Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Week In Film #133: Berlin!

Turk 182!
Finally got round to seeing this – not great, but enjoyable. It’s by Bob Porky’s Clark, but don’t let that dissuade you; Timothy Hutton is a mouthy New Yorker fighting city bureaucrats on behalf of his firefighter brother Robert Urich, injured whilst off-duty and so not covered. After petitions and meetings get him nowhere, he goes rogue and declares war on the Mayor (Robert Culp) with increasingly brazen graffiti messages.

Likeable supporting cast (Kim Cattrall, Peter Boyle, Darren McGavin), some amusing scenes, and of course the memorable slogan ‘Zimmerman flew/Tyler knew/Turk 182!’

A Week In Film #132: Stokes Croft StreetFest

Shichinin No Samurai AKA Seven Samurai
Got me a box set of Kurosawa samurai movies for under a tenner! So, starting at the beginning seemed like a good plan. Incomparable. Farmers targeted by bandits in feudal Japan recruit masterless warriors to defend them – cue the recruitment, the training, the waiting, the romantic sub-plot, the humour, more waiting, more tension, the return of the bandits, the big battle.

Kumonosu-Jō AKA Throne Of Blood
Kurosawa does Macbeth, and very well it all works too.

Casino Jack And The United States Of Money
Alex Gibney’s absorbing documentary about right wing Republican power broker and conman Jack Abramoff and his cabal of equally corrupt chums.

Casino Jack AKA Bagman
Fictionalised version of the Jack Abramoff story, with Kevin Spacey in the lead. A little wonky in places, and doesn’t really have a handle on what it wants to say, but watchable enough. The underused Barry Pepper turns in a good performance as Abramoff’s buddy Michael Scanlon, and Jon Lovitz is funny as the old college friend brought in as the frontman for a shady acquisition.

Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
Casino Jack director George Hickenlooper’s classic documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, based on behind-the-scenes footage filmed and audio tapes recorded on set by Eleanor Coppola.

A Week In Film #131: Resisters & traceurs

Max Manus
Gritty based-on-true-events movie about a Norwegian Resistance fighter in World War Two. Some strong performances, especially from Aksel Hennie in the eponymous lead, but a little too much Boys’ Own derring do, with all too familiar tropes dominating.

Flammen & Citronen
Gritty based-on-true-events movie about a pair of Danish Resistance fighters in World War Two. Thure Lindhardt as Bent Faurschou-Hviid (AKA Flammen) and Mads Mikkelsen as Jørgen Haagen Schmith (AKA Citron) are excellent, conveying the mounting stress of their relentless murder campaign against collaborators and Nazis. Fine direction from Ole Christian Madsen, with some interesting flourishes and good pace.

Yamakasi: Les Samouraïs Des Temps Modernes
Whilst Banlieue 13 could hardly be said to have had a particularly deep plot or complex characterisation, it did at least provide a set-up that gave us all an excuse to enjoy the parkour – freerunning outlaw and martial arts cop team up to take on the bad guys and disable the missile – which it delivered in imaginative set pieces and at a fair lick.

Yamakasi on the other hand doesn’t really even try, and its own action sequences seem, well, boring. And the whole robbing-hospital-trustees’-houses-to-pay-hospital-for-boy’s-treatment storyline seems pointlessly banal. It’s like a Children’s Film Foundation flick, with more hoofing around and no slap-up feed at the end.

A Week In Film #130: British gangster business

Fantastic early 70s British gangster flick in which East End mob boss Vic Dakin (Richard Burton in Kray-like mode) finds himself increasingly under pressure and out of touch as he tries to stay on top of the game. Grim, gritty, no happy endings, and filmed in a Britain of unwelcoming industrial estates, decrepit railways arches and unswinging London streets.

A young Ian McShane works well as his unwilling catamite, with strong character support from the likes of TP McKenna, Colin Welland, Donald Sinden and Nigel Davenport. Michael Tuchner directs from a Clement/La Frenais script, based on an adaptation of a James Barlow (no, not that one) by Al Lettieri – Sollozo from The Godfather!

I’m not sure what the point of this was – Neil Morrissey and Adrian Dunbar are a pair of British conmen in the States who somehow get mistaken for hitmen hired to take out mob boss Pete Postlethwaite; soon the real assassins (Donnie Wahlberg and Michael Rapaport) turn up, hilarity/high-jinks/hysteria etc ensues.

Not really bad, just mostly unlikeable with nothing to add to the canon. A pays-the-mortgage movie rather than a calling card.

British gangster film set in Brighton, which is bold, given the one Brighton-set British gangster film most people will have in their minds. This does not challenge that associative hegemony on any level, though when in the opening minutes you see Christopher Biggins being tortured, you are hopeful.

John Hannah and Famke Janssen are a husband-and-wife con team. Brian Conley (yes, that Brian Conley) is a sadistic gang boss-cum-casino owner. Eddie Izzard is a sadistic loan shark-cum-bookie. Peter Stomare is a creepy mark-cum-blackmailer. Tom Lister Jr is a romantic enforcer-cum-lover. And yet with all this cum flying around, this is a film utterly devoid of spunk, with just splutters out halfway in, and doesn’t even try to have anything approaching a satisfactory ending.

A Week In Film #129: Thursday night is RIOT NIGHT

Target For Rage AKA Detention: The Siege At Johnson High
Competent, reasonably gripping drama about a school shooting (based on that at Lindhurst High School in 1992), in which a former pupil with a grudge returns to his alma mater and blasts away at students and teachers alike.

Rick Schroder from NYPD Blue is the shooter – and it’s like watching Joey Tribiani trying to act – whilst Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler is a much-derided sherriff’s deputy who somehow ends up as hostage negotiator and Freddie Prinze, Jnr is a hostage.

Massacre At Central High
Bizarre high school horror by Rene Daalder, where cliques and bullying are the rule of the day, and seemingly without any adults or teaching staff. Heathers basically seems to have been built on the wholesale theft of Massacre At Central High.

Interesting film, terrible transfer quality.

Kung Fu Flid AKA Unarmed But Dangerous
What can I say? Seriously, one of the worst films I’ve ever watched. It took me at least three different sittings it’s so painful. Mat Fraser – an actor/martial artist born with foreshortened arms due to thalidomide – plays a martial artist whose daughter (for reasons too boring/convoluted/stupid to go into here) has been kidnapped by gangsters. Obviously he’s on the warpath. Frank Harper (a decent actor, FFS!) is the mob boss ultimately responsible, Faye Tozer from Steps is his moll, and there are various other half-recognisable faces from other half-arsed Brit gangster nonsense (like Turbo Terry Stone, who again seems to have scored his cameo because he put up cash for the producers).

Look, all of the above might have made this sound like it’s worth catching, out of curiosity if nothing else. But seriously, don’t bother. I can recommend nothing about it – acting, direction, editing, script, action sequences, special effects: all of it is nails-down-a-blackboard unpleasant.

Full Metal Jacket
You know it, I know it, let’s not waste words going over what it’s about. This time round watched it with a commentary track featuring Vincent D’Onofrio, which was rather illuminating.

Sixteen Candles
John Hughes/Molly Ringwald/Anthony Michael Hall FTW! “Score. A. Direct. Hit!”