Category Archives: A Week In Film

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.

A Week In Film #567: Bang-Bang

[Arbitrage title screen]
Rather boring, enthralling ‘thriller’ about a rich dick (Richard Gere) doing some big-assed white collar crime against a bunch of other rich dicks, whilst simultaneously fucking Someone Who Isn’t His Wife. Really tedious. From Nicholas Jarecki, who co-wrote the script for the pretty decent Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Informers. Got pretty good reviews, so maybe I’ll have to revisit it.

[The Hollow Point title screen]
The Hollow Point
Seemed like it would be better than it actually was – a small town lawman on the Mexican frontier happens upon a deadly cross-border ammunition smuggling ring. By no means the worst Patrick Wilson film I’ve seen recently, but somewhat pedestrian. With Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Jim Belushi and Lynn Collins, directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, and written by Nils Lyew.

[The Thing title screen]
The Thing
John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, aliens in Antarctica, a throbbing score, and the very best in physical effects.

[The MacKenzie Break title screen]
The MacKenzie Break
Turning the normal British POW escape movie on its head, here we have a camp in Scotland full of German prisoners under the control of zealot Helmut Griem, with commandant Ian Hendry powerless against the machinations of his charge. Brian Keith is the maverick Irishman sent in as an intelligence officer to figure out what Jerry is up to. Directed by Lamont Johnson.

[Red Sparrow title screen]
Red Sparrow
Silly accents aside, a pretty solid bit of Cold War espionage throwback bizniz, based on a novel by an ex-Agency spook (Jason Matthews), with Jennifer Lawrence a Russian ballerina forced by circumstance into becoming a honey trap operative for the SVR. A pleasantly convoluted plot, some solid performances (Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds, Douglas Hodge), some nice photography (Jo Willems – Hard Candy, London, 30 Days Of Night plus some Hunger Games stuff). From director Francis Lawrence (again Hunger Games, plus I Am Legend).

A Week In Film #564: 100% Rewinds

[6 Days title screen]
6 Days
Solid if stolid take on the Iranian embassy siege, with Billy Elliott as SAS hardnut Rusty Firmin.

[Valkyrie title screen]
Bryan Singer’s pedestrian take on the Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler.

[The Hunt For Red October title screen]
The Hunt For Red October
Muscular John McTiernan screening of Tom Clancy’s technothriller about a CIA analyst (Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan) trying to determine just what a rogue Soviet sub commander (Sean Connery) is planning to do. Sort of compelling.

[Klute title screen]
Director Alan J Pakula and cinematographer Gordon Willis pull together a decent if not essential dry run for the superior paranoia thriller classics The Parallax View and All The President’s Men. Donald Sutherland is the private eye who becomes embroiled with call girl Jane Fonda in pursuit of a missing businessman, whilst shadowy forces swirl around them.

[North West Frontier title screen]
North West Frontier
I’d never noticed before quite how like Ice Cold In Alex this was before – both helmed by J Lee Thompson. This is definitely the runt of that particular litter, and with it a much less palatable imperial flavour. Still, some highly memorable scenes and performances.

Kenneth More is excellent as a stiff upper lipped British Army officer charged with protecting the young son of a Hindu maharajah, in the face of widespread Muslim rioting and massacres. A glorious cast – Lauren Bacall, Herbert Nom, Wilfrid Hyde-White, I S John, Ursula Jeans, Eugene Deckers, S M Asgaralli and Sam Chowdhary – make what is otherwise a rather mediocre picture sparkle somewhat.

A Week In Film #563 Buffalo soldiering

[Back To The Future: Part II title screen]
Back To The Future: Part II
The one in the future! Sporting almanac! No more Crispin Glover!

[The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn title screen]
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
I don’t think there could have been a better filmic introduction to Hergé’s world than this. I’m sure it has some purists pissing blood, but for me it works.

[Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie title screen]
Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie
Quite amusing broad comedy with our eponymous protagonist somehow being sent to America as an art expert. HILARITY ENSUES!

[Back To The Future: Part III title screen]
Back To The Future: Part III
The one in the Old West! Flying train! Doc finds love!

[Dunkirk (2017) title screen]
Dunkirk (2017)
Revisited it for the first time since the cinema. Darker than I remembered it. Elegant structure and very smartly scored.

A Week In Film #562: Targeted

[Triple Frontier title screen]
Triple Frontier
So-so action thriller with Oscar Isaac a private military contractor working the anti-narco beat in Colombia, who sees the possibility of a massive payday, and so drags together his old military buds into a team to carry off a risky heist. Ben Affleck is the planner, Charlie Hunnam and Garret Hedlund are the muscle, and Pedro Pascal the pilot. Never quite achieves its potential. JC Chandor (Margin Call and A Most Violent Year) directs from a script worked up by himself and Mark Zero Dark Thirty Boal.

