Monthly Archives: April 2017

A Week In Film #441: Hmmm

Oklahoma City title screen
Oklahoma City
Powerful documentary by Barak Goodman about the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in 1993 by Timothy McVeigh, and the circumstances leading up to it, such as Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Ambushed 1998 title screen
Ambushed (1998)
Started promisingly for a shlocky thriller – a man is brutally murdered one night witnessed by his son! Turns out he was a KKK leader! The FBI team includes a black Agent! Soon the kid and the Agent are on the run together! – but it’s spoiled by a prematurely signalled twist and over-long, poorly staged action sequences.

With Courtney B Vance (Law & Order), Virginia Madsen, Robert Patrick and Jeremy Lelliott as the kid (with a voice seemingly borrowed from Edward Furlong), plus super-brief cameos from the likes of William Forsythe, David Keith and William Sadler. Director Ernest Dickerson was a long-time Spike Lee collaborator who debuted helming his own movies with Juice; but after a bunch of lacklustre efforts like this, by the mid 2000s he wisely concentrated on directing epsisodes of TV shows like The Wire, The Walking Dead, Dexter and Treme.

Crossfire title screen
Solid noir from Edward Dmytryk about GIs returned home after the war getting caught up in an anti-semitic murder (changed from the homophobic killing of the source novel). With Roberts Ryan, Mitchum and Young, plus Gloria Grahame and Jacqueline White.

TITLEstarwarsepisode7theforceawakensStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens title screen
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Kudos to JJ Abrams for taking the series back to its in-camera effects, live action roots. Some stunning action sequences, great characters, great villains, and a sweeping, epic arc. Plenty to commend it.

A Week In Film #440: Meagre pickings

Spotlight title screen
Old fashioned reporters-in-search-of-truth story, based on the real investigation by Boston Globe journalists of the abuse of youngsters by Catholic priests and the cover-up by their church over many decades.

Very strong cast – Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian D’Arcy, Live Schreiber, John Slattery – and a poignant topic, but simply does not have the power of, say, All The President’s Men. That said, few things do. Only just noticed it was directed by Tom McCarthy, who as an actor played the fabricator journo Scott Templeton in the close-to-parody fifth season of The Wire.

The Godfather Part III title screenThe Godfather Part III
Hey, I watched it because I got given the trilogy boxed set, and felt I had to give it a go. But it really was as bad as I remembered it. Shame on Coppola – such interesting themes (Banco Ambroisano, Pope JP1, Roberto Calvi, P2 etc), wasted. And characters previously drawn beautifully (Al Neri, Connie) here sketched out in neon glow wax crayons.

Oh, and Sofia Coppola and ANDY! GARCIA! doing their best to sabotage proceedings.

Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack Of The Clones title screen
Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack Of The Clones
Not as bad as Menace, not as good as Revenge.

The Hateful Eight title screen
The Hateful Eight
The least interesting Tarantino yet – a locked room mystery type affair, with a bunch of cowboy types stuck in a road house during a blizzard, with bounty hunters Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson both trying to get to Red Rock with their quarries (variously alive – Jennifer Jason Leigh – and dead) in order to claim their money, but suspicious of the strangers with whom they find themselves – Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir. Lots of talking, some violence, not much spark.

A Week In Film #439: Nothing original

Tak3n title screen
More Liam Neeson silliness, with Besson protégé Oliver Megaton the appropriately-monickered helmsman once again. This time round someone has targeted ex-Cia hardman Bryan Mills’ ex-wife (Fame Janssen), and fabricated evidence pointing to him, so before you know it he’s darting around causing mayhem and offing bad guys and generally being a badass. No Albanians, but there are former Spetsnaz mercenaries.

Edge Of Darkness title screen
Edge Of Darkness
Martin Campbell manages to suck all of the nuance and subtlety and sophistication of his acclaimed 1980s TV series (penned by Troy Kennedy Martin) out of this 2010 remake. Mel Gibson is no Bob Peck, Ray Winstone has no chance to inhabit Jedburgh, there’s cardboard cut-out bad guys, and it’s all a waste of time and money and effort, even if there is one mildly exciting action sequence.

A Week In Film #438: Without incident

Phantom (2013) title screen
Phantom (2013)
A not wholly unsuccessful thriller about a 1980s Soviet submariner (Ed Harris) who must overcome the odds in order to avoid precipitating World War 3. Decent cast includes William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen and David Duchovny, and director Todd Robinson is perfectly competent, though it’s lacking in the pizazz department.

The Flight Of The Phoenix title screen
The Flight Of The Phoenix
Minor Robert Aldrich action melodrama, imbued with more than a hint of Ice Cold In Alex.

Here a burnt out commercial pilot (Jimmy Stewart) finds himself ditching in the middle of the Sahara with a hold full of passengers being ferried to Benghazi after a stint working at a remote oil installation. With the water supply fast running out and no working radio, they must figure out a way to get to civilisation – and arrogant German aero engineer Hardy Kruger thinks he knows how.

Some great character actors – including Dicky Attenborough as the navigator; Peter Finch as a stiff-upper-lip British officer, and Ronald Fraser as his had-it-up-to-here sergeant; Ian Bannen as a sarcastic Scot; doctor Christian Marquand; quiet older fellow Dan Duryea; and Ernest Borgnine as a sun-happy foreman.