Monthly Archives: May 2009

A Week In Film #028: Sunburnt & beer-soaked

The Bunker (2001) title screen

The Bunker (2001)
Now this had potential – a small group of German soldiers in the Ardennes in 1944 holed up in a pill box above a series of dark and foreboding tunnels, which proves to be a portent to terror. It could have been The Keep; it turned out more Deathwatch. A shame, because there were interesting themes and a pretty good cast (Andrew Tiernan, Chris Fairbank, Simon Kunz, Andrew Lee Potts, and, erm, Jack Davenport, Jason Flemyng and Charley Boorman; I guess Eddie Marsan could have swung either way). Tighter directorial attention to the acting than to the shadows would have done this film the world of good, I suspect. Too much of it involves conscious acting rather than natural reacting. The flashback sequences are very efficient.

Anzio title screen

Anzio
Bloody awful and uninvolving war movie featuring two of my favourite screen actors, Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk, about 1944’s lesser known amphibious invasion of Europe. Not seen this since I was a nipper, and in my memory I always associated the Operation Shingle landings at Anzio with the Ardennes offensive of the Battle of the Bulge, possibly because they each spawned bloated, boring films. Horrible 60s score too!

Charlie Wilson's War title screen

Charlie Wilson’s War
Tom Hanks as a US Congressman who funds the mujahideen fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Interesting, but possibly not one that is going to be remembered as a classic. Philip Seymour Hoffman continues in his life mission to PSHify every supporting role in Hollywood to jittery mumblers who talk over other actors’ lines as a maverick CIA agent who breaks the rules and does things his way, etc.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith title screen

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Never seen it before, and I don’t think I will again, willingly. A clumsy mess of dull exposition, extended toy adverts and shonky CGI. Though the scenes with Palpatine and Anakin did have promise. As I said to the LLF, they took a wrong turning tracing back the Skywalker story, when Han Solo was what people liked the most about the original films.

Hart's War title screen

Hart’s War
Colin Farrell is a rear echelon Ivy Leaguer who accidentally ends up captured during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944; Bruce Willis is the Westpoint career soldier running the POW camp he ends up in. All about moral codes and sense of duty, with Tuskegee airmen the real life point of interest. Sort of a grittier, less pleasant modern retelling of Stalag 17, with a strong theme of racism supplanting class antagonism. Not great, but certainly impressive. But then at a cost of $70million, would anything less be acceptable?

88 Minutes title screen

88 Minutes
Honestly, this is not a good film. For once the IMDb comments seem mostly on the nail. Pacino is a raspy, rascally, randy professor of forensic psychiatry who moonlights as a profiler for the FBI. A man he helped convict for multiple murders and rapes is about to die in the execution chamber… But wait! A bunch of fresh victims have all just been found killed in circumstances similar to his modus operandi! Maybe he’s not really the killer! And to top it all off, our horny prof has received a phonecall telling him he has eighty-eight minutes left to live! Etc, etc, etc… The poster for this film unforgivably harks back to those for Scarface and Carlito’s Way, which both – for each their flaws – are far superior to this lifeless pile of cinematic afterbirth.

Frost/Nixon title screen

Frost/Nixon
Michael Sheen (the slow dude from Gallowglass and latterly your go-to guy anytime you want a Tony Blair) is playboy talk show host David Frost, Frank ‘Skeletor’ Langella is disgraced warmongering Quaker president Tricky Dicky Nixon. Ron Howard directs, and for the first half it’s good, gripping stuff, but the contrived structure of the third act – trying to create a false ‘victory’ – lets it down.

Runaway Jury title screen

Runaway Jury
Actually rather a good, fun, exciting John Grisham legal twist thriller – John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz and Dustin Hoffman all ham things up nicely in this New Orleans courtroomer about a lawsuit filed against a gun company and the latter’s recourse to an amoral jury consultant to win them the case. The Jeremy Piven character seems somewhat pointless though.

Star Wars title screen

Star Wars (or Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope if you really must)
Special Edition CGI sucks.

The Empire Strikes Back title screen

The Empire Strikes Back (or Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back if you insist)
Icy Hoth, sleeping in a dead tauntaun, wampa attack, AT-ATs, Boba Fett (ship looks like a prawn), Lando, betrayal, Yoda on Dagobah, hand losing, “I am your father”, carbonite sleep, etc.

Return Of The Jedi title screen

Return Of The Jedi (or Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, though I can’t say I approve)
Bounty hunters, metal bikini, Jabba the Hutt, skiff, Sarlacc, Yoda dying, new Death Star, teddy bears Ewoks, speeder bikes, etc.

Semi-Pro title screen

Semi-Pro
Yet another Will Ferrell jockcom, this time round about a crappy basketball team trying to secure a place in the NBA. Woody Harrelson, André ‘3000’ Benjamin and Maura Tierney (Abby the ER nurse/doctor who looks like a stroke-ridden cousin of Friends‘ Rachel) add a little class, Will Arnett and Andrew Daly are in the Waldorf/Statler chairs.

Defiance title screen

Defiance
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber as battling Bielski brothers, running a band of Jewish partisans in the forests of Eastern Poland in WW2. An interesting story but a plodding film. Interesting to see director Edward Zwick borrowing/homaging visual and sound motifs from Elem Klimov’s Idi I Smotri.

Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem title screen

Alien Versus Predator: Requiem
Honestly, avoid. The first AvsP flick was bad enough. Yautja hunts xenomorphs in contemporary America; lots of dull septics die.

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A Week In Film #027: Poop idle

Shoot 'Em Up title screen

Shoot ‘Em Up

Clive Owen as a mysterious man drawn into a complicated web of intrigue after coming to the aid of a pregnant woman being chased by gunmen.

