissance take on the hoary old tale, with directors Ron Clements and John Musker letting Robin Williams run riot as the genie.

The Omen (1976) title screen
The Omen
Silly but very decent genre shocker, with peerless physical effects and expert timing from Richard Donner.

A Week In Film #461: Strong out the gate

[Good Burger title screen]
Good Burger
Silly but overall inoffensive Kenan & Kel vehicle, with the pair of buffoons working a summer job at a local fast food restaurant facing ruin when a huge new Mondo Burger outlet opens across the road…

The Day Of The Jackal title screen
The Day Of The Jackal
Fred Zinnemann adapts Frederick Forsyth’s rollicking based-on-real-events thriller with real verve, and keeps the tension running throughout. Edward Fox is ice-cold as the English hitman hired by right-wing OAS goons to assassinate De Gaulle following his treacherous withdrawal from Algeria.

[The Mask title screen]
The Mask
Silly early Jim Carrey star vehicle, adapted from a Dark Horse comic about a mask that turns its wearer looney tunes. With Cameron Diaz, Peter Greene, and some other people. Not really sure I could précis the plot. Directed by Chuck Russell.

Sicario title screen
Watched Denis Villeneuve’s Traffik-esque tale of the war against drugs fought on the US-Mexico border as a bit of a warm-up before Blade Runner 2049. Can’t make up my mind whether it really is fascist cheerleading, or a particularly bleak and pessimistic parable, or just very cynical. I think probably the middle one, though the tripling down on the ending suggests something of a wobble in intent. Some great set pieces, though – Arizona, border crossing, post-bar, tunnels, Mexican road – and some strong performances (Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin). Superb score by Jóhann Jóhannsson too.

Serpico title screen
Sidney Lumet, Al Pacino and a pre-gentrification city of New York in perfect harmony.

Jawbone title screen
Starring, written and produced by Johnny Harris – though director Thomas Q Napper deserves a shout too – this is a fine drama about a has-been, coulda-been boxer who has a chance of redemption. It’s not ‘the British Rocky, and no less great for that. Superb supporting performances from Michael Smiley, Ian McShane and even Ray Winstone.

A Week In Film #460: Mixed bag

[The Nut Job 2 title screen]
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature
Like its predecessor, this one makes up for the slightly second tier artwork and animation with brio and verve. This time round our squirrelly heroes and their chums are forced to look for a new home after their nut paradise blows up; this leads to a confrontation with the corrupt town Mayor and his henchmen. Voices include Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl and Bobby Cannavale. Cal Brunker replaces Peter Lepeniotis on directing duties.

As fun as when first I saw it in the cinema, from the opening introduction of crappy, spineless car salesman Jerry Lundegaard through to the incident with the woodchopper.

Groundhog Day
Harold Ramos nails pretty much everything in this classic nineties refresh of the likes of A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life; here Bill Murray is a cynical TV weatherman who is forced to reevaluate his life when he gets trapped in some kind of a time-loop in a Mid-Western town.

The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies title screen
The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies (114 min Netflix version)
Worthy, if not compelling, take on the demonisation of an innocent man in the wake of the brutal murder in Bristol in 2010 of Joanna Yeates. Jason Watkins does a fair impersonation in the lead role, but it’s not the gripping drama it seems to think it is. Best bit is probably Shaun Parkes as his lawyer – because he gets to say what the viewer (safely watching with the benefit of hindsight) is thinking when the police lay out their ‘evidence’ against his client: is that really all you have?

A Week In Film #459: Crap titles

Zero Dark Thirty title screenZero Dark Thirty
Despite hating the twisting of the facts and the incessant propagandising, Kathryn Bigelow has produced a fine piece of work here, with accomplished performances throughout (Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Édgar Ramirez, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton, Fares Fares, Scott Adkins…).

Deepwater Horizon title screen
Deepwater Horizon
Apparently fucks with the facts, but still a decent watch which is several rungs above being just a shameless exploitation disaster movie. Mark Wahlberg does his best blue collar everyman thing here, as an electrician caught up in a major fire incident on a massive offshore oil rig. Directed by Peter Berg, with nice supporting performances from John Malkovich as a thin-lipped company hack, and Kurt Russell as a grizzled site manager.