Monthly Archives: October 2019

A Week In Film #572: FULL HOUSE AGAIN!

Hype! title screen
Really enjoyable documentary by Doug Pray on the Seattle music scene of the late 80s and early 90s, which effortlessly fans out well beyond Nirvana to encompass all manner of strange and wonderful tunemongers. Thoroughly recommended.

The Insider title screen
The Insider
Michael Mann reteams with Al Pacino to tell the story of a tobacco company whistleblower, played by Russell Crow. Nicely done.

Tell Me Who I Am title screen
Tell Me Who I Am
Bonkers story of two brothers from a fucked up family. Some majorly manipulative tricks are pulled by the director Ed Perkins – on both audience and interviewees – but it all adds up to a powerful piece.

Straight Outta Compton title screen
Straight Outta Compton
Fairly straight forward, compelling legend-building NWA biopic from F Gary Gray, which almost entirely ignores women (except as gold digging hoes or silent room candy) for 75% of its runtime.

Fractured title screen
Not particularly gripping psychological thriller, in the vein of some of those Euro flicks that were almost immediately remade in Hollywood by their original directors in the 80s/90s; or something Michael Crichton might have scripted way back when.

But here it’s just a bit tedious. Sam Worthington and his wife and kid are driving home from a not-great Thanksgiving at the in-laws; along the way there is an accident, and they stop off at a provincial hospital. Then wife and kid go missing and no one admits that they were ever here…

Directed by Brad Anderson, who also did The Machinist, which was kind of good, and Transsiberian, which kind of wasn’t.

Damascus Cover title screen
Damascus Cover
Turgid spy thriller set in 1989, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a German Mossad spy sent to Syria to exfiltrate a well-placed asset. Weird little cameo from Jürgen Prochnow, Olivia Thirlby in underwritten supporting role, and a massively semaphored ‘twist’. Directed by Daniel Zelik Berk. Best thing is a pair of nice turns from familiar character actors Igal Naor and David Negahban.

A Week In Film #571: FULL HOUSE!

American Animals title screen
American Animals
Interesting real life story – bored, alienated, anomic teenagers in small town America embark on ambitious art heist – and creatively staged by writer/director Bart Layton, who made the similarly dramatic doc The Imposter. Inserts with after-the-event talking heads interviews with various participants and onlookers dispersed throughout the artifice help add another layer to things, particularly in terms of highlighting where recollections conflict. Strong cast includes Evan Peters (American Horror Story), Barry Keoghan (Love/Hate), Blake Jenner (Glee), Jared Abrahamson (Sweet Virginia), plus veteran German character actor Udo Kier.

The Dirt title screen
The Dirt
Diverting, comedic biopic of crappy LA hair metal band Mötley Crüe, based on the well-received, unvarnished memoir of the same name which the band members collectively wrote back in the early 2000s. The principal cast – Douglas Booth, Colson Baker, Daniel Webber and Iwan Rheon – are convincing as a group of fuckwits. Jeff Tremaine directs with his foot firmly pressed down on the Beavis & Butthead pedal.

Joker title screen
Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix deliver a strong origins story for the Batman bad guy. The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir (who previously worked on both Sicario movies and the Chernobyl mini-series) is excellent and evocative.

A Week In Film #570: Half-and-half

The Paper title screen
The Paper
Perky Ron Howard number, with more than a hint of His Girl Friday-style screwballery, set over the course of a single day’s news cycle at a tacky New York tabloid, with various cynical hacks and hard-nosed execs played against each other. With decent turns from Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid and Robert Duvall. The Coca Cola product placement is really fucking irritating.

Oliver Stone directs energetically, with James Woods as down-on-his-luck American hack Richard Boyle, Jim Belushi as his Dr Gonzo-like friend brought along on a a trip down south to cover a right-wing reign of terror in Central America, John Savage as fellow photojournalist Cassidy, Elpidia Carrillo as his local love interest, Tony Plana as a scary fascist Presidential hopeful… Not subtle, but certainly not on the fence.

Lincoln title screen
Very Serious-Minded biopic about the beardy President (Daniel Day-Lewis, natch) from Steven Spielberg, focusing on the legislative struggle for the abolition of slavery in the form of the 13th Amendment. One to go back to.

Bright Lights, Big City title screen
Bright Lights, Big City
Lame duck adaptation of literary brat packer Jay McInerney’s novel about a coke and booze-addled young writer adrift in New York in the 80s. Michael J Fox seems miscast, though Kiefer Sutherland fits the part of his best pal well. Phoebe Cates doesn’t have much to do as his estranged wife. Director James Bridges, who did so well with Mike’s Murder, doesn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for the material.

A Week In Film #569: Donut, donut

Mr. Right title screen
Mr. Right
Below-par ‘quirky’ comedy, with millennial singleton Anna Kendrick somehow hooking up with ‘eccentric’ assassin Sam Rockwell. Scripted by Max Landis, directed by Paco Cabezas, definitely could have used a couple more drafts to tighten shit up. Best thing you can say is that the leads certainly have a solid go at it, and RZA’s bit part as a glass-half-empty local hitman is nicely done.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie title screen
Between Two Ferns: The Movie
Feature-length expansion of Zach Galifianakis’ web series – the set-up being he’s a regional public access talk show host who says rude things to big stars. The ‘plot’ is just a tool to string as many stunt interviews together as possible. The opener, with Matthew McConaughey, is pretty good, right up to the point he is drowned in a plumbing tragedy; the Chrissy Teigen-John Legend-Galifianakis love triangle is amusing; and there are nice bits with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd.

The Killing Fields title screen
The Killing Fields
Powerful, emotive drama based on real people’s lives against the backdrop of the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia, with Roland Joffé directing from Bruce Robinson’s proficient script. Sam Waterston and Haing S Ngor are excellent as journalists Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pran, there are memorable side turns by the likes of John Malkovich, Julian Sands, Spalding Grey, Monirak Sisowath, Bill Paterson, Craig T Nelson and Athol Fugard, and it is photographed beautifully. Well structured, with some of the most efficiently executed emotional manipulation in popular film. Irrespective of how real human-scale events are reforged into a smoother narrative, a fine film which conveys love, guilt, helplessness and resilience.

Watergate Plus Thirty: Shadow Of History title screen
Watergate Plus Thirty: Shadow Of History
Very watchable with-the-benefit-of-hindsight documentary which breaks down the whole Plumbers/CReeP/‘rat-fucking’/burglary/cover-up situation into an easily understandable narrative, with talking head interviews from many of the key players. A classy doc from Foster Wiley.