[22 July title screen]
22 July
Paul Greengrass gives us his take on the Breivik attacks of 2011; it is much as you would expect, equal parts documentary-style rendition of the massacre itself, and then a melodramatic focus on one victim and the family around him as he tries to come to terms with the tragedy in its aftermath. First time around the disjoint between the two parts meant I lost interest halfway through; but on rewatching, the second act clearly has a lot of power.

[Pokémon Detective Pikachu title screen]
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
TBF I wasn’t really paying attention, and only had it on to keep Middle Child amused during a visit to the grandparents. But it’s got Ryan Reynolds in it so I guess at some point I’ll go back and concentrate a bit harder. Certainly it didn’t scream out <>this is terrible to my unconscious mind.

[Brawl In Cell Block 99 title screen]
Brawl In Cell Block 99
Far superior to what I was expecting – a slow-burning (and yet constantly against the clock) genre B-movie, but with fully committed performances from the likes of Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson and Udo Kier. A former journeyman boxer (Vaughn) and his wife (Carpenter) attempt to keep things together, despite human frailties. For reasons he ends up in gaol with an impossible mission. Much violence ensues. Written, directed and scored by S Craig Zahler (principally a novelist, who preceded it with noirish Western Bone Tomahawk and followed it with Dragged Across Concrete).

A Week In Film #561: Trying all-new

[Stand Up Guys title screen]
Stand Up Guys
Old school gangster Al Pacino comes out of prison after long sentence, is met by pal Christopher Walken, they break out fellow aged hood Alan Arkin from a nursing home, reminisce about crimes past, and get caught between a rock and a half place, all against the clock. Low key, low energy, low expectations – but surprisingly decent. Helmed by actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens.

[The 12th Man title screen]
Den 12 Mann AKA The 12th Man
Wartime actioner about the only survivor of a Norwegian army sabotage team going on the run from the Nazis, and the civilians who help him. 

A Scandi Bravo Two Zero-meets-The Guns Of Navarone with touches of Touching The Void and 127 Hours. Directed by Harald Zvark, excellent central performance from Thomas Gullestad.

[Insidious: Chapter Two title screen]
Insidious: Chapter Two
Bonkers house-haunting franchise bollocks from director James Wan and scriptwriter Leigh Whannell – can’t remember anything about it, but it did have Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne in the lead roles, and they’re normally pretty solid.

[Hereditary title screen]
Dark-as-shit psychological horror, with Toni Collette the matriarch of a suburban family where all manner of unpleasant shit is unfolding. From Ari Aster, with the cast rounded out by Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro.
[Brain On Fire title screen]
Brain On Fire
Definitely in the Hallmark-on-speed ball park, in this BASED ON A TRUE STORY melodrama Chloë Grace Moretz plays a young New York Post reporter who is laid low by a mysterious condition that everyone around her takes to be either alcoholism, drug use or acute mental illness. Directed by Gerard Barrett from the autobiography of Susannah Calahan. Carrie-Anne Moss and Richard Armitage as her divorced parents – each over-protective and dysfunctional in their own way – are great.

A Week In Film #560: ALL NEW for first time in ages

[American Made title screen]
American Made
So-so Tom Cruise vehicle, a based-on-true-events affair about a pilot who flew drugs and got involved in the Contras and ended up dead. Not as energetic as Air America, not as fun as Blow. Not director Doug Liman’s finest, but always nice to see Domhnall Gleeson and Jesse Plemons on the big screen.

[The Girl In The Spider’s Web title screen]
The Girl In The Spider’s Web
Pointless extension of a dead man’s trilogy, with Claire THE QUEEN Foy taking over as Lisbeth Salander (now basically an invincible freelance superspy/sleuth), and Fede Álvarez directing from David Lagercrantz’s scab novel. Sure, the odd thrilling sequence, or part of a sequence, but pointless, empty, distasteful.

[Point Blank (2019) title screen]
Point Blank (2019)
Uncomplicated, unpretentious American remake of À Bout Portant. Anthony Mackie is a hardworking inner city hospital nurse looking forward to his wife’s impending sprogdrop; Frank Grillo is an honest thief out on the lam, pursued by cops, gangsters and whoever else. Pretty good from Joe Lynch, though the third reel thing with Markice Moore as a cinephile drug lord (big fan of Sorcerer slows things down when it should be speeding up.

[The Babysitter title screen]
The Babysitter
Quite odd genre-splicer with Samara Weaving a foxy babysitter and Judah Lewis her somewhat bullied young charge. BUT EVERYTHING IS NOT AS IT SEEMS when the kid’s parents leave town for the night. Directed with glee if not complete coherence or mastery by McG.

[Black Panther title screen]
Black Panther
Rather spirited and enjoyable afrocentric addition to the MCU (and by my score its most entertaining and absorbing instalment), with Chadwick Boseman impressive in the title role, but almost eclipsed by Michael B Jordan as his nemesis. Directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station).