Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Week In Film #324: Down to the bone

The Rainmaker title screen
The Rainmaker
Perfectly diverting legal potboiler, Francis Ford Coppola directing from John Grisham’s book, with Matt Damon a young lawyer teaming up with boisterous paralegal Danny De Vito to… Erm… Can’t remember – it’s that sort of film. But definitely not terrible.

The Lady Vanishes title screen
The Lady Vanishes (2013)
Not the Hitch version of Ethel White’s pre-war European mystery novel The Wheel Spins, so not as much fun, but Tuppence Middleton (Cleanskin) and Tom Hughes The Game) have a fair crack at it in a BBC TVM directed by journeyman Diarmuid Lawrence.

Funeral In Berlin title screen
Funeral In Berlin
I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating.

A Most Violent Year title screenA Most Violent Year
Excellent, low key period piece from JC Chandor (Margin Call) about a struggling businessman (Oscar Isaac) and his wife (Jessica Chastain) trying to stay clean in grimy, gritty early eighties New York.

The Wolf Of Wall Street title screen
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Flashy, silly, fun (and in parts highly objectionable) based-on-a-true-story nonsense about boiler room bastards in eighties New Jersey; Scorsese pastiches himself, with Leonardo Di Caprio and Jonah Hill meeting him halfway from typical Judd Apatow territory.

A Week In Film #323: Nerves and pits

The Hurt Locker title screen
The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner as as outsider bomb disposal expert in Iraq, slowly building a rapport with team members Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty. Contact moment with the British PMCs led by Ralph Fiennes stunning. Penned by Mark Boal (In The Valley Of Elah, Zero Dark Thirty), helmed by Kathryn Bigelow.

The Bourne Legacy title screen
The Bourne Legacy
Okay, so the post-Matt Damon series reboot, with Jeremy Renner as a genetically enhanced secret agent cut adrift, borrows heavily from its predecessors, but there are superb action sequences, and new director Tony Gilroy handles tension-ratcheting scenes like a pro.

A Belfast Story title screen
A Belfast Story
A criminal waste of Colm Meaney, here as a grizzled and weary old detective in Northern Ireland investigating a series of murders.

The Outsider title screen (1979)
The Outsider (1979)
A late 70s curiosity – idealistic plastic paddy Craig Wasson crosses the Atlantic to join the Provos and fight for his people, but soon finds himself a propaganda pawn in a dirty war. The only completed feature of writer-director Tony Luraschi, who on the evidence of this was no hack.

Harrigan title screen
A real wasted opportunity, given the creative vision underpinning it. Seventies Brit-noir with Stephen Tompkinson as a troubled detective returned to his native Newcastle after an unpleasant sojourn in Hong Kong. Some strong mood points and committed performances are let down by slack scripting and the overall cheapness permeating the look and feel. A shame.

A Week In Film #322: Charlie bye-bye & butterfingers

The Underneath title screen
The Underneath
Steven Soderbergh remakes noir classic Criss Cross with Peter Gallagher as the returning prodigal son with a gambling problem, Alison Elliott the ex-girlfriend he left sorting out his shit when he skipped town, and William Fichtner as the local hoodlum she’s now with.

Revolver title screen
Terrible, dull, terribly dull Kabbalah-influenced crime drama, the plot of which I can remember nothing. Wastes, among others, The Stath, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, Mark Strong and Francesca Annis.

RocknRolla title screen
A slightly better effort from Ritchie, returning to more straight forward gangsters-and-geezers crime comedy/drama, with the fates of gang boss Tom Wilkinson and his lieutenants Mark Strong and Jimi Mistry intertwined with those of mid-level crooks (Gerard Butler, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy) and some entertainment industry tits (Toby Kebbell, Chris Bridges and Jeremy Piven). Thandie Newton flits about as a shady accountant, Karel Roden as a billionaire Russian businessman with all that implies.

The Day After title screen
The Day After
‘The American Threads’, so kind of interesting, but a whole lot soapier. With Jason Robards, Steve Gutenberg, John Lithgow, Amy Madigan, Stephen Furst, Arliss Howard and a cast of thousands, sort of a more radioactive, ground-based version of Airport. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, who did revisionist Holmes flick The Seven Per Cent Solution and HG Wells/Jack the Ripper mashup Time After Time, as well as establishing the ‘even numbers good, odd numbers bad’ law of Trek movies with his writing and/or helming of parts 2,4 and 6.

The Bunker (1981) title screen
The Bunker (1981)
Plodding, stodgy take on Hitler’s last days in the Führerbunker, with Anthony Hopkins bringing a previously underplayed Welshness to the part. Bonus points for having Mr Bronson (Michael Sheard) as Himmler.

Sword Of Gideon title screen
Sword Of Gideon
Pretty solid TV movie version of the same story that Spielberg later brought to the screen as Munich, with Steven Bauer – always willing to make an effort, even if he is not the greatest actor in the world – in the lead, plus Michael York (MY-KUHL! YAWWK!), Lino Ventura, Rod Steiger etc. Directed by reliable journeyman Michael Anderson (The Dam Busters, Logan’s Run, the first big screen version of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four).

A Week In Film #321: 2015 and reset

The Gatekeepers title screen
שומרי הסף AKA The Gatekeepers
A fascinating documentary, in which five former (and the then serving) heads of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet talked on camera about their work, in many instances with a level of candour that is striking. Kudos to filmmaker Dror Moreh for making it happen.

As The Palaces Burn title screen
As The Palaces Burn
Curious tale of how the lead singer of American heavy metal band Lamb of God, Randy Blythe, was put on trial following the death of a concert goer, Daniel Nosek, two years previously. Solidly old fashioned fly-on-the-wall type documentary from Don Argott.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull title screen
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Spielberg attempts to outdo his chum Lucas in the pissing-on-decades-of-goodwill stakes, and upgrades ‘jumping the shark’ to boot. Not even Cate Blanchett as a sexy Soviet spy can save it. Not even the return of Marion Ravenwood can save it. And sure as shit Shia LaBeouf cannot save it.

Die Hard With A Vengeance title screen
Die Hard With A Vengeance
A definite improvement on 2, but Jeremy Irons is no Alan Rickman.

L.A. Confidential title screen
L.A. Confidential
Bent cops in a bent Los Angeles as Curtis Hanson handles James Ellroy’s noir thriller with aplomb.

Nightcrawler title screen
Jake Gyllenhaal as a creepily unempathetic but resourceful freelance news videographer covering nocturnal LA. The likes of Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed round off a fine cast. Impressive directorial debut by Dan Gilroy, a mere twenty-two years after getting his Freejackscript made.