Monthly Archives: September 2009

A Week In Film #046: Catching up

A Dry White Season title screen

A Dry White Season
A so-so Apartheid era flick, with Donald Sutherland as a liberal white school teacher who starts to question the circumstances of the death of a black janitor’s son at the hands of the police.

Notable mostly for the reappearance of Marlon Brando as a world-weary lawyer who takes up the fight.

Bronson title screen

Technically, this is an excellent film from Pusher mastermind Nicolas Winding Refn, but there is no soul to it. Tom Hardy impersonates ‘Britain’s most dangerous prisoner’ Charlie Bronson to comic book perfection, and it looks stunning, yet it sticks to all the gaolhouse clichés in the book, and doesn’t really say anything, about Bronson, violence or incarceration. Having James Lance as an annoying prison tutor who gets seriously spanked is to its credit though.

Slipstream title screen

Very silly (forgivable) and rather dull (unforgivable) SF nonsense about a near future in which technology has fallen, the weather’s gone bad, etc. Mad Max, Star Wars, The Terminator, Bladerunner – it’s all there.

A decent cast (Bob Peck, Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, F Murray Abraham, and, err, Robbie Coltrane) is not put to any great use by director Stephen Tron Lisberger.

Omega Doom title screen

Omega Doom
Bladerunner meets Yojimbo, with Rutger Hauer playing off two competing factions of robots in an apocalyptic future. Silly but watchable nonsense from schlock director Albert Pyun (the fellow being sued by Guam).

Fortress title screen

The New York Times said it blended Robocop, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World, which about sums it up. Christopher Lambert and his wife are sent to prison in a future world where there are strict one child policies in play. He tries to escape. That’s about it. Not great, not surprising, but not terrible for what it is. Horror specialist Stuart Gordon directs.

Rollerball title screen

Bread & circuses & sports entertainment in the near future, with James Caan as a superstar athlete in a hyperviolent motorcycle rollerderby/gridiron hybrid designed by powerful corporations to keep the masses distracted. Powerful, depressing, overwrought, effectively helmed by occasionally inspired veteran journeyman Norman Jewison.

A Week In Film #045: Medical Experimentation

10 Rillington Place title screen

10 Rillington Place
Dark, grim, sombre take on old-style Britflicks, with loveable DIckie Attenborough as fucked up psycho killer John Christie, drugging and raping and topping and hiding unfortunate women in post-war London. John Hurt is the illiterate Welshman who gets pinned with the blame. Judy Geeson and Pat Heywood are strong supporting presences as their wives. Richard Fleischer (a talented artisan, if too journeyman-like in his work choices) directs with authority, and it bears comparison (in tone and subject) with near-contemporary Frenzy.

Traitor title screen

An interesting premise drifts under imprecise direction. Don Cheadle is an ex-military American Muslim who seems to have become involved in Islamic terrorism. Guy Pearce is the Fed on his trail. Written by Steve Martin, of all people.

City Rats title screen

City Rats
Interconnected lives in modern London. Some good performances and interactions from the likes of Tamer Hassan and Susan Lynch, and yes, even Danny Dyer, but too often it drifts into the horrors of mid-90s, underscript-edited British romcom conventions. A beautifully dark film is in there somewhere, but director Steve M Kelly isn’t quite there, despite choreographing some exhilarating scenes, and capturing some fine acting moments.

Borstal Boy title screen

Borstal Boy
My Danny Dyer retrospective continues with this Jim Sheridan adaptation of Brendan Behan’s autobiography about his time as an IRA boy prisoner. Dyer plays a cocky young cockney who befriends Behan (Shawn Hatosy) in borstal during WW2. Given the seriousness of the material, it all feels rather tame Sunday children’s drama.

Severance title screen

More Dyer drama. Danny is the cheeky one in a group of office drones sent on a team bonding exercise in Hungary only for their coach to break down in the middle of nowhere. It quickly descends into a Dog Soldier/Shaun Of The Dead type comedy/horror affair, only without the charm or wit. A shame, because there are good ideas in there, and excellent photography and sound design – just not so much effort in the script or direction. Still, there’s enough of interest – and sufficient technical prowess – on show to suggest that writer/director Christopher Smith might manage much better in the future. I have a few more of his films to work through, so will report back on them.

