Monthly Archives: February 2018

A Week In Film #485: War and pieces

The Game
Stylishly executed if intellectually bereft 80s-style thriller from David Fincher, with cynical, rich Michael Douglas dragged in to a dark conspiracy by his feckless younger brother Sean Penn.

The Wall (2017)
Strong little flick about a two-man US Army sniper team (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena) ensnared at a remote Iraqi pipeline by a dangerous, well-hidden foe. Nicely written by Dwain Worrell, effectively directed by Doug Liman.

Angels One Five title screenAngels One Five
Well-made, if old fashioned, war-in-the-air effort, with replacement pilot ‘Septic’ (John Gregson at his nervy, dour best) finding it hard to fit into veteran RAF officer Jack Hawkins’ squadron as the Battle of Britain heats up. All the tropes are there, but it’s handled well by director George More O’Ferrall.

El Hombre De Las Mil Caras AKA Smoke And Mirrors
A very interesting story – shady arms dealer and intelligence asset Francisco Paesa, and his involvement in selling jarked hardware to ETA on behalf of the Spanish government in the 1980s – is somewhat muddled here, in its attempt to make its protagonist seem more likeable. Still, worth a watch, some good performances (Eduard Fernández in the lead, Carlos Santos as his former nemesis), directed by Alberto Rodríguez.

36 Hours title screen36 Hours
Nice idea, not exactly excitingly executed – Allied officer with foreknowledge of impending D-Day landings (James Garner) is kidnapped by German intelligence and deposited in a fake American field hospital where they try to convince him he has been in a coma for years in a bid to get him to reveal details of where the landings will take place. Can’t fault the cast (Rod Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, Werner Peters) or the concept; it’s just very soapily handled. Written and directed by George Seaton.

The Way Ahead
Naked propaganda concocted by Peter Ustinov, Eric Ambler and Carol Reed, but my, brilliantly done. David Niven plays the rookie officer, trying with his Regular sergeant Bill Hartnell, to lick an unpromising bunch of civvy conscripts into shape in the aftermath of Dunkirk. With great character actors including Stanley Holloway, John Laurie, James DonaldHugh Burden and Leslie Dwyer. Ustinov himself gets to show off his languages in a cameo as a reluctantly liberated cafe proprietor in North Africa.

This Is the End title screenThis Is the End
Indulgent wank from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, turning a promising skit idea into a feature-length yawnfest. Various actors Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride etc) get caught up in an apocalyptic event in LA. Not much exciting happens, just semi-improvised rubbish.

The Wooden Horse
A POW camp escape classic, just five years after the end of the war, with Jack Lee directing an adaptation of Eric Williams’ true life account of the vaulting horse-based break from Stalag Left III. Leo Genn, David Tomlinson and Anthony Steel are the escapers.

A Week In Film #484: Being boiled

Mr Bean’s Holiday title screen
Mr Bean’s Holiday
Actually pretty watchable big screen outing for Rowan Atkinson’s largely inaudible buffoon, on a trip across Europe (thingshappen, plans change, innocents are drawn in, etc. Affectionately put together.

The Silence Of The Lambs title screenThe Silence Of The Lambs
Ham and liver, again.

Fury title screenFury
Grim, grimy war action from David Ayer, with dead-eyed Sherman commander Brad Pitt leading a battle-hardened tank crew (Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña) through Germany in the dying stages of WWII, supplemented by young replacement Logan Lerman. Not as meaningful as it seems to think, but not insignificant.

High Crimes
Trashy thriller from Carl Franklin (Devil In A Blue Dress), with Ashley Judd as a high-flying attorney defending her carpenter husband (James Caviezel) who is accused of being a soldier who committed an atrocity in El Salvador. With Morgan Freeman as an alcoholic ex-JAG lawyer she brings in to assist, alongside an inexperienced young officer (Adam Scott) and her flaky younger sister (Amanda Peet). The odd little twist, but nothing amazing.

Snake Eyes title screenSnake Eyes
Exhilarating little De Palma flick, with Nicolas Cage as a bent-but-likeable Atlantic City cop drawn into a shady assassination conspiracy at a championship boxing match. With Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino and Stan Shaw.

