Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Week In Film #181: Did somebody mention the gulag?

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich
A suitably downbeat, colourless, slow Norwegian filming of Solzenitsyn’s novel about a single, long day in a gulag.

Finnish director Caspar Wrode captures the relentless mundanity of this inhuman world, where simply surviving is a triumph. Tom Courtenay is low key as Ivan Denisovich Shukov. I definitely remember spoons playing a bigger part in the book, though.

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A Week In Film #180: Shed – no tears

Centurion
Low budget genre auteur Neil Marshall tackles a bit of sword and sandal – this time treading similar ground to The Eagle. Whilst hardly a classic, it has brio, and lots of fast-moving, violent action. Oh, and parts for women.

Michael Fassbender, Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke, Liam Cunningham, JJ Field, Dimitri Leonidas and David Morrissey make for a decent Dirty Septet doing their best to warn of a major Pict offensive in the wild northern marches of Occupied Britain. Nice shouty crack cameo for Dominic West. Olga Kurlylenko is suitably scary as a mute Brigntes tracker. Imogen Poot gets to be the slightly more wishy-washy witch.

A Week In Film #179: Ray of sunshine

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes
Last of the proper Apes, J Lee Thompson back for a second bite – and this time we shoot forward in time from Conquest, but well before POTA.

Confused? Don’t worry, all you need to know is that Roddy McDowall is back as Caesar, reforging a tentative alliance of humans and simians after a nuclear holocaust. Budget has plummeted even further, so it all looks a bit cheap, but the story’s there, it’s engaging, it’s fun, it’s even scary in places.

Behind The Planet Of The Apes
Whilst put together in that irritating American TV format (star presents it, long interviews cut down to tiny blips and dotted around all over the place, crappy orchestral music cues letting you know when to feel happy, sad etc), a surprisingly informative doc about the POTA franchise. Lots of background and context to the series, plenty of behind the scenes anecdotes, and a genuine fondness for the films.

21 Jump Street
TV police show from the 80s gets the Starsky & Hutch-style big screen tongue-in-cheek remake treatment, with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as a chalk-and-cheese pair of cops reassigned to an undercover unit infiltrating high schools.

Starts slow but soon gets into the groove. Nice cameo scene from series originals Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise. Ice Cube gets a nice bit as your “angry, black Captain (it ain’t nothing’ but a stupid stereotype)”. Lots of fun updating the standard high school tribe tropes.

A Week In Film #178: A shower of sausage

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes
Bristol’s own journeyman director par excellence J Lee Thompson has his first crack of the Planète Des Singes whip, and it’s a corker. Years into the future we see the set up for how things first went ape – a new slave society where humans train monkeys to do menial tasks.

Sure the law of diminishing budgets means it doesn’t look as big as it should, but by Jove Thompson knows how to stretch things out. Roddy McDowall returns – as the son of Cornelius and Zira – and this time he’s angry (as is pretty much every other simian onscreen). Raging, righteous, rowdy.

The Firm (2009)
Nick Love pisses on Alan Clarke’s hooligan classic, serves up a weird blend of excessive period reverence with half-arsed, anachronistic set dressing and dialogue. The actual, proper story is pitched back, with some crappy coming-of-age nonsense brought into the foreground.

Paul Anderson showed promise as chief freebooter Bex, Calum MacNab is so-so as Dom, the catamite at his feet, but the script and tone and direction – despite moments of technical excellence – just don’t work. I did like Eddie Webber (a previous Love hiree from The Business, and the nasally narrator of the second season of Britain’s Biggest Heists) and Camille Nuns On The Road Corduri as Calum’s parents, but that’s hardly praise.

A Week In Film #177: Peanut butter pants

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Hitchcock a year before The Thirty-Nine Steps, and it’s not quite there – it’s got some nice light/dark contrast, it’s got Peter Lorre, it’s got fun set pieces, but it’s not got the magic. And yet it’s still better than 90% of other films.

Secret Agent
Smoking? In a chocolate factory?!

Okay, so it’s another not wholly successful early Hitch spooker, but there’s plenty to chew on. Even though Gielgud really doesn’t suit the material, he still has a great little rapport with Madeleine Carroll. Peter Lorre goes like a threshing machine through the scenery.

Awful lot of telephone conversations and dissolve-into-translation notes, mind.

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes
Weirded out reverse ferret on the original’s meditation on racism; now it’s all about the anti-militarism! If you stick with it, you’re rewarded with one of the best racecar-into-brick wall endings ever (figuratively speaking; otherwise bet on Vanishing Point).

Slashed budget aside, not dwelling on the loss of the leading man, and swiftly skimming over the iffy crowd scene ape costumes, a fine follow-up. Wonderfully depressing climax, too.

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes
Whilst its contemporary setting makes for a sometimes painful watch (as does some of the acting), interesting ideas abound in this second sequel.

Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter) end up on 1973, human-dominated Earth, and reverse the set-up of the original film. We meet Dr Otto Hasslein. Seeds are sown…