Assault On Precinct 13 (2005) title screen

Assault On Precinct 13
Right, so this is a remake of John Carpenter’s mis-monickered 1976 Rio Bravo retread. When originally I saw the trailer I figured it was one to avoid – it looked dreadful. But then I read a review of Nid De Guêpes which suggested that it had heavily influenced the new AOP13, so…

TBH I shouldn’t have bothered. Apart from a quite good prologue scene – setting up why former highflying street cop Ethan Hawke ends up caretaking a crumbling police station being closed down – it’s rather dull. Laurence Fishburne is quite a watchable actor, but his good guy villain isn’t a patch on the original’s Darwin Joston as Napoleon Wilson. My enjoyment of the film probably was impaired somewhat by bingeing on mephedrone at the time, which proved far superior in entertainment stakes.

The Incredible Hulk
The meph again was far better than the film, even though I am led to believe that this Edward Norton-starring moody Marvel mutant movie is better than the Ang Lee version it reboots. Transporter 2‘s Louis Leterrier directs some fairly pleasing foot chase scenes.

Beautiful Thing title screen

Beautiful Thing
It was a long meph session and I remember very little about this except it was a bit dour and very late 90s Britflicky. I think it was about a gay teenager in Thamesmead, or something similar. The drunk woman from EastEnders who used to be the top dog in Bad Girls was (I’m almost certain) in this.

A Room For Romeo Brass title screen

A Room For Romeo Brass
Shane Meadows’ first stone-cold classic, about the friendship of two teenage boys who grow apart when one becomes ill and the other begins hanging out with a local misfit. Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall are great as the boys, Paddy Considine a revelation as oddball Morrell, and Frank Harper at last gets a proper part as an estranged father.

Escape From LA title screen

Escape From LA
John Carpenter, you tit.

A Week In Film #044: Building up steam

United 93 title screen

United 93
Paul Greengrass delicately directs this reconstruction of 9/11 from the (imagined) perspective of the passengers onboard the plane that crashed in Philadelphia.

Inglourious Basterds pre-imagined by Steven Spielberg. Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz and Hanns Zischler are a deniable team of Israeli assassins on the trail of the architects of the 1972 Olympic massacre. Thoroughly competent, but never is there much sense that it’s not all fantasy.

Cry Freedom title screen

Cry Freedom
Dickie Attenborough does his Gandhi thing for Steve Biko, one of the leaders of the South African Black Consciousness movement, who was killed by police in 1977. Denzel Washington is excellent, it’s just a shame so much of the film is about white liberal Donald Woods (Kevin Kline).

In Bruges title screen

In Bruges
Very good Martin McDonagh film with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a pair of hitmen holed up in Belgium. There’s talking, some fights, maybe a little romance – basically it’s worth catching. And you know you want to see Ralph Fiennes as a cockney gangster.

The Killing Gene/w∆z title screen

Odd crime thriller (also known as The Killing Gene) which seems to want to be Se7en on a Narc budget. Melissa George (yes, Angel from Home And Away) is a cop partnered with shades-of-grey detective Stellan Skarsgård to track down a vicious serial killer in an unnamed American city. Packed full of British actors (Tom Hardy, Ashley Walters, erm, Paul Kaye as a mad scientist), and helmed by a British TV director, a very odd – and unconvincing – film.

Once Upon A Time In The Midlands title screen

Once Upon A Time In The Midlands
Shane Meadows’ one misfire – a silly, meandering, pointless Brit flick whose purpose seems mostly to provide work for the nation’s actors. A shame because the film looks good, it features good actors, there are even some good scenes; it’s just nothing comes together.

In The Valley Of Elah title screen

In The Valley Of Elah
War vet Tommy Lee Jones tries to piece together what happened to his soldier son who has gone missing after returning from Iraq. Charlize Theron is the civilian cop who ends up helping him. Quiet, understated, unhysterical film, exploring interesting themes without signposting everything, written and directed by Paul Haggis, and beautifully shot by Roger Deakins.

