Monthly Archives: November 2018

A Week In Film #524: Peaking duck

State Of Play
So-so Hollywood retooling of Paul Abbott’s mini-series about newspaper reporters and politicians and a violent death setting off a chain reaction of interconnected events. Directed by Kevin Macdonald, with Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren holding up the journalistic end of things, and Ben Affleck and Jeff Daniels on the congressional side. Some decent enough moments, but no heart of its own, and largely comprising a patchwork of familiar tropes.

Debbie Isitt’s seasonal family movie is wafer-thin, but still thoroughly enjoyable, with uptight teacher Martin Freeman mugging his way through everything in a Freemanly way, whilst Marc Wootton bounces off the walls as man-child classroom assistant Mr Poppy, and assorted Real Life Kids say all sorts of Things Real Kids Say. Jason Watkins puts in a good turn as a rival school’s nativity impresario.

Chris Nolan’s brain-melting action SF thriller made for a very tasty filling in between slices of his Batman, and still stands the test of time, so long as you don’t try and think about it too much and just let yourself be immersed. Awesome Hans Zimmer score, and normally I find him turgid.

Tango & Cash
One of those eighties muscle Mary buddy action comedies that I remembering seeing video cases and posters for, but never actually watching. TBH I wasn’t missing much, apart from a muddled, messy, confused film that doesn’t know whether it wants to be serious or funny, dark or light. With Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell as chalk-and-cheese LA detectives stitched up by a drug lord, backed up by decent character actors like Geoffrey Lewis and Brion James, and directed variously by Andrei Konchalovsky, Albert Magnoli and Peter MacDonald.

A Week In Film #523: 1/3

Blade Runner 2049
Less than impressed by this uncalled for sequel; can’t really fault Ryan Gosling in the lead, or Denis Villeneuve’s direction – but there’s no story there, and it adds nothing of depth or bite to the original.

Star Wars: Rogue One title screenRogue One
Gareth Edwards’ Seven Samurai-but-darker Star Wars sidequel, which succeeds in dirtying up the world, and sets things up for A New Hope perfectly. Great cast – Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn as the main baddie – and impressively grim ending.

Runaway Jury title screenRunaway Jury
Another enjoyable Grisham adaptation, this time helmed by Gary Fleder, whose not-exactly-exemplary CV includes Kiss The Girls. This time we’re focusing on thirtysomething gadabout John Cusack seemingly attempting to evade jury service in New Orleans as a case against a gun manufacturer implicated in a massacre cranks up. Absolute hogwash but entertaining. With Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven and Bruce McGill.

A Week In Film #522: CAKE AND KAZOOS

The Rainmaker title screenThe Rainmaker
Coppola vs Grisham, with young working class lawyer Matt Damon teaming up with ambulance-chasing ex-insurance investigator Danny De Vito to take on The Man – a big, bad insurance company represented by a hotshot Memphis law firm led by Jon Voight. Solid, soapy court room stuff, with slightly distracting side-plot involving domestic violence survivor Claire Danes.

22 July title screen22 July
Paul Greengrass attempts to revisit the docudrama-like success of United 93 on the horrendous child-killing mass murder of right wing Norwegian fruit loop Anders Breivik. It’s a powerful story, but a less powerful film, one which doesn’t square the ‘realism’ with the standard movie tropes it employs. Plus the spell of ‘realism’ is somewhat undermined by a cast of Norwegian actors speaking in English.

Den Of Thieves title screenDen Of Thieves
Pretty darn good heist movie from first-timer Christian Gudegast. Whilst there’s little truly original here – plenty of familiar nuggets from Heat and The Usual Suspects, for instance – it is accomplished and polished. There are good performances from the likes of Gerard Butler as the leader of a team of bent LA Sheriff’s Department cops, and Pablo Schreiber as his criminal counterpart, the brains behind the ex-military crew taking down big scores, as well as O’Shea Jackson, Curtis Jackson and Cooper Andrews. Some excellent robbery scenes, and a nice satisfying (if pat) switcheroo twist.

We’re The Millers title screenWe’re The Millers
Watchable if insubstantial comedy from DodgeBall’s Rawson Marshall Thurber. Smalltime weed dealer Jason Sudeikis recruits virginal neighbour Will Poulter, cynical stripper Jennifer Aniston and sassy street kid Emma Roberts to pretend to be his suburban family so he can smuggle an RV full of cheeba back from Mexico. Hilarity, or something vaguely approximating that, ensues. With Ed Helms as the douchey white collar kingpin on whose behalf the ‘Millers’ are working, Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as a whitebread couple they meet along the way.

Tarnished Heroes
Lo-fi, low budget British war movie about a small band of military convicts given the chance to atone for their crimes by going on a suicide mission behind enemy lines – sort of a less entertaining dry run for The Dirty Dozen. Never heard of director Ernest Morris before, and the only familiar face from the cast was Anton Rodgers.

Very little to recommend here – hackneyed characters (alcoholic Irish buffoon etc), terrible action, clichés all over the shop – other than prefiguring Aldrich’s classic.

Outlaw King
Easy-on-the-eye Robert the Bruce biopic from David Mackenzie, with his Hell Or High Water star Chris Pine in the lead. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has fun as ally James Douglas.

The Shallows
Impressive low budget shark attack horror/thriller, with Blake Lively as a surf-mad med school dropout chilling on her tod on a Mexican beach as she grieves her dead mother. Things swiftly go all Jaws. Some decent work from Lively, and director Jaume Collet-Serra, normally seen pointing cameras at an apeshit Liam Neeson.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa title screenAlan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Superb, world-expanding shizzle! Obvs best ever use of ‘Cuddly Toy’ in a motion picture.

A Week In Film #521: Fricky dicky

Perfect way of getting in the Christmas spirit – Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates protecting cute little Gizmo from Spike and his evil cohorts. Slam-dunk from Joe Dante.

Jacob’s Ladder
Superb, career-defining film from Adrian Lyne – it’s a ‘Nam movie, it’s a period piece, it’s a psychological horror, it’s a meditation on death. As well as great performances from the likes of Tim Robbins and Elizabeth Peña, there are unforgettable moments like the vibrating heads, the man in the back of the car, the ice bath, the subway chase…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Never seen it before, pleasantly surprised. Totally episodic and with workmanlike direction from Chris Columbus, but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, and it gets the plot across.