Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Week In Film #189: Both ends

Két Félidő A Pokolban AKA Two Half Times In Hell
Hungarian film from the sixties, set in a Horthy-era punishment labour camp in the Ukraine, where to celebrate Hitler’s birthday inmates must field a football team against eleven of the Wehrmacht’s finest.

Made just six years after the crushing of the Budapest Uprising, it is a thoughtful piece in which the tension between keeping your head down and playing it safe versus making a stand and taking action is constantly revisited. Whilst it clearly inspired shorelines such as Escape To Victory and The Longest Yard, and whilst there are wonderful comic moments, it’s a serious film that ends not on a happy or even hopeful note.

Zoltán Fábri directs with real power, and it often feels less a European picture and more a mid-century Japanese film, thanks to its orderly, well-composed frames, colourful use of monochrome, and themes of duty.

Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown, a bent Los Angeles cop caught up downwind of the Rampart scandal thanks to an energetic episode of behaviour modification caught on camera.

Lawyer: “Why is staying a cop the most important thing?” Dave: “Because I’m a hard-charging, dutiful motherfucker, and I want to explicate the LAPD’s somewhat hyperbolised misdeeds with true panache regardless of my alleged transgressions. Capiche?”

Oren Moverman directs efficiently, all dark bar room shadows contrasting with blindingly bright Californian skies, and the cast (including small but significant little bits from Robert Wisdom, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi and Ned Beatty) works well together, none of that showboating nonsense. Co-scripted with James Ellroy, does feel like it runs out of steam towards the end, though.

A Week In Film #188: Both ends

A British serial killer flick about a socially inept man who just wants to have a friend. Cue tagging along with junkies (“I’d like to try some of that smack. Would you like some beans on toast?”), visiting brothels (“You been busy?”), accidentally picking up men in gay bars (“I’ve got some Paul Young tapes somewhere…How about orange squash? I’ve got fishfingers…”), talking at cross purposes with TV licence inspectors (“Have I got any cable?!”), etc.

You can guess the rest. Peter Ferdinando is excellent in the title role, and his cousin Gerard Johnson directs very well – certainly someone to keep an eye out for. Dalston looks admirably grotty. And it avoids most of the clichés of the genre – a suitable double-bill partner for Dahmer.

Hannibal Brooks
Michael Winner directs Oliver Reed as a British POW who befriends an elephant and tries to walk to the safety of neutral Switzerland. What’s not to like? Plus Michael J Pollard as drawling escaped GI Packy, Helmuth Lohner as likeable Austrian soldier Willi, Karin Baal as a Polish parolee along for the ride, Wolfgang Preiss as a textbook bad guy, and fun cameos from the likes of John Anderton and James Donald, interlopers from a different film entirely.

Got to love the crash zooms, beautiful landscapes and Reed turning in a performance of a lifetime.

A Week In Film #187: Steam’s up (and rising)

La Scorta
Slightly soapy crime drama from Ricky Tognazzi, focusing on Mandolesi (Claudio Amendola), a cop who returns to his home town in Sicily to volunteer for the dangerous duty of protecting an anti-Mafia magistrate. Throw in a few archetypes (the stick-up-the-arse one who’s looking to keep his nose clean and get promoted, the nervous young one who just wants a transfer to something safer, the jokey older one) and you’ve got an authentic Realizzato In Italia version of The Untouchables.

Didn’t quite do it for me, but competent enough.

A Week In Film #186: Steam’s up (still)

Norwegian heist movie, based on a real robbery, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, who did Insomnia. No moments of cowboy heroism, wisecracking or smooth sailing for anyone (blaggers, coppers or passersby); small things go wrong all over the shop, for all concerned. The audience is there, poking its head over everyone’s shoulder, but we are kept at a distance from anyone’s reasons or inner dialogue.

Der Räuber
Austrian drama about a bankrobbing long distance robber, ‘based on a true story’ and all that, directed by Benjamin Heisenberg. Again, if you come away thinking you know anyone’s motivation, then you’ve invented it yourself, or read something into an expression or an action.

Prometheus title screen
My first experience of 3D in the cinema, and I thought Ridley Scott handled it well, using it to add depth to a shot rather than for cheap thrills.

Now, the film – obviously there was now way it was going to match the expectations of fanboys, but as a pre-Alien film I thought it worked remarkably well, especially in the way it played with the accepted canon. The fresh look at the Space Jockey got me from leftfield.

On the other hand, the cast was too big, and characterisation too thin. The prologue sequence, and the set-up on Earth at the beginning, were unnecessary. Accents seemed to have been randomly assigned.

But a strong 8/10, and a good foundation for some more movies.

Pretty engaging Pixar cartoon about a rat named Remy who loves to cook, and kitchen boy Linguini, who wants to cook but can’t. They begin a partnership, there’s a romantic sub-plot, a dastardly restaurant owner to overcome, and a key food critic to impress.

Charming, if not outstanding.