Training Day title screenTraining Day
Denzel Washington as a shark of a corrupt LAPD detective, constantly moving forwards in order to try and remain predator rather than prey; Ethan Hawke the straight arrow rookie partner forced to adapt or die, all during the course of a single day.

The Hunt For Red October
Soviet submariner Sean Connery plays underwater chess with CIA analyst Alec Baldwin. Solidly helmed by John McTiernan.

A Week In Film #483: Safely on the board

Safe House

Semi-retread of Three Days Of The Condor, with junior CIA dogsbody Ryan Reynolds dragged into a shady conspiracy. Inconsequential, watchable action fluff from Daniel Espinosa.

Same ball park as Toast but not as wittily executed. Julian Barratt is a has-been actor best-known for playing the lead in a crappy 80s detective show who tries to relive his glory days by running around the Isle of Man hunting down an escaped madman. Written by Barratt and fellow cast member Simon Farnaby, directed by Sean Foley.


Another outing for L.A. Takedown v2.0.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Martin Ritt’s peerless le Carré adaptation, with Richard Burton as burned out ex-intelligence officer Alec Leamas our tethered goat.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Not as good as the hype seemed to suggest, but certainly very watchable. Definitely a black comedy rather than a drama. Written and directed by my second favourite filmmaking McDonagh. Good cast – Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage.

9 Rota title screen
9 Rota AKA 9th Company
‘The Russian Platoon’ and all that – bunch of kids conscripted into the army are swiftly dehumanised by the brutality of war (here Afghanistan rather than Viet Nam). Of course, we have our grizzled veteran NCOs to help lick them into shape, etc. Flag-waving, bombastic guff from Fedor Bondarchuk, but not without a professional gleam.

Battle Of Britain

Rousing stuff from Guy Hamilton, with never-bettered aerial sequences.

Freeway: Crack In The System

Fierce documentary from Marc Levin about Freeway Rick Ross, the man apocryphally said to have caused the crack epidemic in America.

The Bone Collector

Silly hunt-the-serial-killer shenanigans, with paralysed forensics boffin teaming up with rookie beat cop Angelina Jolie to catch a trophy-keeping psycho in New York. Dreck rather than dross from Phillip Noyce.

A Week In Film #482: ALMOST All New

Michael Collins title screenMichael Collins
Decent enough biopic from Neil Jordan, with pre-Full Neeson Liam doing a good job at bringing the Big Fella to tragic life. Alan Rickman is also ace as creepy old De Valera, Aidan Quinn as a wet-eyed Harry Boland, Stephen Rea as a nervous mole, plus Ian Hart and Brendan Gleeson, and Julia Roberts providing some Hollywood star power.

London Heist
Only the second feature from TV show dude Mark McQueen (previously he banged out better-than-many zombie flick Devil’s Playground), working on a story and script from middle-aged cockney geezer leading man Craig Fairbrass, who here is an ageing gangster pulling off one last job, discovering the truth about some personal trauma from way back, etc. It’s not a great film, it’s not very original, but there are some commendable performance moments, and it is at least somewhat ambitious. Cast also includes Roland Manookian, James Cosmo, Nick Moran, Steven Berkoff, and Nathalie Cox.

Maze title screenMaze
Old fashioned POW escape film, but done about the 1983 Maze breakout. Best bits about writer-director Stephen Burke’s debut feature-length drama is its two leads – Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as brooding Provo planner Larry, and Barry Ward as PTSD-stricken Protestant screw Gordon – and the weaving into the story of their (dysfunctional, far-off) home lives.

The November War
Long form fly-on-the-wall documentary about a USMC unit involved in the Second Battle of Fallujah at the end of 2004. Co-directors Garrett Anderson and Antonio de la Torre bring together a lot of sensitivity to their material.

The Trust title screenThe Trust
Enjoyable if ultimately rather slight dark comedy about a pair of unexceptional Las Vegas cops who plan and execute a heist to steal dirty money from crooks. Things rattle along nicely, with a viscerally satisfying dark turn towards the end. With Elijah Wood and Nicolas Cage. Directed by the Brewer brothers.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy title screenTinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tomas Alfredson’s high quality but still imperfect le Carré adaptation.