Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Week In Film #042: Big plans

Strange Days title screen

Strange Days
Kathryn Bigelow’s back in favour at the moment, with lots of hubbub over The Hurt Locker. For me this is her best work – fin de siècle near future cyber-gubbins, with Ralph FIennes as a sleazy purveyor of illegal memory videos getting caught up in seven shades of badness. Angela Bassett is aces as his best bud, an asskicking chauffeuse, and there’s an excellent supporting cast – Michael Wincott, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner and Vincent D’Onofrio as rogue cops, Richard Edson, Nicky Katt, even Juliette Lewis gives a good performance.

Stander title screen

Stander
One of my favourite movies of recent years, based on a real-life tale of an Apartheid era South African cop-turned-bank robber, Andre Stander.

The central cast – Thomas Jane, Dexter Fletcher and David O’ Hara – is splendid, and director Bronwen Hughes balances light and shade well. The action scenes are magnificent. Deborah Kara Unger gives perhaps the strongest performance in the film as Bekkie, Stander’s wife.

Cashback title screen

Cashback
A fine little film, imaginative in its approach, ambitious in its style. is a young student whose heart has been broken and struck down with some serious insomnia; to try and help him get through the long sleepless nights, he takes on a job at the local supermarket working the graveyard shift.

Sean Ellis writes and directs, and there’s a good cast working together – Emilia Fox, Sean Bickerstaff, Stuart Goodwin, Michelle Ryan, Shaun Evans, Michael Dixon, Michael Lambourne and Marc Pickering. Definitely worth your time.

Land Of The Dead title screen

Land Of The Dead
George Romero returns to his zombie world, and it’s not great – just that little bit too much money, and definitely too many recognisable faces. Supposedly it’s a satire on The War Against Terror.

On the plus side: Asia Argento. On the negative side: pedestrian blocking/editing/photography/whatever means that you never get any sense of scale or geography – it just always looks like a cheesy soundstage.

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A Week In Film #041: Kracow one off

GoldenEye title screen

GoldenEye
Pierce Brosnan makes his Bond debut, with a memorable pre-credits dam bungee jump, and Famke Janssen as a delicious villain, Xenia Onatopp. Sean Bean unsuccessfully tries an RP accent yet again.

Swingers title screen

Swingers
Writer-actor Jon Favreau teams up with real-life friends Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston and Patrick Van Horn in this tight little Doug Liman film about a band of struggling wannabes in Hollywoood. Funnier than that sounds. Heather Graham is good as a woman who helps Favreau get over a broken heart.

Crank: High Voltage title screen

Crank: High Voltage
Neveldine & Taylor return with another high energy, high concept, tongue-in-cheek, videogame-style actioner about the unfortunate Chev Chelios. This time Chev (The Stath) has had his heart removed after the fall from the helicopter that closed the first picture – and he wants it back.

Far superior and definitely more fun than other similarly pitched movies like Shoot ‘Em Up and Wanted. Amy Smart is enjoyable as Chev’s girlfriend Eve, and there are decent new characters like Efren Ramirez as Venus, and Bai Ling as Ria, the foul-mouthed hooker who latches onto Chev despite his best efforts to ditch her.

Green Street 2: Stand Your Ground title screen

Green Street 2: Hold Your Ground
Okay, so this was a sequel I really didn’t need to see, following up from a hooligan film I really should have avoided. Ludicrous. Counsellor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation turns up as an evil screw in a Deep South-styled prison, where our lovable bunch of Irons-affiliated football thugs, led by Ross McCall from Band Of Brothers, get into some kind of turf war with a larger band of Millwall lumps. Manages to regurgitate half-remembered bits of Scum and Cool Hand Luke in the manner of the remade Mean Machine.

A Week In Film #040: A breather

The Breakfast Club title screen

The Breakfast Club
I watched this as a tribute to its director, John Hughes, who died on 6th August.

It might not be high art, but it’s one of my favourite films and has a great cast – Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Gleason and Molly Ringwald in particular – and some wonderful scenes.

Very Bad Things title screen

Very Bad Things
Actor Peter Berg tackles directing rather well in this black comedy about a group of friends who get into trouble whilst on a stag in Vegas. Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Stern and Leland Orser make a good unit, and Cameron Diaz is a thoroughly believable bridezilla.

A Week In Film #039: All roads lead to Dorset

Clue title screen

Clue
Boardgame Cluedo in film form. That means a plot. A very convoluted plot. And three alternate endings. Tim Curry keeps things moving as the butler who reveals the plot to both the audience and the people summoned to a remote mansion house one stormy night. Enjoyable, just don’t think too hard.

Mercenary For Justice title screen

Mercenary For Justice
A Stephen Seagal film, in which he is a mercenary. A mercenary for justice, if you will, because in this film mercenaries are agents of good. I was gobsmacked. Oh, and Luke Goss (yes, Luke Goss from Bros) plays an evil renegade CIA man (on introduction his character captioned ‘CIA DIRTY DEEDS MAN’!).

