Monthly Archives: July 2017

A Week In Film #455: Picking up the pace

Mission: Impossible
Brian de Palma’s version of a studio movie – here rebooting an old TV show – is almost always worth your time; here is no mistake. So much for the eyes to feast on, and with superb physical gags, all woven together in a sophisticated structure that elevates a silly movie. With Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Béart, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Rolf Saxon, Henry Czerny and Emilio Estéfez amongst the talent.

The Age Of Adaline
So-so drama in the vein of The Time Traveller’s Wife, with Blake Lively as a woman born near the start of the twentieth century who, after an accident when she was 29, no longer ages. There follows abandoned relationships, a life of drifting, the inability to build lasting relationships, etc. But lo! A romance beckons! Michael Huisman plays the guy from 2016 whom she falls for; Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker are his parents. Not terrible, but it’s not something I’d likely watch again on purpose. From director Lee Toland Krieger from a script by J Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz.

Obviously the real life story of the post-war occupation of Japan by MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) and the US Army is one that requires a romantic sub-plot, so here’s Party Of Five’s Matthew Fox as Brigadier General Bonner Fellers (in real life an inveterate anti-Communist and member of the John Birch Society) trying to hunt down former love Eriko Hatsune, whilst simultaneously investigating whether Emperor Hirohito should face war crimes charges. Interesting story, just not here. Directed by Peter Webber.

Jodorowosky’s Dune
Interesting doc by Frank Pavich investigating the movie that never was – the planned adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal sixties SF novel Dune by Chilean visionary Alejandro Jodorowsky, told entirely in the words of interviewees – including the man himself, designers Chris Foss and HR Giger, Salvador Dali’s muse Amanda Lear, Jodorowsky’s son Brontis, fellow directors and fans Richard Stanley and Nicolas Winding Refn, and producer Michel Seydoux.

Murder By Decree
So-so ersatz Conan Doyle, with Christopher Plummer adequate as an unusually empathetic Holmes, assisted by an excellent Watson (James Mason), investigating the Whitechapel murders. It’s all very much the whole Stephen Knight Masonic conspiracy business, and given the excellent cast (Donald Sutherland, John Gielgud, David Hemmings etc) it is very pedestrian. Unlike that year’s similarly Victorian themed The First Great Train Robbery, which filmed its location work in Dublin, this was shot around London, yet looks almost entirely stdio-bound. The guilty director is one Bob Clark, best known for the Porky’s series.

Odd early Troubles drama, with Rod Steiger as a Catholic ex-British soldier who having resisted pressure from the Provos to help them, snaps when his family is killed in a ropey Bloody Sunday-style massacre. Not great, and plodding in places, but interesting location work, early appearances for the likes of John Shrapnel (with hair!) and Patrick Stewart, and surprisingly dark – suicide bombers and the dirty war and all that. Directed by Don Sharp from a script by John Gay – a pair of journeymen and there’s no shame in that.

A Week In Film #454: RWD & Dedication

Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s reboot of his post-apocalyptic road warrior mythology admirably throws aside his principal character in favour of Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, turning Tom Hardy into well-photographed eye-candy – bravo. Great effects and stunts and visualisation and design and everything, really – absolutely relentless.

The Holcroft Covenant
Picking up on my irregular mission to work through Michael Caine’s entire oeuvre, I finally finished this piece of crap after months of trying. Based on a Robert Ludlum novel about the descendants of senior Nazis being given the task of disbursing billions of dollars-worth of money stashed away for the benefit of the victims of the Holocaust, it’s directed by John Frankenheimer, who should be very ashamed. By comparison Caine gets a free pass, seeing as he was drafted in at the eleventh hour to replace James Can, who was originally going to be the leading man. Probably the only truly enjoyable moments come from Swiss actor Mario Adorf (seen by British audiences in Smiley’s People) as a particularly sweaty conductor.

The Marseille Contract
More Caine – here as a professional hitman hired by a DEA agent (Anthony Quinn) to assassinate a French drugs trafficker (James Mason) in, yes, Marseilles. Directed in a very old fashioned style by Robert Parrish (perhaps best known for the original, Tijuana-scored Casino Royale), thanks to the performances of solid actors like Quinn and Mason, there are at least movements of interest, even if the plot and script are hardly setting the world on fire with their originality.

A Week In Film #453: More Bourned than Bonded

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Enjoyable franchise extender, which manages to balance out Bourne and Bond tendencies exquisitely in a hokey, globetrotting yarn about spies and assassins. With Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alex Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris. Absolutely superfluous plot, but beautifully executed set pieces from writer-director Chris McQuarrie.

War For The Planet Of The Apes
Excellent return to the reboot series from Dawn director Matt Reeves, who visualises a post-virus world where apes and humans struggle for survival and/or supremacy impeccably. Sterling work introducing concepts and cues from the original series, and absolutely astounding effects. For what is in large part a movie without (human) dialogue, the acting is impeccable, with Andy Serkis setting the bar high as Casear. Steve Zahn’s new character brings some welcome relief, though there is great pathos there too. Woody Harrelson’s driven human character is perhaps the only bum note – Harrelson has played this kind of conflicted, dangerous man (and Matthew McConaughey’s soldier in Reign Of Fire seems a decent reference point too) so much better elsewhere, and there is a wholly needless scene involving a massive chunk of overcooked exposition that does let the film down. Still very good though.

A Week In Film #452: Old school

Get Shorty title screen
Get Shorty
Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel about a Miami loanshark (John Travolta) chasing a debt and ending up trying to become a movie producer in Hollywood is an enjoyable little treat, with sly performances from the likes of Danny De Vito, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, James Gandolfini, Delroy Linda, Dennis Farina and Bette Midler. But I still have the same sense I had when I came out of the theatre after seeing it in 1995 – that they just didn’t bother properly finishing it.

A Week In Film #451: Rewind

Resurrection Man
Something of a missed opportunity to capture the terror generated in 1970s Belfast by the murderous Shankill Butchers gang, with Eoin McNamee adapting his own novel for director Marc Evans. Whilst there are some nice touches, it never really hits the mark. Cast includes Stuart Townsend, John Hannah and James Nesbitt.

A Most Violent Year
JC Chandor’s excellent drama set in early 1980s New York, where small heating oil company boss Oscar Isaac and his wife Jessica Chastain are desperately trying to survive in the face of hijackings, shady competitors, investigation by the authorities and business deals which fall away. Chandor declines at almost every turn the impulse to throw in the overfamiliar action or suspense tropes, and the work benefits – giving more space to the actors to instead simply act.