Monthly Archives: June 2009

A Week In Film #033: Looking further afield

Michael Clayton title screen

Michael Clayton
Interesting enough little flick about a low-profile attorney (George Clooney) working for a grubby law firm which specialises in making problems go away for big corporate clients. Written and directed with efficiency and in a Kluteish fashion by Hollywood scriptwriter Tony Gilroy.

Proof Of Life title screen

Proof Of Life
Taylor An Officer And A Gentleman Hackford directs from a Tony Gilroy script, with Russell Crowe as an ex-special forces type now working as a hostage recovery expert in the private sector, tasked with finding Meg Ryan’s engineer husband, who has been kidnapped by South American rebels. Silly, but with some vim.

Classic teen angst/high school satire, with Christian Slater turning his Nicholsons up to eleven, big-eyed Winona Ryder rocking the monocle, croquet, underlined passages of Moby Dick, Big Fun, death by Drano, cowtipping and more.

Bait title screen

Another Tony Gilroy script, here with Jamie Foxx as a high-end, wisecracking thief in some story about a heist gone wrong, etc. Reminded me of Blue Streak and The Last Boy Scout.

Extreme Measures title screen

Extreme Measures
And yet more Tony Gilroy silliness: Hugh Grant is an overworked ER doctor in the States who happens upon a gruesome organ harvesting operation. Gene Hackman earned his pay cheque, Michael Crichton’s lawyers clearly fumbled the ball.

Body Of Lies title screen

Body Of Lies
TWAT-themed thriller, with Leonardo di Caprio as a CIA paramilitary chasing down Islamics in order to save the free world, whilst his bosses stymie and obstruct him. Ridley Scott directs with economy (for him), Russell Crowe is restrained as his superior. Doesn’t compare too greatly with the similar Syriana (which shares Mark Strong in a supporting role), but gets the job done.

Madigan title screen

Decent hardboiled Don Siegel policier, which at least has a stab at doing things slightly differently, splitting the story between the perspectives of old school NYC detective Richard Widmark, and his by-the-book, liberal-leaning commissioner Henry Fonda. Of its time.

A Week In Film #032: Solstice stylings

A Time Comes title screen

A Time Comes
Dull documentary-cum-corporate-video about the Greenpeace Kingsnorth climate change protesters, with talking head segments directed by Nick Broomfield.

Better Off Dead title screen

Better Off Dead
Another Savage Steve Holland coming-of-age teen comedy with John Cusack stuck in American suburbia.

Oxford Blues title screen

Oxford Blues
Really rather terrible retooling of A Yank At Oxford, with Vegas valet Rob Lowe stalking Princess Diana-type Amanda Pays to Oxford University, where he learns Important Lessons about Being A Team Player, and falls for fellow rowing club member Ally Sheedy. Grim.

Von Ryan's Express title screen

Von Ryan’s Express
Ol’ Blue Eyes takes on Thee Nazis in steam train/POW escape hybrid.

The Bourne Supremacy title screen

The Bourne Supremacy
Matt Damon returns as amnesiac superagent Jason Bourne, with documentary/verité specialist Paul Greengrass taking over direction.

Some great sequences – the escape from custody at Naples airport; the fight in the Munich apartment of Treadstone operative Jarda; the extended Moscow car chase. Brian Cox is a welcome addition tot he rep company, as shady CIA boss Abbott.

The Bourne Ultimatum title screen

The Bourne Ultimatum
More Bourneness, again directed with vim by Paul Greengrass.

Paddy Considine is not well cast as a Guardian journalist caught up in the Treadstone treadmill, but the extraordinary rendition sequences around Waterloo Station are superb, as is the Tangier rooftop foot pursuit.

Two Mules For Sister Sara title screen

Two Mules For Sister Sara
Not the best Eastwood/Siegel Western, but watchable. Shirley Maclaine is a nun who ain’t all she seems, and there’s Mexican revolutionaries and stuff

A Week In Film #031: Never talk politics with the in-laws after a day of drinking

Man With The Screaming Brain title screen

Man With The Screaming Brain
Bruce Campbell writes, directs and stars, as an American businessman in Bulgaria (cheap to film there, apparently) who is killed by a treacherous Gypsy woman, before being brought back to life by loony doctor Stacy Keach, who bulks up Campbell’s broken brain with bits cut out of the ex-KGB taxi driver who is also the former boyfriend of our Romani assailant. Could have been better, but points for effort, though possibly not for services to settled/traveller relations.

The Punisher (1989) title screen

The Punisher (1989)
Very silly adaptation of the dark Marvel comic about Nam vet Frank Castle who turns vigilante after his family is executed by the Mafia. Here Castle is changed to a cop, and he is played by Dolphin Lundgren. It is silly. Very violent, with some rubbish and occasionally dull action scenes, but at least it doesn’t take itself seriously.

