Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Week In Film #110: Yule meet again

Mr Moto’s Last Warning
Reclaiming some of that old BBC2 evening vibe, with Peter Lorre doing his not entirely convincing ‘inscrutable’ turn as the Japanese super ‘tec, this time on the trail of saboteurs down in pre-WW2 Port Said. A somewhat baffling plot. An evil ventriloquist is involved, I think.

Scorsese, De Niro, Stone, Pesci, mobsters in Vegas, James Woods crops up, through-the-gaps-in-your-hands moments of violence, great Saul Bass credits.

Donnie Brasco
Mike Newell has a crack at gangsters, with Al Pacino holding his hand, Johnny Depp as the undercover cop who befriends his target.

Manhunt: The Search For The Night Stalker
One of the better TV movies about police investigations into serial killers (can’t believe I typed that), with Richard Jordan and A Martinez as two LA cops on the trail of Richard Ramirez, the nutjob terrorising the city in the 1980s. The final sequence, covering the killer’s capture, is very good indeed.

Dawn Of The Dead
The original, the best, the only. For some reason the missus wanted to see this, even though it’s not really her cup of tea. Don’t think she really enjoyed it, but she gave it a crack, bless.

Wolfgang Das Boot Petersen tackles Homeric epic poetry, leaves out the gods. Kind of good, with some great old fashioned sword-and-sandal story-telling jazzed up for the modern audience, but basically crap. A nice payday for assorted character actors, bad wigs notwithstanding. Brad Pitt and Eric Bana make for a decent pair of antagonists.

Incident On A Dark Street
Terrible transfer, this DVD. A 1970s TV pilot that never took off, about cops and DAs trying to bust mobsters and corrupt bureaucrats in a beige, unhip LA. The occasional hint of flair – gritty location filming, Richard S Castellano (from The Godfather) as a nervous, basically decent peripheral Mafia figure – but mostly dull. Bill Shatner does his best to be all groovy and shit. Buzz Kulik (best known for directing Steve McQueen’s last movie) is in the helm.

The Final Days
Okay, so a TV movie of Woodward & Bernstein’s follow-up to their ‘All The President’s Men’ book about the Watergate cover-up, this time recounting the countdown to Nixon’s resignation, starring Lane Smith (Perry from Lois & Clark) as the embittered, embattled commander-in-chief, probably is not going to reach the artistic heights of Alan J Pakula’s Oscar-winning conspiracy thriller.

But it is quite watchable, and a good companion piece, not to ATPM, in which Tricky Dicky is an unseen, offstage villain (save for TV or radio footage), but the various other screen essays on him, such as Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, or even Bacony Hamkins in Nixon. Filmed with a certain efficiency by Richard Pearce.

A Week In Film #109: Winterval

In The Line Of Duty: The FBI Murders
A pretty decent TV movie about the real-life 1985 Florida shoot-out that saw two FBI agents killed and a further five wounded as they attempted to take down a pair of ex-military bankrolling nutjobs with heavier firepower.

A great cast – Michael Gross (Tremors‘ Boomer and David ‘Hutch’ Soul as the bad guys, Ronny RoboCop Cox as a Fed – and thoroughly competent staging makes for an engaging watch, though the cheap score is awful. Makes a good double-bill with 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out, about a similar event in California in 1997.

The Way Of The Gun
Christopher McQuarrie’s first (and only ) effort as a director after success writting The Usual Suspects; a hard-boiled tale of amoral drifters (Benicio del Toro and Ryan Phillippe) who somehow end up kidnapping the surrogate mother hired to carry the baby of a rich mob accountant. Bloodshed ensues.

There should be more Hollywood flicks like this – talky, morally questionable, with good parts for older actors and women as well as young heartthrobs. Plus it has an awesome soundtrack (Joe Kraemer) and at least three of the best action scenes in film of the 2000s. Obviously it tanked.

Steven Soderbergh’s lens-filtered retread of the 1989 Channel 4 mini-series about drugs, the drugs trade and drugs enforcement, transplanted from Britain, Germany and Pakistan to The US and Mexico.

Some nice touches. Not perfect. Good to see Luis Guzmán in a significant role. Benicio del Torres is excellent as a Mexican federal caught between two immovable objects. Even Michael Douglas is watchable as the Drugs Czar for whom the war comes too close for comfort.

ATF field agent Dean Lois & Clark Cain and desk jockey Jennifer Flashdance Beals team up to thwart a dastardly terror plot involving anthrax, ballistic missiles and a right-wing radio shock-jock (Stacy Keach). Awful, dull, contemptible, with little or nothing to commend it. Even Frederic Forrest as a survivalist released from prison to infiltrate Federal agent into the militia movement does nothing to mitigate this Jim Wynorski-directed blancmange.

Did I mention that I’d actually paid money for this?

Chugyeogja aka The Chaser
Ex-cop turned pimp has to sprint against the clock in a race to find two of ‘his’ missing girls before their suspected abductor is released from police custody.

By turns funny, alarming, tragic and heart-stoppingly exciting, an excellent first film from Na Hong-Jin.

The Good Thief
Rather flat heist flick by Neil Jordan based on Melville’s Bob Le Flambeur, with Nick Nolte at his most grizzly as an affable American ex-pat junkie gambler in France putting together a crew to knock off Monte Carlo casino. An interesting cast (Saïd Taghmaoui, Tchéky Karyo, Nutsa Kukhianidze), but a not so interesting script.

Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon
Silly Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce WW2-retooled Holmes nonsense about the Gestapo chasing after some Macguffin or other, but obviously it is good fun and brisk.

The First Great Train Robbery
Fun period crime caper with Sean Connery, Lesley-Anne Down and Donald Sutherland leading a Victorian era crew in a daring Crimean gold takedown, with wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score.

David Fincher, rainy unnamed city, serial killer on the loose, soon-to-retire hangdog cop Morgan Freeman reluctantly passes on the reins to impetuous new detective Brad Pitt, great sound & music, slick look, fine work.

A Week In Film #108: Snow joke

The Losers
Watched this comic book adaptation the other night with the LLF. “Is it meant to be serious?” she asked. Hmmm.

Passed the time, but nothing amazing. Members of an elite special ops team go rogue after refusing to blow up some kids, and hunt down their dastardly CIA boss Jason Patric in order to get their lives back. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a suitably low-key lead, Chris Evans makes a nice geeky chatterbox, and Zoe Soldana does hard-as-nails well, but mostly it’s a bit meh.