Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Week In Film #020: Spring un-young

Snakes On A Plane title screen

Snakes On A Plane
An internet meme in search of a plot. Slightly more enjoyable in the airborne Die Hard stakes than Air Force One, but less so than Passenger 57.

Tapeheads title screen

A quite fun late-80s oddity, with John Cusack and Tim Robbins as a pair of slackers who set up their own video production business. It mostly pokes fun at music television (it was produced by ex-Monkee Mike ‘MTV’ Nesmith), but there’s also crooked politicians and a pair of long-forgotten sixties soul stars and sweary English punks (“Don’t be a cunt, Dick!”) and Doug McClure as an uptight dad and Jello Biafra playing an FBI agent who arrests our heroes whilst warning “Remember what happened to Jello Biafra” and a big concert at the end.

Talladega Nights title screen

Talladega Nights
Another Frat Pack/Judd Apatow comedy, with Will Ferrell as a redneck NASCAR driver. There’s John C Reilly, Gary Cole and Sacha Baron Cohen in there too. It’s quite fun, just too familiar – all the tropes of struggle-against-adversity sports star biopic are there, with lashings of Top Gun homoeroticism, and underwritten parts for any women on the set.

Burn After Reading title screen

Burn After Reading
The Coen Brothers do spy intrigue. I had no expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised. Lots of WTF?! moments out of nowhere. George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt riff on stupidity, John Malkovich bursts blood vessels all over the shop as a CIA analyst sacked for having a drink problem (“You’re a Mormon! We’re all alcoholics to you!”), Tilda Swinton does alabaster-skinned, redheaded ice queen with a potent line in withering contempt, JK Simmons has a brief turn as a bewildered spook chief.

Blades Of Glory title screen

Blades Of Glory
Cf Talladega Nights. Same deal, this time in the world of figure skating. Replace John C Reilly with Jon Heder, Gary Cole with Craig T Nelson.

Idiocracy title screen

Mike Judge posits the notion that evolution, fast food, dumb TV and blind patriotism all help to create a nation of imbeciles. Heh.

The Manson Family title screen

The Manson Family
Odd low budget treatment of Mad Charlie and his hippie kids, bookending a mostly straightforward version of what happened back then with a retrospective by a (fictional) journalist, who is being stalked by modern day Charlie-lovers. Like an episode of The Night Stalker spliced with The Snoop Sisters and directed by Gregg Araki.

A Week In Film #019: Getting warmer

Bad Boys (1983) title screen

Bad Boys
Sean Penn in an American Scum.

16 Blocks title screen

16 Blocks
Bruce Willis is *not* John McClane in this mostly taut (but sometimes slack) thriller about a past-it New York cop escorting a chatterbox witness (Mos Def) to a grand jury, with a whole lot of dirty blues in between. Could have been great, but it’s not.

Take (2007) title screen

Take (2007)
The paths of two strangers (Minnie Driver and Jeremy Renner) cross; the lives of each are forever changed. Some interesting ideas, very competently handled, but not really satisfying. I’m really not keen on the whole bleached out look, either.

Air Force One title screen

Air Force One
What was I thinking, watching this? It’s Die Hard on a plane, with Harrison Ford as a Presidential John McClane type.

Iron Man title screen

Iron Man
Rather spiffy Jon Favreau-helmed adaptation of the Marvel comic about ├╝ber-capitalist arms dealer and all-round playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), who takes on a crime-fighting alter ego with the help of a battle suit he builds himself. Good fun.

Gacy title screen

Psychological portrait of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the dude who killed loads of boys and buried them in his basement as well as dressing up as a clown for block parties. Not fun. Still, I learned what a crawl space is.

Old School title screen

Old School
Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn as heading towards middle age so try to reclaim the vitality of their youth by setting up a fraternity house.

Shakes The Clown title screen

Shakes The Clown
Bobcat Goldthwait as a booze-sodden clown. Nuff said. Also features a fresh-faced Adam Sandler.

Office Space title screen

Office Space
Really enjoyable mellow satire on white collar drudgery by Mike Judge, with Ron Livingston (the alkie S2 from Band Of Brothers) as a software engineer in Texas who hates his job. Good to hear Geto Boys on the soundtrack too.

A Week In Film #018: Spring sunshine

Year Of The Dragon title screen

Year Of The Dragon
More Michael Cimino business – post-Heaven’s Gate but pre-The Sicilian. Mickey Rourke is Stanley White, a New York cop trying to clear up Chinatown.

