Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Week In Film #237: Settling in

The Social Network title screen

The Social Network
The Facebook biopic, and much more enjoyable than I feared, with David Fincher betraying wit for once.

Jesse Eisenberg does excellently as the dickish prodigy Mark Zuckerberg, sort of playing against type (sort of), but with a kernel of vulnerability. Justin Timberlake is great as Sean Parker, as is Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, and Armie Hammer certainly has fun as the Winklevosses. The opening scene, with Zuckerberg being owned by Rooney Mara for being a douche is impeccable, proper tone-setting stuff.

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A Week In Film #236: A moving time

Murder On The Orient Express title screen
Murder On The Orient Express
One of those films I’d catch a bit of on a Sunday afternoon, but never actually watched all the way through before – and turns out it’s pretty good (as you’d expect from a pro like Sidney Lumet).

Albert Finney is the inestimable Belgian ‘tec Hercule Poirot, trapped on a snowbound train with a dead body and a coachful of suspicious high class ham (including Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Rachel Roberts, Colin Blakely and Denis Quilley).

Only Fools And Horses: To Hull And Back title screen
Only Fools And Horses: To Hull And Back
The 1985 OFAH feature length Christmas special, with the Trotters getting caught up in a continental tax avoidance gem deal, and all without the benefit of a study audience or canned laughter.

Jim Broadbent’s Slater the Slag gets his second appearance, there’s the Denzil cracking up subplot, the numerous trips across the North Sea, the Amsterdam foot chase (mmm, smell that Licence Fee being burned up before your eyes!), and, of course, the requisite defeat-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-victory pay-off moment just as the kick drum starts shuffling up at the end.

5 Days Of War title screen
5 Days Of War
One of the most tedious and shamelessly partisan films I’ve seen in a while, with big budget Hollywood barbarian Renny Harlin taking an interesting recent historical event (the Russian invasion of Georgia over Ossetia), and turning it into a two-dimensional black hat/white hat melodrama – mediated by an heroic American journalist, no less! And a journalist who only a year previously lost a colleague (Heather Graham in a mortgage-paying five minute cameo) in Iraq, an event that leads to his reputation as a maverick and subsequent ostracism from the international journalistic brotherhood, etc.

That’s not even the worst or most fantastically lump headed thing about the film. Somehow Andy Garcia has been picked to play Georgian president Saakashvili. He decides to put on an accent. He has Dean ‘Superman’ Cain as his secretary. Val Kilmer is in it (though again, not the worst thing). Kenneth Cranham gets to play a cynical British hack called Michael Stilton.

A Week In Film #235: A spotless Herbert

Attack The Block title screen

Attack The Block
Joe Cornish’s directorial debut, and it’s confident – gang of muggy young hoodies on a South London estate are our unlikely heroes when some kind of alien invasion leads to death and destruction.

Rattles along nicely, and with enough pace that you can file away all the uncomfortable class and race stuff until afterwards. John Boyega as gang leader Moses, Alex Esmail as wisecracking Pest, Jodie Whittaker as the nurse they rob, Sam, and Nick Frost as friendly neighbourhood weed deadlier Ron all help keep things moving.

Hitler's SS: A Portrait In Evil title screen

Hitler’s SS: A Portrait In Evil
Less fun than I’d hoped, with brothers Karl and Helmut following different paths in 1930s Germany as Hitler comes to power – the former joining the SA, the latter the SS. Turns out that the flip side of a racially-defined radical interventionist right wing authoritarian regime brought in to power by elements of the reactionary conservative anti-semitic political establishment in association with a natural constituency of rural and suburban petit bourgeoises is a whole bunch of shit, particularly if you’re a Slavic communistic Jew. Now that’s what I call insight.

Still, you do get a double act of Lex Luthor (John Shea) and Bill Nighy (Bill Nighy).

Josef title screen

Josef
Thank fuck M Night Shyamalan didn’t make this little Croatian gem of a WWI film, as the twist in it would have been a lot less subtle.

Basically a soldier survives a vicious battle on the Galician Front. He avoids scavengers from the other side, swaps identity and uniform with a corpse, and finds himself bumping from one situation to another, swapping identities and sides as he bimbles along. Neven Aljinović Tot is impressive as the mostly catatonic survivor Sergeant Josef, and director Stanislav Tomić hold the viewer’s interest.

Neds title screen

Neds
Peter Mullan scripts and directs this autobiographical tale of a young boy growing up in the schemes of 1970s Glasgow. Some of the most terrifying scenes I’ve seen. Not perfect, but certainly gripping. Excellent central performance by Connor McCarron as John McGill.

A Week In Film #234: Packing tape and walking stick

Monsieur N. title screen

Monsieur N.
Intriguing historical confection, directed by none other than Antoine Eurotrash de Caunes, following the life of Napoléon Bonaparte in exile on St Helena, and expounding upon the rumour that Boney didn’t die there in old age but in fact escaped to Louisiana.

Richard E Grant is appropriately irritated as the second-rate British officer tasked with acting as his gaoler, and Jay Rodan is likeable as the young liaison Basil Heathcote, but it’s Philippe Toreton as the gnomic Napoléon, along with his coterie of acolytes – Roschdy Zem as bodyguard Bertrand, Stéphane Freiss and Frédéric Pierrot as Generals Montholon and Gourgaud, constanting competing for their Emperor’s attention – that really impress.

After an enjoyable chocolate box historical drama, the final reel then shifts into Agatha Christie mode, jumping forward to Boney’s official funeral and reinternment in Paris, with Heathcote probing the circumstances and questioning witnesses. A bit jarring, but it keeps interest levels up.

The Newton Boys title screen

The Newton Boys
Moderately engaging period gangster stuff, less portentous than Public Enemies, less self-important than Bonnie And Clyde, less pulpy than Dillinger; all in all a bit mediocre, but very likeable, thanks to the cast and the apparently true story on which it’s based.

In the 1920s, a bunch of Texan brothers – Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich and Vincent D’Onofrio – discover that their vocation lies not in farming but in robbing banks and trains. They’re quite good at it, and they don’t kill anyone. They make a lot of money, lose a lot of money, go back on the rob, get caught after getting grassed up by more unscrupulous crooks. Not really what I expected from Richard Linklater.