Punisher: War Zone title screen

Punisher: War Zone
Charmless reboot of the 2004 reboot of the 1989 flick. Ray Stephenson is now Frank Castle, and yet despite not being a stranger to acting, ends up with little to do other than brutally execute anyone who steps in his way, with a moody expression on his fizzog. Directed by that Lexi Alexander, with the same skill and delicacy she applied to Green Street.

Canadian Bacon title screen

Canadian Bacon
Hamfisted (LOL) Michael Moore black comedy (shamelessly stealing from Dr Strangelove) about a lameduck US President who conjures up an imaginary threat from Canada. John Candy is great though. Prefigures the superior Wag The Dog, though the premise is wittier.

One Crazy Summer title screen

One Crazy Summer
Minor 80s teen comedy with John Cusack the wannabe animator on vacation before college. Harmless fun, pleasant performances.

The Whole Nine Yards title screen

The Whole Nine Yards
Him from Friends as a neurotic dentist, him from Die Hard as a mob hitman who moves next door. Fun, but inconsequential. Director Jonathan Lynn definitely has a thing about women smoking cigarettes – Rosanna Arquette, Natasha Henstridge.

The Whole Ten Yards title screen

The Whole Ten Yards
Somewhat pointless sequel, whose principal purpose appears to be to give Kevin Pollak – the Hungarian crime boss who didn’t survive the first film – the chance to work out as his character’s own father. Howard Deutch fumbles the direction.

The Deal (2008) title screen

The Deal (2008)
William H Macy as a past-his-prime Hollywood producer who sees one last chance when his talented but naîve nephew turns up on his doorstep with Bill And Ben, a sensitive script about Benjamin D’Israeli’s relationship with WIlliam Gladstone. Naturally this one last chance involves tweaking it into Ben Disraeli: Freedom Fighter, a guns ‘n’ girls blockbuster with recently converted action star Bobby Mason (LL Cool J) in the starring role. Silly and derivative (and the whole WHM/Meg Ryan romance is a bit meh), but warm and cosy.

The Keep title screen

The Keep
Michael Mann does supernatural war movie – Jürgen Prochnow is an honourable Wehrmacht officer, Gabriel Byrne is a comedy BOO! HISS! black uniformed SS rotter, Ian McKellen is a wheelchair-bound Jewish academic, Alberta Watson is his daughter, Scott Glenn is a shiny-eyed mysterious stranger, and they’re all stuck in a magic castle in WW2 Romania with a scary Golem-type monster. Tangerine Dream supplies the music, and it’s all a bit silly.

The Bourne Identity title screen

The Bourne Identity
Robert Ludlum holiday bricks rarely entertain once adapted for the screen (The Osterman Weekend, The Holcroft Covenant), but Doug Go Liman’s reboot (after the 80s version which had Dr Kildare in the lead) makes a meaty fist of challenging yer Bond as preeminent movie spook.

Matt Damon is an excellent against-type casting choice, and he develops an excellent rapport with the flaky German wanderer he latches onto, played by Franke Potente.

The fight-in-a-room (or park, or field) sequences – notably the Swiss ones, and one in the Paris apartment – are for the most part exemplary, though Liman has more trouble with the car chase. In terms of action and tension it is very effective.

Casting is a little more mixed: Brian Cox is superb as a creepy CIA chieftain, but Julia Stiles? How did she end up in a frontline role in the Company? And you can’t help but chuckle at Adebisi from Oz hamming it up, or the shitkicker from The Shield being all whitecollar and shit. But mostly it’s a breezy, exciting ride.

A few queries though: do all Italian trawlers have as well packed a medical kit as here? And how did Bourne make it from France into Switzerland – Switzerland, FFS, Switzerland!! – without papers?

A Week In Film #030: B movies, D-Days & K holes

The Verdict (1946) title screen

The Verdict (1946)
Don Siegel’s first full directing credit, IIRC. A dark hearted and dark humoured affair, this – Sidney Greenstreet is a Scotland Yard detective eased out by an ambitious younger rival, who proves that a man he sent to the gallows was in fact an innocent. Assisted by amiable lush and friend Peter Lorre, Greenstreet vows to exact his revenge…

Meet The Parents title screen

Meet The Parents
Ben Stiller tries to impress Robert De Niro, the uptight father of the girlfriend he wants to marry, but mostly he fucks up. Things pan out pretty much as you would expect.

Meet The Fockers title screen

Meet The Fockers
Sequel to the above in which OMG his name is Gaylord Focker LULZ! Hollywood liberals Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand play Florida liberals, and everyone is happy by picture’s end.

Recount title screen

HBO TVM about the Florida voting scandal of the 2000 Presidential elections which led to the administration of Bush The Lesser; well liberal. Familiar faces include: Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt and Laura Dern being very funny as Katherine Harris.

