Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Week In Film #193: Terror

Okay, so I watched the full teleseries rather than the theatrical trim, but it’s all gravy. I know some people whine about the film politically, but dude was a gun for hire, so meh.

Anyhoo, I like it. There’s some cool shit, and the fat Carlos stuff, and plenty of WHAT A DICK stuff too. That to me is a balanced meal. Édgar Ramírez is great.

Final Destination
Never seen it before, got the trilogy box set for the LLF as she’d mentioned she was a fan. Anyway, much less bad than I’d imagined, with some inventive deaths. Silly ending.

Final Destination 2
More fun than the first, and rattles along faster. Even better deaths. Directed by ex-stuntman David R Ellis (later to do Cellular), with more brio. Still silly.

Final Destination 3
Still quite enjoyable, liked the tip of the cap to The Omen, but obviously rather silly.

A Week In Film #191: Working The Backlog

Battle: Los Angeles
Silly CGI-filled summer blockbuster about aliens invading Earth, with somewhat bland leading man Aaron Eckhart as a troubled Marine veteran who much step up to the plate, etc. Post 9/11 ‘support the troops’ propaganda nonsense, and dull to boot.

Battle Of Los Angeles
Summer mockbuster chasing the above, which unbelievably manages to be even more boring. A whole bunch of people you’ve never before heard of or seen (except, umm, Kenan from Kenan & Kel) do a bunch of stuff, badly, forgettably. Looks terrible. Not so-bad-it’s-good, just bad.

John Rabe
Slightly plodding, worthy biopic about the Nazi German industrialist and his part in the Nanking Safety Zone. Actual Chinese (and Japanese) characters are relegated to background colour – all the emphasis is on the heroic Europeans and Americans. Obviously.

南京! 南京! AKA City Of Life And Death
Lu Chuan’s peerless retelling of the Rape of Nanjing, in grim, monochrome detail. Some strong narrative strands – some Nationalist soldiers, some Japanese soldiers, some Chinese civilians – are woven together with power and economy. Neither sentimental nor exploitative. Recommended.

A Week In Film #190: Harwood trial & tribulations

Hodejegere AKA Headhunters
Norwegian crime thriller that really motors it for the first half, but then stalls, losing a lot of the emotional momentum. A shame really, because the story is rather tasty: successful recruitment consultant Roger (Aksel Hennie) is also an art thief; but his big score looks like being his ruin. Some really good action sequences, some fun characters, but unfortunately it starts to fall apart midway and never really recovers your interest. Nevertheless, Morten Tyldum is clearly an accomplished director.

Sweeney 2
The second theatrical feature to spin off from the successful TV show about the coppers who take on armed robbers. This time the script comes from series creator Ian Kennedy Martin and his brother Troy (Edge Of Darkness, The Italian Job), and it’s directed by Tom Clegg, who went on to helm McVicar.

Unlike the previous big screen outing, which revolved around a fantastical international corruption scandal, this one is rooted in the grimy nuts and bolts of a Flying Squad investigation into a particularly brutal gang of blaggers. Led by Ken Hutchison (who despite hitting the big time as the bad guy in Straw Dogs never really capitalised on his potential), they will stop at nothing and for no one – so it’s up to Regan, Carter and the boys to stop them. Some of the plot twists are rather silly, and the Maltese thing is never really explained, but the beauty of this ugly picture is in the character work – we finally have a chance to find out more about the others in the team. Oh, and it’s a lot swearer than the telly version.

Fighting Mad
Early Jonathan Demme directorial effort for Roger Corman, and a nice treat it is too. Peter Fonda returns to the Arkansas horse ranch he grew up on after the failure of his marriage, taking his young son with him. Soon the idea of a rural idyll disappears as a greedy coal baron uses terror to get his own way in this sleepy valley. But bow-toting Fonda isn’t going to take it lying down…

Brings to mind all those A-Team episodes where they go in and help out some dustbowl community against avaricious developers and a corrupt local sheriff’s department, or Road House. Neither technically brilliant, not that well written, but with affable performances, some wit and moments of excitement.

Black Hawk Down
Yanquis liberal imperialism meets Third World intransigence. Put aside the distasteful politics of it all, and the barely two-dimensional portrayal of the hordes of ‘Skinnies’, and it’s a wonderfully efficient war movie. Bloody hard to keep track of who’s who, though, and loud as a car crash.

Good points: Eric Bana as a Delta Force operator (though what’s with his ‘I’m just a tourist enjoying a latte in downtown Mogadishu” spy shtick at the start?), Ewan McGregor as a desk bound Ranger put into the thick of things, and a veritable Ellis Island-worth of British and Euro actors – many pre-superstardom, like Tom Hardy – pretending to be Murkans.

Bad points: distinct lack of any attempt to understand Somalia, the civil war or its people; similar lack of Somali characters; using actors of West African or Caribbean heritage to portray the few foreground Somali characters we ever hear from; even squeezing in anti-Asian sentiments with disparaging comments about Malaysian and Pakistani UN forces.

Diên Biên Phú
Indochina War veteran Pierre Schoendoerffer returns to the site of one of France’s biggest military defeats, which helped precipitate the fall of the Fourth Republic.

It’s slow moving, chronological, incremental stuff, and largely without sentiment. It also has Donald Pleasance as an Anglo-American journalist reporting on the two month-long siege from Hanoi, whilst being generally a bit of a colonial arse and speaking in appalling French (even my philistine ears could hear that). Some pretty amazing recreations of the real battle – full vista stuff, thousands of extras etc.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Plus: “Just the fax, ma’am, just the fax”; William Sadler as Colonel Stuart; Val Verde; Dick Thornburg getting tazed on a plane.

Minus: No fucking tower block; Marvin; worst ambush ever; IT’S DIRECTED BY RENNY HARLIN.