Monthly Archives: March 2013


Sunshine title screen

Danny Boyle does Alien/2001 mash-up, and I like it a lot. I think the final act works a lot better than many of the critics suggested. And wonderful sound design, too.

The Colditz Story title screen

The Colditz Story
Ages since I’ve seen it, and even though the familiarity of the tropes lessens their impact in what must have been if not their originator then at least one of their earliest recyclers.

Guy Hamilton directs with his customary efficiency, with a cast of solid screen artists like John Mills, Bryan Forbes, Christopher Rhodes and Eric Portman.

Serpico title screen

Sidney Lumet, Al Pacino as NYPD detective Frank Serpico, and a shitload of period corruption (municipal, managerial, police and city)… What’s not to enjoy?

Prince Of The City title screen

Prince Of The City
I’m surprised I’d never heard of, let alone seen, this Sidney Lumet tale before. It revisits the themes of his far better received Serpico, with Treat Williams as a member of the NYPD’s Special Investigations Unit – the so-called ‘Princes of the City’ – who decides to go undercover for a special commission probing police corruption. Based on a true story, etc.

It’s long, it’s talky, and Williams is not Pacino – but it is riveting stuff nonetheless. It’s a man looking for redemption before he even admits he has sinned, with a huge long arc of the story holding out for a proper Greek tragedy payoff. Not a twist – an entirely foreseeable, inevitable outcome. And it’s dramatic for its slow burn.

Freelance title screen

Early starring role for Ian McShane, predating his turn in Villain. Here he’s a discreet conman who happens to witness a beating in the street. He wrestles with his conscience over whether to report what he saw to the police – but before he has a chance to do anything, his fate is sealed by the gangsters behind the (ultimately fatal) attack.

This leads to an extended game of cat and mouse during which it is by no means certain our fraudster will survive. Strong if low-key crime drama from director Francis Megahy, who later directed McShane in Sewers Of Gold.

Sitting Target ttile screen

Sitting Target
How is this not better known? One of the finest slices of seventies Brit gangster film I’ve seen. Oliver Reed is a violent convict who discovers his wife is pregnant and leaving him – so he determines to break out of prison and kill her. Ian McShane is his more measured oppo (but clearly a psychopath – look at those eyes!), Freddie Jones the banged up gang boss who organises the breakout, Edward Woodward the detective trying to protect the wife.

Jill St John is excellent with her part: let’s face it, this is not feminist cinema, so the nuances she puts into her character are inspired.

Director Douglas Hickox puts together a visual feast – so many innovative little touches – and keeps the pace going at such a lick, it really is a wonder this film is not more feted, even though it is ‘just’ genre filler for double bills. He next made Theatre Of Blood, which certainly found an audience with its wicked black humour, yet this film is easily the equal of better-known crime flicks of equivalent ‘masculine’ themes like Villain or McVicar.

The only real downside for me were some particularly unconvincing process shots during the otherwise white-knuckle car chase through the streets of Battersea and Clapham Junction. Couple of good twists, too.

Overview title screen

Awesome – I mean, properly awesome – little documentary giving voice to those few (astronauts, essentially) who have seen the Earth from beyond Earth, and their sense of what it all means. A bit of a dry run for the forthcoming feature length film Continuum.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
I was preparing myself for a Twilight-style teen romance epic, but it was better than I had dared ope for. Dystopian near future world, Handmaiden’s Tale-type thing, where twelve conquered lands must pay annual tribute to their patron nation ‘The Capitol’ with two teenagers for a televised fight-to-the-death. Only one can live. Jennifer Lawrence is suitably unmaiden-in-distressly as District 12’s Katniss Everdeen. I’m now looking forward to the next instalments of the trilogy.

Saxon title screen

Starts off promisingly, but tapers off quickly and just gets a bit boring. Sean Harris returns to his old estate after doing crime for a particularly brutal crime. He needs money fast, but wants to change his ways. Meanwhile the council tries to empty ‘The Saxon’ of its residents with a posse of thuggish ‘bailiffs’. Odd things happen. A crossbow is involved, Hair is cut.

Basically it’s a Western Noir set in a dystopian urban Britain – and when it sticks to that, it’s very watchable. Unfortunately it drifts off into too much talking and exposition and back story. Still, impressive first feature work from writer/director Greg Loftin – just trim back all the unnecessary scenes and dialogue next time.

A Week In Film #227: STILL NOT PAID

The Wrong Trousers title screen

The Wrong Trousers
Possibly the zenith of the Wallace and Gromit shorts, with our chums pushed apart with the arrival of a suspicious penguin lodger… One long tribute to film, with hat tips to The Third Man, Westerns, spy films, heist movies, creature features, Warner Bros cartoons – pretty much everything except the kitchen sink drama.

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs title screen

Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs
I have to watch the Ice Age films all the time, but this one’s actually pretty good, largely down to Simon Pegg as a gone-a-bit-mad one-eyed weasel called Buck, who guides our regular crew (John Leguizamo’s sloth, mammoths Ray Romano and Queen Latifah, Denis Leary as a sabre-toothed tiger) through a strange world underneath their own.

Monsters, Inc. title screen

Monsters, Inc.
Probably my all-round favourite Pixar, with John Goodman and Billy Crystal as a pair of professional scarers caught up in a conspiracy.

The Incredibles title screen

The Incredibles
Fun animated revisionist superhero nonsense from Pixar.

A Week In Film #226: Life ain’t nuthin’ but Plymouth Ho

Looper title screen

Compelling adult SF, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt a Mob hitman in a future where time travel is real.

Rather beautifully written and directed by Rian Johnson, with performances and characters rather than gadgets and exposition. Even Bruce Willis reins it in. Emily Blunt is very good.

Strange Days title screen

Strange Days
An old favourite about a (then) near-future world with black market implanted memories eliding with corruption in LA on millennium eve.

Not Kathryn Bigelow’s most subtle work, nor Ralph Fiennes’, or Vincent D’Onofrio’s, or Tom Sizemore’s – but enjoyable.

Splice title screen

Didn’t expect to like this, but stuck with it to the end and felt it paid off. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are a pair of genetic engineers trying to create new lifeforms out of spliced DNA for their bioscience company. There is failure after failure until they accidentally create ‘Dren’… And from there on it all goes badly wrong.

Delphine Chanéac is excellent as the suspiciously Tyranny Rex-like Dren, unique but also thoroughly human – and there are genuine chills, and unpleasant moral dilemmas. Impressive stuff from Vincenzo Natali.