Monthly Archives: April 2016

A Week In Film #389: Thriller week

8mm title screen
A Joel Schumacher film that is not utter shit! I mean, it’s not a masterpiece, but it is far better than <a Joel Schumacher film starring Nicolas Cage should be.

A private eye is hired to investigate whether some very disturbing porn is in fact a snuff movie. Joaquin Phoenix, Peter Stomare, Chris Bauer and James Gandolfini help round out a very sleazy looking cast. Scripted by Andrew Kevin Walker, who also gave us Se7en.

Indigènes title screen
Indigènes AKA Days Of Glory
Celebrating the sacrifice of France’s North African soldiers in the Second World War. With Sami Bouajila, Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Mélanie Laurent and Bernard Blancan, directed by Rachid Bouchareb.

Criminal Law title screen
Criminal Law
I had high hopes for this minor 1989 thriller by Martin Campbell – defence lawyer Gary Oldman successfully gets rich kid Kevin Bacon acquitted of involvement in a series of murders, but later comes to suspect his client is involved in some very shady business – but it just does not pay off.

The Gift title screen
The Gift
Writer/actor Joel Edgerton really can knock ‘em out, can’t he? Here he adds a director’s string to his bow, in a nails-down-a-blackboard tale of an awkward old school friend (Edgerton) reappearing in the life of Jason Bateman, who has returned to live in their old home town with his wife Rebecca Hall. Some dark shit ensues.

Rear Window title screen
Rear Window
Hitchcock’s paean to peeping toms.

A Week In Film #388: Hitting targets

Basic title screen
Terrible, terrible film. I expected more, and McTiernan let me down. A convoluted Agatha-Christie-in-cammo mystery, with disgraced DEA agent John Travolta brought in to investigate deaths on a Ranger training exercise in Panama with the clock ticking away and that Scieftologist who played Phoebe from Friends’ thick brother doing a very odd accent and Sam Jackson barely in it and, um, some other people doing, well, stuff. Did I mention it’s terrible?

Hitler: Rise Of Evil title screen
Hitler: Rise Of Evil
Okay, so technically a mini-series, but at two parts it’s basically an extended TVM split into a pair of episodes. Both engaging and ridiculous; simultaneously compelling and contemptible. An American actor (Stockard Channing) plays an Austrian character (Adolf’s mum) with an English accents; meanwhile, an Englishman (Robert Glenister) playing a German (Anton Drexler) adopts some kind of a Brooklyn-style American twang. Go figure.

Anyway, Robert Carlyle does at least give the Corporal a fair go, trying to capture his drive and his mania, his incomprehensible ideology and his growing charisma whilst upper class and bourgeois rightists convince themselves they have him on a leash. Direction by Christian Duguay is, you know, by no means incompetent.

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Killing Oswald
Fairly pedestrian documentary about the reputed sole assassin of JFK, which flags up lots of peculiar details in the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, but never convincingly nails down anything other than ‘this is a bit peculiar’.

The Devil’s Double title screen
The Devil’s Double
Underpowered ‘true story’ (i.e. not in any way verified) affair, about an Iraqi army officer sequestered to be a doppelgänger for psychopathic presidential son Uday Hussein, with Dominic Cooper in the lead, directed by Lee Tamahori.

Square Grouper title screen
Square Grouper
Interesting enough documentary about three different sets of weed smugglers in 70s/80s Florida.

Rising Sun title screen
Rising Sun
Not exactly thrilling thriller about a pair of LA cops investigating the murder of a woman at a Japanese corporate party. Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes and Harvey Keitel each have their qualities, but throw their three different acting styles together and it’s a mess. Not Philip Kaufman’s finest two hours.

Haywire title screen
Excellent Steven Soderbergh joint about an ex-military private contractor (Gina Carano) trying to figure out who has stitched her up and why. Great cast includes Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Matthieu Kassovitz. Sublimely choreographed action, impressionistic editing, lots of diegetic sound, a genre plot but one which isn’t spooned to the audience, and innovative use of less familiar locations – a real joy.

Pain & Gain title screen
Pain & Gain
Possibly the only Michael Bay film I will ever unequivocally enjoy – three muscly bozos get high on self-actualising seminar guru bullshit, coke and steroids, and decide that the best way to make their fortune is by kidnapping rich clients and torturing them until they sign over their shit. Great central performances from Marky Mark, The Rock and Anthony Mackie from The Hurt Locker, impeccable support from Tony Shalhoub as the world’s most unlikeable victim, plus Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, Rob Corddry, Michael Rispoli etc. And some really great visuals (e.g. Requiem For A Dream-style chest rigs, ultra-slomo and worm-eye view shots for chase scenes).

A Week In Film #387: Hmmm

The LLF had never seen it – unbelievable. Nice, zippy 80s John McTeirnan-directed actioner, with Arnie, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Shane Black and Richard Chaves on a secret jungle mission and becoming prey – along with captured Marxist guerilla Elpidia Carrillo – for an alien big game hunter.

Top Dog
I’m game for giving most things a spin; for cutting everyone a little slack; for making allowances for unpolished charm. But this – a football hooligan/gangster yarn – was shit. Good bits: Ricci Harnett was actually very good as a mid-league gangster of unspecified type, and the female parts (Lorraine Stanley, Nicole Faraday, Susan Penhaligon) are at least more substantial than most in these types of films. Bad bits: terrible script that just sort of stops (that would be Dougie Brimson’s fault), and director that does nothing to engage the audience (Martin Kemp’s fault). Leo Gregory shows flashes of acting chops in the lead, but is mostly just a bit vacant looking.

Vendetta title screen
Somewhat unexciting ‘thriller’, in which cop Dean Cain gets himself sent to prison to avenge his pregnant wife murdered by a gang boss. The first time I’ve heard of the Soska Sisters, and hopefully the last.

Something Wild title screen
Something Wild
I first saw this late night on BBC2 introduced by Alex Cox as part of the Moviedrome strand. I remember him flagging up the cameos by directors John Waters (used car salesman) and John Sayles (motorcycle cop). Anyway, an enjoyable twist on the eighties cycle of ‘yuppie in jeopardy’ movies, with white-collar management goon Jeff Daniels hooking up with meta-manic pixie dream girl Melanie Griffiths and going off on a road movie journey into self-discovery. En route: recently paroled psycho con Ray Liotta, the Feelies as a band at a high school reunion, and lots of great music (and some great shots of New York). Definitely one of Jonathan Demme’s best.

Die Hard title screen
Die Hard
Peak McTiernan, with Bruce Willis never better than here as world weary New York cop John McClane, in LA to try and win back his estranged wife Bonnie Bedelia at just the moment a bunch of Eurotrash terrorists-cum-robbers led by Alan Rickman. AND THE QUARTERBACK IS TOAST!