The best thing in it is Spike Lee collaborator Roger Guenveur Smith, who plays another evil renegade CIA dude. Seriously, he puts on this really weird pantomime voice, and does this odd bulging eye thing. I’m 99% certain that he knows how crap the film is and is just being as outrageously silly as possible.

Sleuth title screen

Sleuth
Young hairdresser Michael Caine is summoned to a large country pile by successful crime novelist Laurence Olivier, who has discovered that his wife is having an affair. Things soon start getting dark. Sort of An Inspector Calls spliced with One Flew Over The Cuckold’s Nest, directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz from Anthony Shaffer’s play,

The Man Who Would Be King title screen

The Man Who Would Be King
John Huston’s marvellously old fashioned take on Rudyard Kipling’s tale of a pair of wily British soldiers who end up ruling over a minor Indian kingdom by virtue of one of them being mistaken for a god. Michael Caine and Sean Connery make a fine partnership.

Pusher title screen

Pusher
Properly take-your-breath-away awesome, a Danish film about a mid-level drug dealer (Frank – Kim Bodnia) who finds himself squeezed between a rock and a hard place after an exchane goes sour. Director Nicolas Winding Refn drags amazing performances out of his actors.

Pusher II title screen

Pusher II
This time round we’re focusing on Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen – the bad guy from Casino Royale), the sidekick of Frank in the first film. He’s just come out of gaol, and we discover he’s got an awkward relationship with his crime boss dad, who thinks he’s a braindead tosser, and his girlfriend, who thinks he’s a braindead tosser. Not as dark as the first film, it’s still gripping.

Pusher 3 title screen

Pusher 3
Rounding off Refn’s trilogy, now we’re hanging around Serbian druglord Milo (Zlatko Burić), who’s in a spin trying to prepare for his daughter’s birthday party whilst simultaneously attempting to pull off multiple deals on the side, protecting his back from various young bloods hoping to topple him from his throne, and attending NA meetings. Like in the previous meetings, you do find yourself rooting for some pretty unpleasant people.

Made title screen

Made
Jon Favreau’s first W&D credit is decent enough, just not outstanding. Him and his best buddy (guess what – Vince Vaughn) are hired by the Mob to take care of some business for them in New York, and generally fuck it right up.

The Falcon And The Snowman
John Schlesinger directs a based-on-a-true-story film about two childhood friends who end up spying for the Soviets. Timothy Hutton is the man troubled by what the CIA is doing overseas after learning some dark secrets in his work for a government contractor, Sean Penn is his cokefiend best friend who hooks him up with the KGB.

The Philadelphia Experiment II title screen

The Philadelphia Experiment II
Definitely more interesting than the film this follows, because it’s all about an alternate universe where thanks to some timetravel experiment that fucked up the Nazis developed stealth bombers and won WW2. Obviously there are good guys trying to reverse it all, and it is very silly, but come on! Timetravelling Nazis with stealth bombers!

A Week In Film #038: Adventures in Metroland

The Philadelphia Experiment title screen

The Philadelphia Experiment
A pair of WW2 sailors are transported to the 1980s after a naval experiment goes wrong. Pretty boring TBH. Nancy Allen from Robocop was the only person I really recognised.

To Live And Die In LA title screen

To Live And Die In LA
William Friedkin rips off Michael Mann’s style, but very effectively. William Petersen is a driven Secret Service agent on the trail of a master counterfeiter, Willem Dafoe. Where there’s a Will there’s a way.

The Langoliers title screen

The Langoliers
Another TVM adaptation of a Stephen King story, I remembered this to be really spooky, but on rewatching it’s really not that great. Not terrible, just disappointingly inferioir to my memory of it. A bunch of people on a plane black out and when they come to they discover everyone else in the world seems to have vanished.

Sid And Nancy title screen

Sid And Nancy
Not really anything like the real thing I’m sure, but a touching and fun love story centred on Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, directed by Alex Cox, with Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb in the leads.

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy title screen

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
Silly Frat Pack flick about 70s US newsreaders, with sexist moron Will Ferrell somehow winning over Christina Applegate.

The Football Factory title screen

The Football Factory
Nick Love does football hooliganism. Far better than Green Street (obviously), but leaves you feeling a bit empty afterwards. The Love repertory company is here – Danny Dyer, Roland Manookian, Tamer Hassan – and the underused Frank Harper has a mildly meaty part.

Roadie title screen

Roadie
Meatloaf as a roadie; he meets lots of bands. Better than I imagined.

The Business title screen

The Business
Nick Love plays to his strengths in this tale of a south London ne’erdowell striking out in the drug business on the Costa Del Crime in the 80s. Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan have good screen chemistry, and for all their collective cartoon laddishness, this is a well-constructed movie with fine photography and a pretty tight structure. Shame about the casual misogyny.