Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Week In Film #128: First riot of a long, hot summer

Inside Job
Rather spiffy, old-fashioned documentary (talking heads, occasional question heard from the filmmaker) about the 2007-10 global financial meltdown, focusing on Yankee robber barons,. and rather angry to boot. Good work from Charles H Ferguson.

McBain
Christopher Walken is McBain, rescued from death at an NVA prison camp on the day the Vietnam War ends. He vows that he owes his saviour his life. Roll on a few years and said angel has become the leader of a Colombian revolution, only to be killed live on TV during a failed coup. Obviously this means his sister (Maria Conchita Alonso – who else) going on a mission to America to seek out McBain and persuade him to avenge her brother and his popular uprising.

Yes, it’s The Deer Hunter meets Uncommon Valor meets The Magnificent Seven only much, much worse. Apparently the producers managed to get Fox to back down and rename The Simpson‘ Arnie-like character Rainier Wolfcastle.

Dick Tracy Vs Cueball
Cheap and cheerful B-movie with top tech Tracy (this time Morgan Conway) on the trail of homicidal jewel thief Cueball (Dick Wessel).

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome
Ralph Byrd’s turn to play the fedora-topped detective, investigating strange nerve gas-assisted robberies perpetrated by Boris Karloff’s British baddie, Gruesome.

The Statement
Boring, dull, uninspiring, flat ‘thriller’ about a former Milice collaborator (Michael Caine) being passed around a right-wing Catholic underground rat run after his cover is blown. Norman Jewison directs, with little excitement. The prologue sequence, with a younger actor playing the main character as a younger man, may have worked better by not dubbing Michael Caine’s voice over the top. Kind of takes the pathos away from a scene, for obvious reasons.

Restrepo
Pretty compelling documentary about a year spent with a bunch of American soldiers holed up in an observation post in the Karengal valley in Afghanistan, co-directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist killed early on in the Libyan revolution.

Heat
Just wanted to see the opening score and then the bank heist; forgot how fucking long it is though!

No End In Sight
More Charles H Ferguson documentary business, this time taking on the Bush Administration and its occupation of Iraq. Scathingly non-neutral.

French Connection II
I remembered John Frankenheimer’s attempt at a sequel to Friedkin’s kinetic classic as being better than it seems on second viewing.

Still, it’s pretty good, with Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) being packed off to Marseilles to track down heroin smuggler Frog One (Fernando Rey), only to find himself a fish out of water, chasing red herrings and used as bait (Marseilles, it’s a FISHING TOWN, d’yageddit?!?!).

Still memorable for the being-forcefed-smack scenes (especially when salvation seems near with the sweet old lady) and the final chase scene, though.

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A Week In Film #126: Hotter

State Of Play
Bastardised yankification of the superb British political potboiler, with the newsroom excitement, repartee and characters here replaced by Russell Crowe doing slobbish-but-effective-newshound whilst investigating deaths around his college roomie-turned-Congressman, Ben Affleck.

Takes its cues all too obviously from Klute, All The President’s Men etc, it never builds up a head of steam, and drags – which seeing as virtually all the nuances of the original’s script have been stripped out is no mean feat. Boring.

Shopping
For years I avoided watching this, as it had an awesome soundtrack (plus beautiful cues by Barrington Pheloung), but terrible reviews (it did star Jude Law and Sadie Frost – even back in the 90s people occasionally demonstrated good sense), and I didn’t want to spoil my enjoyment of the music.

Anyway, it would appear I foolishly ignored my own judgement in finally watching it – a pile of cack about joyriding in a mildly dystopian present/near future, in which we are supposed to identify with whining brats like Law & Frost. Seems to try to be Vanishing Point-meets-Suburbia in a very cinema du look kind of way, and fails on all fronts. Aside from the awful central performances there are pointlessly wasted actors like Jonathan Pryce, Eamonn Walker and Sean Bean, dull chase scenes, no chemistry between the leads, a lack of any sense of tension, a never-explained world, and no noticeable point to it all. Oh, and the wonderful soundtrack is pitched far too low and drowned out with library foley. And just WTF is the point of the Marianne Faithfull cameo?

Good points: some pretty photography, occasionally.

King Of New York
Abel Ferrara’s beautiful, lean, mean tone poem to his city, played out as a crime drama, with Christopher Walken as Frank White, a gang boss just paroled and determined to take back what’s his.

Amazing supporting cast – Laurence Fishburne as jive-walking enforcer Jimmy Jump, Steve Buscemi as a near-mute drugs tester, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Calderon, John Turturro, Theresa Randle, Janet Julia; then there’s the cops – Victor Argo, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes…

The kind of crime drama Stone failed to achieve with Scarface, the sort of modern opera Coppola didn’t deliver with The Godfather Part III.

A Week In Film #125: RIP Ian Tomlinson

Predators
When first I saw the trailer for this reboot of Fox’s other space monster franchise, and then heard the premise for it, I was quite looking forward to it: a disparate group of soldiers, killers and thugs wake up to find themselves freefalling down onto an unknown planet, where they are the prey for big game hunting aliens.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit pants, basically a retread of the 1987 original, right down to weapon choices (handheld Minigun), location (steamy jungle), and music (Alan Silvestri’s score from the first film underlines everything, almost cue-for-cue), but without any real new excitement or tension. At least the much maligned 1990 sequel mixed things up, with an urban gang war as its backdrop.

Here though it’s a bunch of people we don’t really care about getting killed one by one, and because we know what Predators are, what they’re doing and how they fight, there’s no real surprises. The ‘dogs’ and the whole ‘two tribes go to war’ thing aren’t really adding depth (if anything it harks back to Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection desperately trying to give us remixed xenomorphs and fucking up canon), and the Laurence Fishburne character just feels a bit like how Peter Fonda turned up in Escape From L.A. – for no good reason except as an expositional shortcut.

The twist is obvious to anyone who’s, well, watched films, Adrian Dunbar doesn’t really fit the lead role – however much he beefed up – and the action sequences are mostly not very action-filled. The slightly bleak ending was pretty well done though.