Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Week In Film #289: WET (again)

X-Men: First Class title screen
X-Men: First Class
I’m not really a superhero comic book movie kind of chap, but this was alright, a bit of origins action, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the young mutants who will become Professor X and Magneto.

Fairly sassy direction from Matthew Vaughn, fairly adroit script from Jane Goldman, and the odd bit of excitement, though overall not my cup of tea. Bit alarmed that out of two African-American characters, one becomes a villain almost immediately, and the other barely survives into the second reel.

Ffolkes AKA North Sea Hijack title screen
North Sea Hijack AKA Ffolkes
Rather dull 1970s British thriller-without-any-thrills, hamstrung by being blocked out like a stage play, with almost all the ‘action’ taking place in confined shipboard rooms.

Roger Moore does at least seem to be enjoying himself as a woman-hating freelance marine commando. Other than that there’s Anthony Perkins as a ruthless terrorist (who doesn’t seem to have anything remotely like a plan) who holds an offshore drilling platform to ransom, and James Mason as an admiral. Not hack journeyman Andrew V McLaglen’s finest work, which is a shame – it could have been a great British Die Hard.

Gangster Squad title screen
Gangster Squad
Promising subject matter: late 40s/early 50s Los Angeles, and the LAPD is struggling to cope with Italian mobsters – so a small, secret, no-holds-barred team is set up to deal with the menace. It’s a based-on-true-events topic which has been done before (Mulholland Falls, TV’s The Hat Squad), and thematically it’s reminiscent of big-hitters like LA Confidential, Chinatown and The Black Dahlia.

But it’s pants. Directed by Ruben Zombieland Fleischer, it’s a film with little style and less substance. There’s no real attempt at characterisation (beyond ‘Hey, these guys are a bit battle-scarred!’), no sense of foreboding, no element of surprise, no hint of real danger – just clock-watching between each derivative set piece. A shame, because it could have been a decent West Coast version of The Untouchables (from which, naturally, it steals liberally). Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Mireille Enos at least have a crack at making it work, but with no depth to the script there’s nowhere for them to go.

Brighton Rock (2010) title screen
Brighton Rock (2010)
Supposedly a more true-to-the-novel than the 1947 film version (which was adapted by, rem, the author of the novel), even though it’s arbitrarily relocated from the 1930s to the 1960s.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but from memory, this adaptation takes far more liberties than the Boulting Brothers one – creating composite characters for no logical reason, turning newspaperman Hale into a Colleoni hood, juggling motivation, and so on. Supposedly director Rowan Joffé wanted to flesh out the Rose character, and emphasise the Catholic themes of the book. Well, on that score he failed, miserably.

Plus Pinkie is played by someone who just doesn’t look a teenager (Sam Riley barely looks the youngest in his gang, and one of his confederates in Phil Davis). Plus – and sure, there were practical problems – having Eastbourne stand in for Brighton (a jarringly ‘Look! We’re in Brighton!’ walk-and-talk shot in front of the Pavilion aside) is simply distracting. Plus the engine of the plot – avoiding the rope – has had its spark plugs removed by placing the story at a time that much closer to today, when there are no capital crimes, and by failing to emphasise the threat of the hangman’s noose to audiences which have not grown up aware of its shadow stretching across the prison yard. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff.

City Of Industry title screen
City Of Industry
Rather boring, goes-nowhere neo-noirish robbers-fall-out crime drama from John Irvin, with Harvey Keitel going all vengeance and retribution after heist driver Stephen Dorff kills fellow robbers Timothy Hutton and Wade Dominguez for a bigger slice of the pie.

Not really anything much of interest, except Famke Janssen as a crook’s wife, doing her best with not much material, Tricky and Massive Attack and Bomb The Bass on the soundtrack, and lots of odd little plot dead ends. Basically a cut-price, half-baked Heat knock-off, with no cops.

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A Week In Film #288: HOT

Dredd title screen
Dredd
Pretty darn good effort from Pete Travis to translate the 2000AD dystopia of Mega City One, its attendant mythos and innumerable characters into a single, coherent movie with a decent beginning-middle-end plot.

Sure, the uniforms and Lawmaster bikes and Lawgiver guns don’t look exactly like what’s in the comics, but seriously, is that really what you care about? We have Karl Urban’s chin, Olivia Thirlby nailing it as a young Anderson, and Lena Headey as a great baddie. Decent action sequences, a lick of a pace, not too much exposition crammed in, with plenty of space for future films.

Filth title screen
Filth
Another Irvine Welsh adaptation, and sadly it doesn’t match up to the trailers, which made it look like it would be great. It’s not. It’s watchable, with a bit of visual flair from director Jon S Baird, but it’s not Trainspotting. And no tapeworm!

Informant title screen
Informant
Interesting subject matter – the turning of a self-identified anarchist activist, Brandon Darby, into an FBI informant/agent provocateur and then right wing campaigner.

As an article on Vice’s Motherboard site notes, the way the documentary is framed works disproportionately in Darby’s favour, despite still making him look like a douche. His constantly changing story is never fully challenged, and for the most part the film becomes a he-said-she-said between him and the voices of the many activists he betrayed or set up.

That said, the onscreen reaction of Scott Crow to yet another Darby bullshit-and-testosterone story put to him by the unseen producer is a powerful rebuttal.

A Week In Film #287: Über Alles

Now You See Me title screen
Now You See Me
Irritatingly muggy caper flick, with no sense of real jeopardy, or time, or anything – just one CGI-assisted spectacle after the next. I like Louis Leterrier’s Transporter films. They were silly but fun. This was silly and a chore. Even the twist – which I didn’t see coming till quite late – was spoiled for me because by that point I really didn’t care.

American Hustle title screen American Hustle
I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t in a room with two people having a running commentary about how unpleasant the characters were and how unbelievable the story was. Arrrrgh!

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa title screen
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
As good as I had hoped, and again showing progression for Norfolk’s best-loved son. Colm Meaney is great. Felicity Montagu (as always) is great. Phil Cornwell is great as an even more tragic than normal Dave Clifton. Alan’s singing along to Roachford is immense.

A Week In Film #286: Bread spet

Essex Boys Retribution title screen
Essex Boys Retribution
Terrible film. Quite interesting framing device – man in prison (Billy Murray) tells visiting journalist a story, leading into the meat of the movie – but ultimately the actual film is awful. A bunch of young buck gangsters in Essex try to make it big. Why? The main characters – they are arseholes. You don’t want them to succeed. They fail. Then at the final curtain, a twist! Which you don’t care about.

From prolific indie director Paul Tanter, who did the Jack and White Collar Hooligan films amongst others. Not a single interesting or decent role for a woman. Having said that, none for a man, either. Just boring.

Last Man Standing title screen
Last Man Standing
Saw this Walter Hill Prohibition era dustbowl remake of Yojimbo in the cinema, and my view of it hasn’t changed – too long, too slow, with not enough zip. Still, if seeing an orange Bruce Willis get beaten up by orange gangsters in a desolate orange town in a very orange 1930s Texas is your thing, this is the film for you. Nice Ry Cooder soundtrack.

Frozen title screen
Frozen
A Disney princess movie that managed not to be treacly sweet and irritatingly patriarchal! Rather enjoyable.