Superman: The Movie
The original, Richard Donner-helmed comic book movie, with Christopher Reeve perfect as the alien orphan trying to get by on a planet where he is all but a god. Margot Kidder nails the screwball tone perfectly as Lois Lane, whilst high-ham villainy is represented by the likes of Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran.
A 7/8 excellent film, which hints at works as disparate as Picnic At Hanging Rock, Beautiful Creatures, Wolf Creek and Deliverance. Some rural Australian working shmos (Gabriel Byrne, John Howard, Stelios and Simon Stone) go off on their annual fishing trip, encounter some dark shit, fuck up on how they should deal with it, cause strife.
A lot of the heavy lifting is done by Laura Linney as Byrne’s wife; slowly many intimate details of their troubled relationship are revealed.
One of the best aspects is how director Ray Lawrence (working from a Raymond Carver short story) throws the audience curve-balls, notably in relation to two children (Eva Lazzaro and Sean Rees-Wemyss – surely two of the best and most natural performances by young children in a drama since, I don’t know, Gemma Jones in Paperhouse), and in how he introduces then sends into the background the modern-day swagman played by Chris Haywood.
For me the penultimate scenes jar against the rest of the film, try to neaten things up, offer redemption with too little a price. But overall an impressive piece.
Silly and insubstantial comedy with three friends – Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day – each enduring their own work hell, and deciding to walk the well-worn Strangers On A Train route to solving their problems through murder.
Charlie Day is essentially playing a slightly less grim version of the Philly Charlie, whilst Bateman and Sudeikis similarly reprise their standard screen personae. Kevin Spacey is a Swimming With Sharks-style corporate shithead, whilet Jennifer Aniston at least gets to play against type as a sexually predatory dentist. Colin Farrell seems to revel in the broad comedy his character is thrown, buried in layers of rubber-faced make-up as a coked-up asshole who inherits his dad’s company.
I’d never heard of director Seth Gordon before, and based on this, not sure I will be seeing much more of his work.
The Heist (1989)
Modest and ultimately unrewarding crime caper played for laughs, with just-released con Pierce Brosnan making a play at the racetrack where his old business partner Tom Skerritt – who both set him up for the crimes that saw him sent down, and cuckolded him with Wendy Hughes – runs security.
A shame that director Stuart Orme didn’t tighten things up, because there’s plenty of quality raw material here, in personnel and plot points. But in the end it’s just a bit too messy, and the actual heist everything leads up to is too lacklustre.
Wry, droll, enjoyable – Jason Bateman directs and stars as a middle-aged fuck-up who spots a loophole and enters a kids’ spelling bee competition.
The twist, such as it is (his motivation for doing it) is pretty clear from the off, but the film’s more about his relationships, both with the journalist sponsoring his shenanigans, Kathryn Hahn, and the kid who tries to be his friend, Rohan Chand. The odd moment of directorial flair, some tight scripting (from Andrew Dodge), and very enjoyable performances keep things moving at a level above your standard gross-out fratpack comedies.
A kind of Brokeback Mountain with fast cars, with Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda, a pair of very different yet very similar Formula 1 drivers entangled in a years-long duel.
Some impressively-mounted race scenes from experienced director Ron Howard, some easily digestible character stuff, nothing that will blow your mind, but watchable.
Beneath Hill 60
Worthy but slightly dull tale of a unit of Australian soldiers tasked with undermining German trenches at Ypres in World War I. Directed by Jeremy Sims, with Brendan Cowell and Gynton Grantley (Underbelly’s Carl Williams).
Gangs Of New York
Scorsese’s sprawling mid-1800s epic is growing on me, slowly.
Fine (if flawed) political drama-cum-thriller from Harold Becker (The Onion Field, Sea Of Love), with young gun deputy John Cusack in thrall to his Mayor, Al Pacino, in what is effectively a love letter to the city of New York. A strong cast includes Danny Aiello, Martin Landau, Richard Schiff, Tony Franciosa and Bridget Fonda, with a script powered by talents including Kenneth Lipper (Wall Street), Paul Shrader (Taxi Driver), Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas) and Bo Goldman (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest).
Ordinary Decent Criminal
Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Nothing Personal) delivers a watchable, knockabout take on the story of Dublin criminal Martin ‘The General’ Cahill, with Kevin Spacey implausibly in the lead, Linda Fiorentino and Helen Baxendale as his two wives, and the likes of Peter Mullan, Colin Farrell and David Hayman as his oppos. Also featuring Vincent Regan, Stephen Dilate, Christophe Waltz and Patrick Malahide, with Damon Albarn doing the music. Not a bad team, really.