Monthly Archives: July 2011

A Week In Film #141: Somalia, Norway, Winehouse

The Departed
More in the quest for the perfect Irish-American crime film; Scorsese’s for-hire helming of the US remake of Infernal Affairs, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon as Boston boys both deep undercover and on opposite sides of the law. Still feels like the world’s longest trailer to me, but I’ve warmed to it.

In The Loop
Another viewing of Armando Ianucci’s big screen The Thick Of It reboot – never has war waged on a false pretext been funnier!

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A Week In Film #140: All New! Never Before!

Fair Game
Naomi Watts plays CIA intelligence officer Valerie Plame, who was outed by Bush administration wonks as punishment for the analysis of a supposed Iraqi uranium purchase mission in Niger supplied to the Agency by her ex-diplomat husband Joseph C Wilson (Sean Penn), which contradicted the policy line.

Not great, but watchable. Doug Liman needs to drink less coffee though – either that or stop hiring photographers with the shakes.

Ash Wednesday
Stodgy Edward Burns (written, directed, starring, etc) fare, with himself as an Irish boy in Hell’s Kitchen trying to escape his criminal past, only for it to come back to haunt him.

Tries to tie together all sorts of standard Catholic clichés (redemption, retribution, forgiveness) right down to Christ-like poses and sacrifice. Beautifully shot night-time foot-chase through Brooklyn, though.

Southie
More Irish-American mobbery, here with Donnie Wahlberg as a prodigal son returning to his roots in South Boston after years away in New York. Despite wanting to make a break from his troubled past, almost immediately he is dragged back into the game, not least for his damaged family members.

Interesting material and performances, but the direction, by actor John Shea (Lex Luthor from the Clark And Lois Superman TV series), is a little too confused at times. Still, the roughness has its own charm, and good turns from Laurence Tierney, Anne Meara, Rose McGowan, Amanda Peet and all.

Monument Ave.
Last burst of shamrock headbanging, this time it’s in Charlestown, with Denis Leary as Bobby, a low-level crook working for scary local mob boss Colm Meaney, but mostly hanging out with his buddies Ian Hart, John Diehl, Noah Emmerich and Irish-Irish cousin Jason Barry.

They’re all aware that they’re not master criminals, but nor can they make it in the straight world, so it’s a tightrope walk between the cops and psycho gangsters. But bit by bit Bobby comes to see the code of silence as something that benefits only the big bosses, and as corpses of friends pile up he reaches his breaking point.

Pretty proficient stuff from Ted Demme, with solid chops displayed by all, plus bit parts for the likes of Boston natives Brian Goodman, Lenny Clarke and Kevin Chapman, plus a star turn from Billy Crudup as a messed up cousin just out the joint.

Van Diemen’s Land
Haunting meditation on one of Australia’s founding fathers – escaped convict Alexander Pearce, who along with seven other transportees absconded from Sarah Island in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Soon they run out of food…

Haunting and beatiful to start with – the opening sequence is dizzyingly disorientating, much as Australia must have been to those transported there in those early days – but unfortunately there is a lack of clarity to the narrative, and soon events are presented in a most repetitive manner, which does not benefit the story. Still worth watching though.

The Last Confession Of Alexander Pearce
Hour-long recap of Van Diemen’s Land, really, told backwards from the vantage point of the capture of Pearce (Ciaran McMenamin), and the time he spent with Catholic priest Conolly (Adrian Dunbar) before he was hanged.

Narratively far more lucid, and with its own flourishes.

Tomorrow When The War Began
In three words: Australian Red Dawn. Pretty watchable, especially as MGM’s actual Red Dawn remake is on indefinite post-production hiatus.

A Week In Film #139: All quiet…

Balibo
So-so dramatisation of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, told (as is often with these sorts of things) from the perspective of a Western journalist rather than local people, with the added condescension factor of a focus on the killing of other Western journalists.

Anthony LaPaglia is strong as a well-oiled, past-his-best Aussie hack persuaded by young East Timorese foreign minister José Ramos Horta (Oscar Isaac) to act as the tiny country’s PR. Once there he ends up trying to find out what happened to five missing Australian TV journalists.