Men At Work title screen

Men At Work
Emilio Estevez writes and directs himself and his brother Charlie Sheen as a pair of under-achieving garbagemen who get caught up in a toxic dumping/murder plot. It’s not great but it’s watchable. John Getz (the hapless boyfriend from Blood Simple) makes for a fun bad guy, and Keith David is superb as a Nam vet still suffering flashbacks.

Outpost title screen

A motley crew of mercenaries escort a mysterious businessman to an old, abandoned bunker complex in the middle of an Eastern European civil war.

Again, supernatural war horror (cf Below, The Bunker, Deathwatch, The Keep), again, some good bits diluted by generally being sub-par in various departments (script needs tightening; better direction of the actors; more thoughtful lighting; more rhythmical editing; and much better visual effects, if you really insis on having them in the first place; etc).

Bit odd seeing Michael ‘Tyres from Spaced‘ Smiley in there as an Irish dog of war…

The Bridge At Remagen title screen

The Bridge At Remagen
A frankly rather unexciting war film, with Robert Vaughn as a German officer charged with blowing up a bridge over the Rhine in the dying weeks of WW2, as an American unit led by George Segal is given the order to preserve the bridge at all costs. Ben Gazzara as a lootin’, shootin’, but never high-falutin’ GI is one of the few pieces of interest here.

The Punisher (2004) title screen

The Punisher (2004)
Thomas Jane (from Stander) as Marvel Comics vigilante Frank Castle, taking on a mob run by John Travolta. The bits with the hired assassins were quite good, and the massacre of Castle’s family early on, but it’s just a little too draggy. I’m going to watch the 1989 version and then the 2008 reboot War Journal to compare.

Shaun Of The Dead title screen

Shaun Of The Dead
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, bit parts and cameos for Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz and Julia Deakin – it’s a veritable Spaced reunion! And the funniest zombie film ever.

“Get fucked four-eyes!”, Pegg teaming up with Kate Ashfield and Bill Nighy from Guest House Paradiso, ‘Hog Lumps’, “it’s on random”, children’s slides, “‘Allo, Fulci’s…”, death-by-jukebox – loads of good stuff. Oooh, and Noel the gum-chewing teen worker at Foree Electric.

A Week In Film #029: Catch up & sunburn

The Black Dahlia title screen

The Black Dahlia
Brian De Palma takes on the James Ellroy novel about the notorious 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. It should be very good, based on that alone, but I found it very turgid.

The most excellent review site Cinema de Merde rates it, but whilst Scott’s persuasive arguments brought me round to love Body Double, here I’m not so sure.

The Chronicles Of Riddick title screen

The Chronicles Of Riddick
Pitch Black was great. This is not. Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Keith David, Colm Feore, Linus Roache and Thandie Newton are amongst the embarrassed here. Some crap about ‘Necromongers’ and and and…

Jersey Girl title screen

Jersey Girl
Non-View Askewniverse Kevin Smith, with Ben Affleck as a widowed PR guy forced back to New Jersey by some choice (but impolitic) remarks made about Will Smith whilst under nappy-changing pressure. Very likeable.

All The King's Men (2006) title screen

All The King’s Men (2006)
Sean Penn as populist Southern Governor who becomes as corrupt as those he sought to replace. Worthy, dull. Jude Law FFS!

Conspiracy title screen

Excellent real-time staging of the 1942 Wannsee Conference which sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews by way of the ‘final solution’. Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci are particularly powerful as Heydrich and Eichmann, though there is not a bad performance from any of the cast.

Atentát title screen

Very economical retelling of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the ‘final solution’ and Nazi overlord of Czechoslovakia, directed in 1964 by Jiří Sequens. Couldn’t find subtitles for this (it’s in Czech and German), but it doesn’t matter, you can follow it just the same.

Below title screen

Supernatural war horror flick set aboard an American sub in WW2, courtesy of Riddick dude David Twohy.

Thematically in the realm of The Keep, Deathwatch and The Bunker, and sadly, like the last two, never quite meeting its potential.

The presence of merchant seaman Dexter Fletcher and nurse Olivia Williams – survivors of an earlier torpedoing – hints at rollicking genre fun like The Land That Time Forgot, but mostly it’s a locked room mystery with ghosts.

1968 Tunnel Rats title screen

1968 Tunnel Rats
Dull film about interesting topic: the tunnel complexes used by the NVA/NLF in the Vietnam War. Oh, it’s directed by Uwe Boll. That would explain it.

Star Trek
I am not and never have been a Trek fan (though I’m partial to a bit of Babylon 5) – this was this LLF’s idea. It was much better than I feared, easy enough for a civilian to follow, with the odd LOL moment or two.