Monthly Archives: March 2019

A Week In Film #541: Down one

Mile 22 title screen
Mile 22
Peter Berg teams up with Mark Wahlberg again (after Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day) with a silly thriller about a crack paramilitary team trying to escort an intelligence source to safety in hostile circumstances, against a backdrop of Russian interference. There’s a twist at the end that a better film would have capitalised on more strongly, but hey ho. With Iko Uwais, Ronda Rousey, John Malkovich, Terry Kinney etc.

Yardie title screen
Disappointing adaptation of Victor Headley’s blistering pulp thriller about a Jamaican country boy becoming a top London gangster, with Idris Elba helming his first feature. Shortcomings are mainly in the script (by Martin Stellman, who did great stuff in the 80s/90s) and Brock Norman Brock, which pares away too much in a bid to simplify things. A shame, because it’s stylishly done, and there are strong performances (Shantol Jackson, Riaze Foster and Stephen Graham stand out).

The Equalizer 2 title screen
The Equalizer 2
Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua have a second crack at the TV show reboot, with super soldier-turned-vigilante Robert McCall going after the killers of his friend (Melissa Leo). Absolutely watchable, completely inconsequential.

The Simpsons Movie title screen
The Simpsons Movie
One of the few TV-show-stretched-out-to-feature-film conversion jobs which worked, thanks to a storyline that both serves the characters well, and makes good in-universe sense.

When The Sky Falls title screen
When The Sky Falls
Alright taken on the story of Veronica Guerin, a rather unlikeable Irish crime journalist who was assassinated by the hoods she wrote about. Better than Joel Schumacher’s 2003 version, but still somewhat stodgy. Directed by John Mackenzie, with Joan Allen excellent in the lead, Patrick Bergin less so as a Gardai detective, Pete Postlethwaite, Liam Cunningham, Kevin McNally and Gerard Mannix all different degrees of scary as various gang bosses.

ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre title screen
ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre
Somewhat MTV-ed up documentary on the attempt by British security force-connected Loyalist paramilitaries to murder a popular cross-border group of musicians and fit them up as Republican terrorists. It’s a film in search of a form, and hops around between a search for truth and meaning by survivor Stephen Travers, an historical overview of collusion (with whistleblowers Fred Holroyd and Colin Wallace), and some ropey Northern Ireland for beginners type stuff.

The Dawn Wall title screen
The Dawn Wall
Documentary about a pair of free climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, tackling a sheer face on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Very unflashy, but interesting.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 title screenGuardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Very enjoyable second outing for the space-trotting Marvel team, helmed by James Gunn, with a fun cast led by Chris Pratt. No fucking idea what was going on.

A Week In Film #540: First in ages

LBJ title screen
Straightforward, no-frills biopic of JFK’s get-shit-done veep, with Woody Harrelson under all the prosthetics and Rob Reiner directing.

Baby Driver title screenBaby Driver
Flashy but empty extended music video style getaway driver movie from Edgar Wright. Some nice sequences, some good performances (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal), but unsatisfying. Looks a dream, though.

The Domestics title screenThe Domestics
So-so, low budget post-apocalypse business written and directed by Mike P Nelson. Hardly the most original, but with the odd nice touch.

I, Dolours title screenI, Dolours
Dark documentary, not least because it is about a secretive PIRA unit tasked with ‘disappearing‘ and executing those considered threats to the organisation; and more so because its focus and main interviewee is a former member of the unit who is herself now dead. The interviews come from Ed Moloney’s ‘Boston Project’, of capturing candid personal testimony from players of all sides in the Troubles on the proviso that nothing would be released until after these witnesses to history themselves died. And so it was with Price, from a multi-generational Irish nationalist family who initially rejected their physical force republicanism for the glimmer of hope offered by student leftist activism in the late 1960s, but who was swiftly sucked back into the maelstrom after brutal beatings by police-backed Loyalist mobs at civil rights demonstrations. Before long she was in the IRA; then at the sharp end of a bombing mission on the British mainland; and then facing life in prison after informers in the leadership betrayed her and her comrades. Seven years of hunger strike and forced feeding, forced feeding and hunger strike passed before she was released early. From then on she moved further and further from the Provisional leadership as it crept closer and closer to accommodation with the British Army. Ultimately she broke very publicly with the movement which defined her life and everything that meant anything. She died embittered, addicted, ostracised and alone. But she may have been right.

Await Further Instructions title screenAwait Further Instructions
Lo-fi, low budget horror that sets up a premise nicely – tensions mount in a family trapped in their house over Christmas when some kind of external force prevents them from leaving, to the point that they are driven otter each other apart – but then pisses away all the goodwill it earns early on in a silly, pointless third act that ‘explains’ everything. Still worth a watch though. Johnny Kevorkian directs from Gavin Williams.

