Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Week In Film #429: Mainly deadness

The Thin Blue Line title screen
The Thin Blue Line
Groundbreaking is probably too strong a word, but this film by Errol Morris certainly helped shape the form and direction of documentaries that came after it – here he presents a compelling (if sometimes arguably disingenuous) case that a man convicted of a cop killing was railroaded.

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The NSU-Complex
Persuasive documentary dealing with the German neo-nazi movement from which sprang the National Socialist Underground, from Stefan Must (of RAF fame) and Dirk Laabs. Lots of material, particularly on the relationship between security agencies (at both Bundes- and Land- level) and the far right violent activists whom they were supposed to be monitoring, which silly has not been covered much in the English language media.

Hail, Caesar! title screen
Hail, Caesar!
Lesser Coen Bros business, with Clooney mugging up as a thirties movie heartthrob kidnapped by secret Hollywood Reds. Considerably less fun than it seems to think.

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Sarajevo AKA Das Attentat
Stodgy but compelling historical drama about the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, seen from the perspective of a dogged outsider investigator, Cabrinovic (Mateusz Dopieralski) – a Jew amongst gentiles, with a habit of looking too closely at matters his superiors would wish him forget. Interesting nods towards the Second World War, Kennedy, and the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq from director Andreas Prochaska and writer Martin Ambrosch. The Dr Sattler (Heino Ferch) strand is, however, a little too well semaphored, and melodramatic to boot.

Aces High title screen
Aces High
Jack Gold’s mid-seventies curiosity stages JC Sherriff’s Great War-set trench tragedy Journey’s End in the skies above the Western Front; Malcolm McDowell is our battle weary unit commander ever more reliant on the bottle, Simon Ward his combat fatigued junior, Christopher Plummer the kindly father figure, Peter Firth the wide eyed ingenue.

Network title screen
Network
Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s satire on the direction of news entertainment – mad as hell, etc. NEWSFLASH: things got even worse. Great performances from William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty, Arthur Burghardt and all.

A Week In Film #428: SRSLY

The Last Man On The Moon title screenThe Last Man On The Moon
Nice little documentary about astronaut Eugene Cernan, the ‘last man to walk on the moon’ during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Well assembled by filmmaker Mark Craig.

London Has Fallen title screen
London Has Fallen
Astonishingly overblown gung ho franchise nonsense, relocated from the Washington D.C. of the original Olympus Has Fallen to the British capital. Presidential bodyguard Gerard Butler is now a full-blown sadistic fascist bully boy, his Commander-in-Chief Aaron Eckhart reduced to little more than a fleshy package to be delivered. The odd moderately interesting action sequence, but mostly a leaden melange of iffy digital effects and unimaginative staging, directed by the bloke who helmed the first Snabba Cash sequel, written by four people with the sorts of names that should you receive an email from them you’d immediately consign it to the spam folder.

A Week In Film #427: More fucking nights

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Nick Of Time
Absolutely inconsequential, but a pleasure to watch – an in-real-time thriller, with accountant Johnny Depp picked at random after stepping off a train in LA to carry out a political assassination by psycho Christopher Walken and his partner Roma Maffia, or risk his young daughter being killed.

Directed with vim by John Badham, written by Patrick Sheane Duncan (84C MoPic, Courage Under Fire), great little bit part for Charles S Dutton.

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Body Heat
Lawrence Kasdan does film noir, in a sticky, sweaty Floridian coastal town, with William Hurt as a mediocre-at-best local lawyer letting himself be ruled by his dick, and jumping into an inappropriate relationship with a rich real estate magnate’s trophy wife (Kathleen Turner). Some really rather wonderful moments in it, and superb performances (from the leads, Richard Crenna as the creepy husband, Mickey Rourke in an early cameo, Ted Danson and JA Preston as the lawyer’s pals.

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Heist (2015)
‘I quite liked that Haywire’ you said, ‘I wonder what else Gina Carano has done?’ A bunch of shit, it turns out. Here she is as a cop caught up in the aftermath of a casino robbery in Alabama.

British director Scott Mann is an interesting proposition – he was also responsible for The Tournament, which had a sort of Amicus/seventies genre feel to it, spliced with 80s Seagal-type action movies, but with more ambition than budget. For that one he secured big (or biggish, in their time) names including Robert Carlyle, Ving Rhames and Sébastien Foucan; here he has Bobby De Niro, former wrestler Dave Bautista, Morris Chestnut (big splash in Boyz In The Hood, more recently starring in TV series Rosewood and Legends) and, erm, Mark-Paul Gosselaar from Saved By The Bell.

It’s full of clichés, it’s leaden, there’s no real heartbeat to it, it lacks pace, but there are some moments of interest. Slapped arse-faced Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes for a decent enough lead here. And DB Sweeney has a supporting role, as seems customary in these fast turnaround VOD days. Written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher (who also plays a robber) and Max Adams.

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Extraction
Another contemporary grindhouse actioner, again written by Max Adams (with Umair Aleem), this time directed by Stephen C Miller, with Bruce Willis the big name in a bit part skilfully woven in to give the illusion of a bigger role – a veteran CIA field officer.

