Monthly Archives: December 2018

A Week In Film #529: Resolutions at the ready

ReMastered: Who Killed Jam Master Jay?
Lacklustre doc on the unsolved murder of the Run DMC founding member.

The Lego Movie
Thoroughly enjoyable madness, with a CGI animation of a fully-fleshed out universe populated by a plastic building toy range come to life and zipping in and out of other cultural franchises (DC, Star Wars) as well as meatspace stuff and yet still making more sense and serving up more enjoyment to the audience than most ‘serious’ films. Top voice cast, top ideas, top direction by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

The Lego Batman Movie title screen
The Lego Batman Movie
Nice little sidequel/spin-off of the above, with Will Ferrell firming up his perfectly pitched Dark Knight, this time under direction from Chris McKay.

The Lego Ninjago Movie title screen
The Lego Ninjago Movie
I totally have a soft spot for the silly Ninjago/Spinjitzu telly show; here it gets a nice feature length outing in the slipstream of its bigger sibling. Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan.

Tony title screenTony
Impeccable low budget, high ambition serial killer shenanigans, in a very recognisable, grimy-but-not-cartoonishly hell-like London. A family affair, with Gerard Johnson the writer-director; his brother-in-law Peter Ferdinando totally believable as the sad-sack protagonist, not all there and trying so hard to reach people, to make human connections, but never quite making it; and his brother Matt (The The) Johnson providing a mesmerising score. All the better for not imposing resolution on the story.

Shock And Awe title screenShock And Awe
So-so, bit worthy and old fashioned ‘this is how it happened’ drama, describing how all through the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq – and after it – a group of journalists at the Knight Ridder news agency doggedly challenged the claims made by the Bush administration of collusion between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, which formed the pretext for war. Rob Reiner directs and stars, alongside Woody Harrelson, James Marsden (the dude with the cheeks like a baby’s slapped arse) and Jessica Biel.

Bird Box title screenBird Box
The big Netflix post apocalyptic thriller which seemed just a bit too close to the premise of the relatively recently released A Quiet Place, with Sandra Bullock trying to get to a possible sanctuary with her partner and children amidst a world where sight has become a dangerous encumbrance. Absolutely fine stuff from Susanne Bier, with a nice cast (Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, Tom Hollander), just the ring of an 80s/90s Stephen King TV movie.

Thunderball title screenThunderball
The first Bond I ever saw, I think – staying up late with my dad to watch it on ITV I think – and TBH the plot never really stuck. But it’s got great moments, even if we have it to thank for the franchise’s obsession with really fucking long underwater combat scenes.

You Only Live Twice title screenYou Only Live Twice
Used to really love this one, but for some reason wasn’t feeling it so much this time, despite the BOND DIES! hook, and Roald Dahl’s dark humour, and the peerless assault-on-the-villain’s-lair set-piece.

Rise Of The Guardians title screenRise Of The Guardians
Recommended by a work colleague – DreamWorks CG animated comedy about a crew of universal childhood fantasy characters (Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Sandman) who reluctantly take on the rather rubbish Jack Frost as they battle against the dastardly Pitch Black in a battle for the hearts and minds of the world’s kids. But frankly rather lacklustre. Strong voice cast (Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine) is squandered. Directed by Peter Ramsey.

A Week In Film #528: Stockings out

Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man title screenHarley Davidson And The Marlboro Man
Terrible would-be screwball/buddy comedy about a pair of wisecracking dickheads (Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke) teaming up to avenge a friend murdered by evil zzzz. From the Simon Wincer, the genius who also gave us D.A.R.Y.L., Operation Dumbo Drop and The Phantom.

War Dogs title screenWar Dogs
Unsatisfying torn-from-the-headlines arms trade bullshit, sort of Lord Of War by way of The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Todd Phillips, better known for frat pack fare like Old School and Starsky & Hutch, handling things efficiently. With Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the lead roles.

인천상륙작전 AKA Operation Chromite
Korean War business, with an elite team of southerners infiltrating deep behind northern lines to glean intelligence and spread misinformation ahead of an imminent invasion. Interesting story, some strong set piece action sequences, but a bit too hung ho and noisy. From John H Lee Jae-Han.

The Hard Way title screenThe Hard Way
Michael J Fox plays against type/satirises himself as a spoiled Hollywood star who wants to take on grittier roles and so hangs out with hangdog New York street detective James Woods amidst a serial killer’s ongoing murderous campaign. Some great interplay between the leads. Directed by John Badham.