The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael title screen

The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael
I didn’t know where this film was going when I started watching. I didn’t expect it to take me to where it did. A quiet boy and his more forceful friends potter around a dull seaside town. Small transgressions lead to bigger ones. Debut director Thomas Clay pulls together some memorable scenes, and whilst I’m not really sure what the film is about or what it hopes to say, that final scene is certainly one that haunts the memory.

Blackball title screen

Another guilty pleasure (and another I saw at the cinema), with Paul Kaye as a working class bloke who takes on the fusty old crown green bowls establishment. James Cromwell is wonderful as his arch nemesis, there’s a part for Bernard Cribbins, and even though it’s directed by Mel Smith it’s quite good – sort of a UK take on the American sports comedy sub-genre. Mark Little’s cameo is brilliant 😀

High Heels And Low Lifes title screen

High Heels And Low Lifes
Breezy comedy thriller about two friends (Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack) who become embroiled in a plot to con money out of gangsters. Directed by Mel Smith, but don’t hold that against it, it’s very likeable with some funny moments and some nice scenes. The ending is a bit wank though. Michael Gambon and Kevin McNally make great villains.

The Cottage title screen

The Cottage
Quite engaging little Brit horror from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams (whose London To Brighton I’ve still not watched). Chalk and cheese brothers (Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith) kidnap the foul-mouthed daughter of a gangster (Jennifer Ellison – ex of Brookside) and hole up in a remote country cottage. Then bad things start happening. Really bad things. Some genuinely scary moments, though the reveal is disappointing. Reminded me in parts of Scarecrows.

Bedrooms And Hallways title screen

Bedrooms And Hallways
The British film industry for too long churned out shit like this. A bunch of dull middle-class wankers fuss about trying to figure out who they fancy. A waste of actors like Kevin McKidd, Julie Graham, Christopher Fulford, Jennifer Ehle, Tom Hollander and Hugo Weaving. I’ve not seen any other films by Rose Troche; maybe this was an off day for her.

A Week In Film #043: Time on my hands

The Crazies
George Romero’s pre-Dawn zombie-style horror – where lots of the elements that later defined his Dead films can be seen being tried out, not always succesfully – about a military bioweapon accidentally dropped on a nondescript northeastern American town. Acting is generally not award-winning, but the story shifts at a lick, there’s some interesting storytelling, and it’s enjoyably downbeat.

Napoli Spara title screen

Napoli Spara
A Mario Caiano-directed poliziotteschi which Nigel put me onto. A decent, fast-paced story of brutal robbers against a Neapolitan backdrop. Leonard Mann and Henry Silva face off against each other as hard-as-nails cop and bloodthirsty gangster respectively, whilst in the background unfold numerous seemingly random, unrelated incidents, all of which connect together by the end.

Bandits title screen

Bank robbers Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton steal their way across the States, pick up a hostage-cum-hanger-on (Cate Blanchett), and much fun is had by all. Barry Levinson directs with charm.

2019 - Dopo La Caduta Di New York title screen

2019 – Dopo La Caduta Di New York
Silly, camp Italian nonsense, ripping off *takes breath* Escape From New York, Mad Max 2, Escape From Thunderdome, Planet Of The Apes and a whole lot more.

Shinchinin No Samurai title screen

Shichinin No Samurai
Some days you just want to kick back with an old friend, so, Kurosawa and Seven Samurai here I come.

(500) Days Of Summer
The LLF fancied seeing summat at the De Luxe, and this was what she wanted to see. And it was pretty good. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the kid from Third Rock) is Tom, a slightly gawky, underachieving architect who’s ended up grinding out greetings card messages for a living. He falls for Summer (Zooey Deschanel, in less k-fuelled mode than in The Happening), and the film tells the story of the birth, death and all points in between of their relationship, in disjointed and reflective style. Marc Webb directs with some interesting, just-this-side-of-flashy stylistic effects thrown in to keep things moving along.