A Week In Film #539: Fresh eyes

Interesting, absorbing, imperfect hard SF with a space station crew in peril from Martian soil samples. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Ariyon Baker, Olga Dihovichnaya and Hiroyuki Sanada, directed by Daniel Espinosa (the decent Swedish crime thriller Snabba Cash, the so-so Three Days Of The Condor retread Safe House, the disappointing Soviet detective story Child 44) from a script by the Deadpool writing team Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

Capote title screenCapote
Somewhat plodding take on Truman Capote (here Philip Seymour Hoffman) discovering then exploring and writing about the brutal Kansas murders that became his bestselling ‘non-fiction novel’ In Cold Blood. Directed by Bennett Miller, who later gave us Moneyball and Foxcatcher, written by Dan Futterman (best known as Daniel Pearl in Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart, or as the American conman in late-90s Brit caper Shooting Fish).

Widows title screenWidows
Steve McQueen remakes the high concept Lynda La Planted telly series about the wives of dead blaggers carrying out their hubbies’ last job in a glossy American context. Sets things up alright, then fucks things up. Very capable cast (Viola Davis! Michelle Rodriguez! Elizabeth Debicki! Cynthia Eric! Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry!) somewhat wasted. Completely fumbles its attempt at a twist.

The Predator title screenThe Predator
Really disappointing take on the franchise from Shane Black. No tension, overly jokey, no scares, just cheap callbacks.

Thirteen Days title screenThirteen Days
Solid drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the focus on White House diary keeper Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner). Captures the tension between Camelot and the generals. With Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp as the Kennedys, Dylan Baker as McNamara, Michael Fairman as Stevenson, Frank Wood as Bundy, and the likes of Kevin Conway, Ed Lauter, Madison Mason wearing the gold braid. Directed by curate’s egg Roger Donaldson (The Bank Job, but also Dante’s Peak; No Way Out, but also Species).

A Private War title screenA Private War
Sort of good biopic about war correspondent Marie Colvin, but which also never really answers the question ‘do war correspondents provide a positive function for society?’ It’s skirted around a lot here – she’s a good reporter, she’s committed, determined, is brave – but the simple notion that war reportage might have a political aspect, a bias, that it might be weaponised and deployed as a tactical payload, is given not so much as a nod of acknowledgement. Instead we’re in the land of personal probity and individual sacrifice, against a moving backdrop of exoticised wailing women and maimed children.

Still, good performance from Rosamund Pike, some strong visual/mood touches (especially re the PTSD stuff) from director Mathew Heineman, previously a documentarian by trade. With Jamie Dornan, Greg Wise, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Tom Hollander, Corey Johnson.

Previews and reviews all made this out to be a bit of a cut-price Harry Brown – ex-squaddie (here Alec Newman as a particularly bitter and cantankerous blind veteran) finds himself target of unwanted attention by feral youth on a rundown inner city housing estate, goes a bit Death Wish. But actually I was pleasantly surprised at the way it pulled back from the brink at the end, and gave us instead a satisfyingly simple story more grounded in reality. Kudos to writer Matt Pitt and director Guy Pitt, plus a supporting cast including Zoe Telford, Jack Shepherd, Phil Deguara, Mal Soor, Michael Fox and Matt Young.

A Week In Film #538: Fading memories

The Equalizer
Reboot of the 80s teatime vigilante show, with Denzel in the lead and Antoine Fuqua directing. Absolutely no substance, but sort of surprisingly watchable.

Live And Let Die
Moore takes over as Bond, and it’s full of (ever so slightly racist) vim.

Far better than Diamonds, definitely not one of the best, but with plenty of memorable set pieces (gator farm, bus chase, night glide onto the island, flying lesson, funeral cortege, Solitaire’s reading, the train fight) and memorable characters (Mr Big, Kananga, Baron Samedi, Tee Tee, Whisper, Rosie Carver), it’s just the crap masterplan (cheap smack) and slight, sorry, MASSIVE RACISM and MISOGYNY and smirking ol’ Moore that let’s it down. (And JW Pepper, obvs.)

Definite plus points: Wings theme song, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Tee Hee’s claw, all the white characters are basically arseholes and dickheads.

Get Out
Superb social horror from Jordan Peele, which goes in fully committed, two-footed, studs out on racism and smug white liberals. A great cast, led by Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, and some genuine wrong-footing of the audience.

When Harvey Met Bob
So-so recreation of the organising of the Live Aid concert, with Domhnall Gleeson impersonating faded pop star Bob Geldof, and Ian Hart relatively straight as the man whose help he needs to pull it off, impresario Harvey Goldsmith. Nothing exceptional, but some warm performances. Directed by Joe Dunlop from a Nicholas Renton script for Irish telly.

Behind The Curve
Bonkers flat earthers are given enough rope to hang themselves in a narration-free documentary.

The Man With The Golden Gun
Guy Hamilton’s fourth and final bite of the Bond cherry, and despite having Christopher motherfucking Lee as the baddie, it’s pretty pants.