Now, I like Clive Owen (I’m a fan of Close My Eyes, Croupier, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Children Of Men and Inside Man, and the Sharman and Second Sight TV series); I like Monica Bellucci (Dobermann etc); and I most definitely like Monica Bellucci as a lactating hooker.

I like how this film starts, and gets down to business straight away, no preamble, no exposition, just foot down and through the gears. And I like how (certainly to start with) this preposterous actioner is played out just how its title suggests – in full-on, video game style, lots of pointless running around and jumping and shooting and unlimited magazines and laws-of-physics-defying physicality.

But then, as it slows down, it attempts to rationalise the irrational, to explain the inexplicable, to hint at some sort of reason behind all of this silly nonsense. Trying to do this this undermined my enjoyment. As such, FAIL.

Knocked Up title screen

Knocked Up
On paper, a repulsive film – drunken one-night stand, unwanted pregnancy, woman pressured into dieting for her job, idle slob the father – but this one has real charm, as seems to be the way with Judd Apatow and his rep company of likable slackers (like lead actor Seth Rogen). Katherine Heigl excels as Alison, the woman at the centre of it all.

Zack And Miri Make A Porno title screen

Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Non-View Askewniverse, non-Jersey Kevin Smith film, with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Smith as platonic friends down on their luck who decide to make a skin flick to bail themselves out of financial trouble. You can guess how it pans out, but despite its predictability I really rather enjoyed it, and so did the LLF.

Smokin' Aces title screen

Smokin’ Aces
Joe Narc Carnahan does a convoluted, colourful actioner about a bunch of law enforcement types, hitmen, bounty hunters and psychopaths all trying to get to a Vegas-showman-turned-Mob-boss-wannabe (Jeremy Piven), who’s holed up in the penthouse of a Lake Tahoe hotel. It doesn’t work, but there’s interesting elements. A gayed-up Ben Affleck, Common giving a great – practically Shakespearean – performance, Taraji P Henson and Alicia Keys as assassins with sapphic undertones, a trio of redneck Nazi nutter brothers, and an ADHD kid are amongst the highlights, but ultimately it just doesn’t pull together with any satisfaction.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace title screen

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Never seen it before, and I don’t think I will again, willingly. A clumsy mess of dull exposition, extended toy adverts and shonky CGI.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones title screen

Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
Never seen it before, and I don’t think I will again, willingly. A clumsy mess of dull exposition, extended toy adverts and shonky CGI.

A Week In Film #026: Springing into action

Uncommon Valor title screen

Uncommon Valor
Gruff ex-military man Gene Hackman assembles a dysfunctional team of Vietnam vets (and Patrick Swayze) to spring his son and other MIAs from a Laotian prison camp. For all its right wing swagger, it’s still a well made, well acted film with moments of excitement and pathos.

An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder title screen

An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder
The less excellent follow up to the excellent original Q&A DVD featuring the foremost directorial proponent of the ‘Kevin Smith style’, Kevin Smith, this time in front of audiences in Toronto and London.

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith title screen

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith
The ‘better than 2, not as good as 1’ more-raconteur-than-auteur flick from Kevin Smith, taped in New Jersey on his birthday.

Redacted title screen

Redacted
Rather dull and flat reimagination of American servicemen committing abuses in Iraq. Director De Palma’s choice to play it out through the ubiquitous eyes of cameras – soldiers’ camcorders, CCTV, a documentary filmmaker’s lens, night vision lenses, a covert insurgent camera – does little to pep things up, though there are two distinctly visceral moments which prove memorable. De Palma struggles with the material as much as he did with Casualties Of War, and the British TV movie The Mark Of Cain covered similar ground to much greater effect.

Pitch Black title screen

Pitch Black
Very good SF thriller about a space ship which crashlands on a far off, inhospitable planet, and the attempts of survivors to escape from it in the face of some very unfriendly locals. Introduces iconic shiny-eyed antihero Riddick (Van DERV), and features celebrity Scientologist Cole Hauser as a deliciously amoral bounty hunter.

The Chronicles Of Riddick: Dark Fury title screen

The Chronicles Of Riddick: Dark Fury
Rather dull animated spin-off from Pitch Black which fills the narrative gap between that film and its sequel, Chronicles Of Riddick.

PIC

In The Loop
Armando Iannucci’s foul-mouthed television paean to the moral vacuum at the dark heart of modern politics,The Thick Of It, retooled to a feature length analogue of the dodgy dossier scandal with the addition of some Americans and various actors from the TV series being assigned to different characters. Enjoyably unhappy.

A Week In Film #025: May the Fourth be with you, workers of the world

Omen IV: The Awakening title screen

Omen IV: The Awakening
Bloody awful TVM trying to wring a few more cents out of the devil child franchise, only now IT’S A GIRL! Lots of new age stuff too. Not scary or funny.

Flash Gordon title screen

Flash Gordon
Good fun and superior to Star Wars in the Saturday morning serial-inspired hogwash space opera stakes – wooden leads, Max von Sydow camping it up, Peter Wyngarde as Klytus, Bond of the Woods, Brian Blessed, kinky secret police, a thoroughly inappropriate Queen soundtrack.

Battlefield Earth title screen

Battlefield Earth
Pointless and badly executed Scientology propaganda with nary a nod to plot logic or continuity. Poor Barry Pepper. (If you absolutely must find out more about this film, check The Groke’s review.)

Lucky Number Slevin title screen

Lucky Number Slevin
Over-tricksy twist thriller/comedy by the Gangster Number One chap.