Jack Frost
Bar band journeyman Michael Keaton neglects his family, dies but is reborn as a snowman, tries to make amends, or something. Mawkish, sentimental, trite dross, but somehow still has moments of connection. Troy Miller – who did the rather amusing Bob Odenkirk/David Cross HBO show Mr Show spin-off movie Run Ronnie Run! – directs.

A Week In Film #527: Strong

Bankier Van Het Verzet AKA The Resistance Banker title screenBankier Van Het Verzet AKA The Resistance Banker
Excellent wartime drama about the Dutch resistance and its meticulously-organised financial underwriting operation run by loose cannon banker Wally van Hall (fine, twinkly-eyed performance by Barry Atsma). Tense, interesting stuff from Joram Lürsen.

Zulu title screenZulu

Four Lions title screenFour Lions
Haven’t seen it since first watching it, and boy is it powerful – stupid, silly, nonsensical, gut-wrenching, angry, confused… Chris Morris’ (Armstrong/Bain-assisted) suicide bomber comedy spews up a rainbow of different feelings. Top cast – Riz Ahmed, Preeya Kalidas, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali and Adeel Akhtar, plus great little turns and cameos from the likes of Craig Parkinson, Julia Davis, Kevin Eldon, Darren Boyd and, um, Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Infiltrator
Interesting subject (US Customs officer goes deep undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s organisation), less than interesting treatment. Strong cast (Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt), and the direction by Brad Furman is hardly amateurish. Just doesn’t gel.

Threads title screenThreads
FUCKING. HELL. Not the original documentary-style nuclear armageddon horror-drama (that’d be Peter Watkins’ long-banned The War Game), but definitely the best. The most powerful. The most affecting. Written by Barry Kes Hines, directed by Mick The Ascent Of Man.

A Week In Film #526: Jingley bells

Unforgiven title screenUnforgiven
Clint Eastwood’s last western as a director, his first since 1985’s Pale Rider, and one of only four. As ever, pretty downbeat, no happy ending, and a whole lotta messed up people.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House
Liam Neeson as the top Fed who became Bob Woodward’s Deep Throat and helped take down Nixon. Rather pedestrian biopic from Peter Lansesmann.

Syriana title screenSyriana
Clooney as a Bob Baer-like CIA officer is the highlight of this Traffic-like compendium of interrelated stories around western interference in the Middle East, directed very effectively by Stephen Gaghan.

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
The Coen Bros western anthology; unfortunately I fell asleep somewhere between very early on and mid-way, so I haven’t a scooby.

Better-than-I-expected Christmas fare from Jon Favreau, with Will Ferrell as a human brought up as an elf, and now in search of his real family. With James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen and Peter Dinklage.

A Week In Film #525: In ’n’ Out

Gangs Of New York

Scorsese’s misfiring would-be historical epic, which never assumes the scale it needs.

The Lady Vanishes
Pretty decent Beeb take on the interwar train-bound potboiler The Wheel Spins, which Hitchcock adapted as his last pre-Hollywood movie. Tuppence Middleton makes an excellent petulant, chauvinistic English flapper caught adrift in a Mitteleuropan conspiracy. Good support from Tom Hughes, Keeley Hawes, Julian Rhind-Tutt et al.

Escape To Victory
Hardly John Huston’s best, no one’s buying Sly as a goalie, and Michael Caine does not look convincing as a former West Ham player-turned-PoW, but still it’s enjoyable. Poor old Tony Lewis, though. VICTOIRE!

A Quiet Place

Strong stuff from writer-director-actor John Krasinski – a near future post-apocalypse horror, set in a massively depopulated world where super fast, incredibly sound-sensitive monsters wreak havoc on humanity. Krasinski, real life wife Emily Blunt and child actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe all put in impressive work. Some genuine jumps and chills, all without being a gorfest.


Fincher-Nine Inch Nails-“Farkin’ pigs, man”-plastic shavings-rain-cardboard box.

The Goonies

One of those I’m-sure-I-remember-it-being-better movies from the 80s, and sure, it sags somewhat once we’re into the caverns, but still got charm.

Arthur Christmas

Better than I expected it would be, an Aardman/American co-production, with three generations of Father Christmas pulling in different directions (traditional vs futuristic, kid-focused vs overall accomplishment). Pretty funny, with voices supplied by Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent and James McAvoy.