In parts gripping (especially when the ‘Balibo Five’ try to capture footage of the Indonesian invasion force), but by turns over-worthy in places.

A Week In Film #138: Old favourites & new finds

1971
So, this is a Hindi film about the aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, directed and co-written by Amrit Sagar. It’s about an interesting subject, it starts off very well, but it lost my attention by the second half.

Basically – you learn something new every day – it turns out that the 1971 war caused a bit of an MIA scandal in India, because Pakistan held onto loads of Indian POWs long after the end of the war (in which Pakistan got caned – this is the one that led to East Pakistan splitting off as sovereign Bangladesh).

The film starts in 1977, at a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Pakistan, when we’re introduced to a bunch of bedraggled Indian soldiers and airmen who are being delivered there. Why, six years into their captivity, they are being moved to this remote camp, is made clear soon enough, and that leads us into an escape plan. So far so good – the trouble is once we’re outside the camp it all falls apart, with lots of action set pieces that drag on and on and on, and plot twists that don’t go anywhere, and a narrative that just rusts up. Plus there aren’t any songs in the second half – big mistake. Plus side: Deepak Dobriyal and Manav Kaul have some good back-and-forth as a pair of cheeky aviators.

Frenzy
Hitchcock’s return to the UK was a dirty, sleazy sex crime thriller – not his finest work, but still very powerful, thanks to some bravura moments, interesting characters and a taut little plot. Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Anna Massey, Billie Whitelaw, Clive Swift, a sweaty Bernard Cribbins… Even if it’s not Hitch at his peak, he still puts together a good spread. Great ending too.

Dirty Deeds
Breezy period comedy gangster flick set in 60s Australia, with slot king Bryan Brown having to fend off local rivals and now the American mob, all wanting to muscle in on his rackets. Toni Collette, Sam Neill, Sam Worthington and John Goodman round off the cast.

Horror Express
Who could not warm to a horror film about a prehistoric beast loose aboard the Trans-Siberian Express in pre-Revolutionary Russia, with only rival anthropologists Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and a bloodthirsty Cossack Captain (Telly Savalas) standing in its way? Well, my LLF for one.

Blood Diamond
Another overwrought Edward Zwick picture about ‘others’, this time set in Sierra Leone during the civil war years of the late 1990s, with rebels, government troops and mercenaries all haring around trying to control diamond fields. Journalist Jennifer Connelly convinces loveable Rhodesian soldier-for-hire Leonardo Di Caprio to help her find out about the blood diamond trade, all whilst local fisherman Djimon Hounsou is enslaved, escapes, is imprisoned, then released whilst searching for his family. Cloying, artificial tosh, but professionally assembled. Just very distasteful.

Perrier’s Bounty
I really liked this silly Irish comedy crime drama. Michael (Cillian Murphy) owes money to local gangster Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson); if he doesn’t pay up bones will be broken. Meanwhile his neighbour Bren (Jodie Whittaker) is having relationship woes, and his estranged dad Jim (Jim Broadbent) has turned up, telling him he is dying. Written by Mark O’Rowe (who also did Intermission and TV movie Boy A), and directed with fizz by Ian Fitzgibbon.

Boiler Room
Ben Younger’s film about a ‘chop shop’ – an underground brokerage company where dubious high-pressure telemarketing techniques are the norm in selling junk stock to low level investors – is nothing special, but it is engaging enough. Clearly it owes a debt to both Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street, but both are acknowledged onscreen – very meta. Giovanni Ribisi is the ingenue caught up in the excitement, Nicky Katt and Vin Diesel are his Barnes/Elias-style mentors, Nia Long his love interest, Jamie Kennedy and Scott Caan the light relief, and Ben Affleck is on hamming-it-up duties.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of Ozploitation!
I first heard of this when I came across a list on IMDb, shaun_d_000‘s Best Australian films in rough order (which I heartily recommend flicking through for inspiration).

It’s a lovely little documentary by Mark Hartley about the rebirth of the Australian film industry, focusing on the genre and exploitation movies created Down Under in the 70s and 80s, with dozens of contributors – writers, directors, producers, actors, stuntmen and fans (including Quentin Tarantino) – offering up juicy insights and anecdotes. The DVD extras are great too.