There are some interesting techniques, and some good performances, but it is a mess. Of particular note are Cimino’s repeated use of his gunshot victims looking directly into the camera at the moment of impact (as if down the barrel), and the peculiarly abandoned sub-lot of the untainted rookie being recruited by White into his small gangbusting team (as subsequently used to greater effect in The Untouchables).

The plot point about White being a Vietnam vet (who sometimes seemed to have forgotten that he was now in NYC) and overall tone reminded me of the TV movie Dragonfire (aka Tagget).

In terms of casting, Rourke works well as a weary cop. On the other hand Ariane is an odd choice to play the Chinese-American TV reporter character Tracey Tzu; she appears to have had no previous screen acting experience and looks nervous much of the time. The punky junior triad kids (responsible for much of the carnage) could easily have had more meat. Oh, and the script was co-written by Oliver Stone. It certainly has plenty of testosterone and beefy contemplation in it.

Attack title screen

Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of a stage play set during the Battle of the Bulge around the fate of an infantry company bedevilled by a command structure eaten through with political patronage.

Jack Palance is an angry combat-seasoned junior officer, Eddie Albert is his cowardly captain, whilst Lee Marvin is the cynical colonel, with visions of holding public office once he gets back home. Bitter, angry, powerful.

(Trivia: I once spoke to Bob Mills on GLR about the film during a phone-in about Eddie Albert, and described his character as “a lily-livered, medal-wanting, son-of-a-gun” – a last second moment of self-censorship at the end there – which Bob then turned into a jingle-cum-slogan for the show.)

Sky High title screen

Sky High
The LLF isn’t really keen on most of the sorts of films I watched, so I got this one to watch together. It’s a Disney family film, about a high school for the progeny of superheroes. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston are the biggest capes in town, and proud to see their son Michael Angarano off to start at their alma mater; this being a Disney family film, he starts off with no super powers or any idea of what he wants in life, so must go on a journey of self-discovery and realise the true hero inside, etc etc etc.

Lynda Wonder Woman Carter is the school principal, Bruce Campbell is the sports coach, Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall is the science teacher. It’s quite good fun, but nothing spectacular. I’ve not seen any of the Harry Potter films, but I’d guess it was pitched as a kind of all-American version, with the high school romantic subplots of something like Smallville or Pretty In Pink thrown in for good measure.

A Week In Film #017: I remember it being better

Road House title screen

Road House
“Pain don’t hurt!” Swayze’s finest hour, as a warrior-philosopher in the guise of a small town bouncer.

The Sicilian title screen

The Sicilian
Seriously, I’d convinced myself in my head that this was good. It’s not. Christopher Lambert stinks, and none of Puzo’s Godfather characters are allowed to be used for copyright reasons! The sequence in Palermo with the Italian commandos closing in – the walls shaking, the water in the glass etc – is well-realised though.

Coogan's Bluff title screen

Coogan’s Bluff
I remembered this more fondly than I should have as well. Eastwood and Siegel prefigure Dirty Harry (and Dennis Weaver’s McCloud) with a corner-cutting Arizona sheriff’s deputy out of his natural environment whilst in New York on an extradition mission. The hippie stuff is fun, and the pool room fight is memorable.

Vamp title scren

Frat pledges on a quest to hire a stripper end up in a titty bar run by vampires (including mute ancient Egyptian deity Grace Jones!); some boring dialogue, yet witty, well-shot and seemingly a major inspiration for From Dusk Till Dawn and some of the last act of Shaun Of The Dead. Written and directed by Richard Wenk, who hasn’t really done that much, though he did do the screenplay for the Mos Def/Bruce Willis/David Morse thriller, 16 Blocks.

A Week In Film #016: A trifle disappointing

Heaven's Gate title screen

Heaven’s Gate
Ian Bone, you let me down! Michael Cimino’s studio-bankrupting revisionist Western about the Johnson County War has lots of nice ideas, it just doesn’t pull them together very satisfyingly (inaudible dialogue, dull editing, no finesse in the pace etc). Still, it’s a good class war fable.

Die Hard 4.0 title screen

Die Hard 4.0
Bloody awful reboot of the John McClane franchise, with yet another unconnected script hamfisted into a DH template. It’s all about cyberterror.

Fargo title screen

One of the Coen Bros’ finest, featuring Minnesota Nice, a pregnant police chief, woodchipper business, a botched loan fraud/fake kidnapping scam and Mike Yanagita FTW!