Meanwhile, the real heavy lifting is done by Kellan Lutz (from the Twilight movies) as his son, who has tried to follow his father’s footsteps into the Company but come up short, despite help from his dad’s pal (and now Jnr’s boss), DB Sweeney. Oh, and look, there’s Gina Carano as his ass-kicking Agency-employed old flame!

Nothing really of note – no really memorable fight scenes, and really no acting of any kind worth recounting. Though I do like how the plot – about a MacGuffin which will destroy the world – is purportedly stolen by international terrorists and then, uh, transported to New Jersey, meaning cheaper locations can be used.

A Week In Film #426: Getting behind again

Misconduct title screen
Misconduct
My kinda thing – trashy, disposable, overwrought. Josh Duhamel is a dickish young attorney cheating on his missus (Alice Eve) and doing unethical things to get himself noticed by his boss (Al Pacino). Anthony Hopkins is a dickish old pharmaceutical company boss doing horrible things to his missus (Malin Åkerman) and, etc. Never heard of director Shintaro Shimosawa, but based on this would probably watch more.

The Accountant title screen
The Accountant
Ben Affleck tries to tread on Matt Damon’s toes, here as a mob accountant specialising in forensic auditing. Not groundbreaking, not awful. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, scripted by Bill Dubuque, with Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons and Jon Bernthal. Tips of the cap to The Brotherhood Of The Rose, Three Days Of The Condor and, obviously, Bourne.

Jason Bourne title screen
Jason Bourne
So-so franchise retread, with titular rogue assassin (Matt Damon) still on the run and now fully cognisant of his bloody past, but soon to be dragged into shady Langley shenanigans once more via the agency of a now also rogue Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who Snowden/Wikileaks-style hacks into the Agency’s records and discoverzzzzz… Vincent Cassel makes for an impressively weathered programme asset; Tommy Lee Jones drew the short straw to become this episode’s Haggard Character Actor As Amoral Management Bad Guy.

Judgment Night title screen
Judgment Night
Tacky, offensive and shallow, but still very watchable – a bunch of middle class suburbanites heading off to watch a championship boxing match get trapped in a dangerous ghetto neighbourhood being hunted by drug dealers. Hints of Assault On Precinct 13, Trespass and The People Under The Stairs, but lacking their wit, charm or social comment. With Emilio Estevez, Cuba Godding Jnr, Jeremy Piven and Stephen Dorff as the hunted, Denis Leary and Everest from House of Pain as the hunters. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare On Elm Street 5, Predator 2) and co-written by Lewis Colick, who previously had worked on the taut yuppie terror movie Unlawful Entry.

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Anthropoid
Not terrible modern Hollywood take on the SOE mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich – but totally superfluous given far stronger previous efforts such as Atentat. And enough with the crappy accents, Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan! Director Sean Ellis did the excellent low budget drama Cashback a decade back; he still has a flair for strong composition and letting his actors’ faces do the work.

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Hell Or High Water
Really strong modern Western with intriguing noirish notes. Chris pine and Ben Foster are a pair of Texan brothers on a mission – and the mission involves robbing banks. Jeff Bridges is the lawman on their tail. Directed by David Mackenzie (whose work includes Hallam Foe and Starred Up, neither of which I’ve seen but will as soon as I get the chance), and scripted by Taylor Sheridan (who played the strait-laced sheriff’s deputy David Hale in the first couple of series of Sons Of Anarchy, as well as writing Sicario).

Inherent Vice title screen
Inherent Vice
Significantly less enjoyable than I expected it to be. Joaquin Phoenix as a stoner private detective navigating weird conspiracies in seventies California, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and based on a Thomas Pynchon novel.

A Week In Film #425: Into 2017

Rogue Agent title screen
Rogue Agent
A young man recruited into a private intelligence company subcontracted for the CIA soon finds himself out of his depth after his first operation goes tits-up. James Floyd is convincingly sub-par; Anthony LaPaglia provides heft as his new boss. Decent, un exemplary thriller from director Kai Barry and writing collaborator Igbal Ahmed.

Cold Comes The Night title screen
Cold Comes The Night
Pleasingly twisted neonoir about a single mom (Alice Eve) who gets stuck between a rock and a hard place after a mob bagman (Bryan Cranston) visits the sleazy motel where she works as a receptionist. Writers Oz Perkins and Nick Simon play with the conventions of the femme fatale, whilst director Tze Chun provides confident direction.

Too Late title screen
Too Late
Ambitious sunshine gumshoe noir from Dennis Hauck, who breaks up his story – about a private dick (John Hawkes – Sol Starr from Deadwood) searching for justice for a woman (Crystal Reed) – into five long single take scenes. He also messes up the narrative timeline, keeping the audience on its toes, and throws in some nice red herrings along the way, whilst hinting at seventies dick updates (Elliott Gould, James Garner, Paul Newman). Excellent turns from Dash Mihok and Vail Bloom, and Robert Forster and Jeff Fahey are solid in their little corner of the film.

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High-Rise
Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel didn’t seem to get unanimous acclaim when it came out, but I thought it succeeded on every level – great cast (Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Elizabeth Moss, Luke Evans, Peter Ferdinando, Augustus Prew, Keeley Hawes, Jeremy Irons), looks beautiful, perfect soundtrack (Clint Mansell), and a fine update of the early seventies social satire/post-apocalypse shocker.