Category Archives: A Week In Film

A Week In Film #511: Mixed

Paul title screen
Silly, fun comedy about a pair of British SF geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) who go to America to first attend San Diego ComicCon, then go on a ufology road trip/pilgrimage across the south-west in an RV…Only to accidentally pick up an alien hitchhiker by the name of Paul (Seth Rogen), who has a bunch of Secret Service agents on his tail. Not in the league of Spaced/Shaun/Fuzz or even End, but still amusing. Directed by Greg Mottola, who did Superbad and Adventureland.

Spy Game title screen
Spy Game
Imagine Tony Scott trying to do John Le Carré, and this is what you would get. Fucking awful, I mean, plenty of professional skill in the execution, just very little in the cerebral department. Nothing in this film makes narrative sense. Pointless swooping shots. Needlessly bleached out photography. Stupid plot. Excellent cast largely wasted (Charlotte Rampling, Benedict Wong, David Hemmings, Stephen Dillane – all criminal underused, whilst Brad Pitt and Robert Redford do their thing out front).

[The Shining title screen]
The Shining
Kubrick’s tangential adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, with would-be writer Jack Nicholson going mad whilst serving as an off-season janitor to a huge hotel in remote, mountainous Colorado, which would be fine but for the whole being a bit to murderous towards his family (Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd).

La La Land title screen
La La Land
Okay, so this did not really grab me- the opening song-and-dance number was quite nice, but very swiftly people were talking about jazz and acting auditions, and I kind of switched off mentally, and before I knew it the end credits were rolling. Yet reading the Wikipedia summary, it kind of sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll give it another try some day soon.

Mississippi Burning title screen
Mississippi Burning
If it wasn’t for the fact that it totally bastardises actual history, then Alan Parker’s historical procedural about a pair of FBI agents (Willem Dafoe as the smart, young, ‘modern’ G-Man from the northeast, Gene Hackman as an outwardly more lackadaisical, old-fashioned Southern shit-kicker) investigating the (real life) murder of three young democracy activists in 1963 Mississippi by Ku Klux Klan members would be more enjoyable.

China Moon title screen
China Moon
Straight forward neo-noir by long-time cinematographer John Bailey, with Ed Harris as an experienced police detective who falls for an unhappily married Floridian (Madeline Stowe). There’s a nice sort of mini-twist. Benicio Del Toro is good as Harris’ lazy young partner.


A Week In Film #510: Folks

L.A. Confidential title screen
L.A. Confidential
Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1950s-set crime novel fizzes with period flavour, nudges up to film noir without really going in two-footed, and gives us a relentless, multi-layered thriller that jumps between protagonists seemingly on a whim.

Great cast – Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny De Vito – and unfussy direction are aided by a punchy pace and a lack of pretentiousness.

Jaws title screen
Spielberg’s original big hit, with fidgety ex-city cop Roy Scheider trying to enjoy his new sinecure as police chief of an upscale New England tourist town with a hungry new visitor. Throw in some snappy editing to hide a chunky puppet, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss jostling with each other for prominence, John Williams’ score, and some well-judged thieving from Hitchcock’s palette, and you have a full 10/10.

The Pledge title screen
The Pledge
Sean Penn directs Jack Nicholson as a just-retired cop haunted by a child’s murder.

[A Time To Kill title screen]
A Time To Kill
John Grisham adapted by Joel Schumacher, and you know where that’s going – certainly not the go-to team you’d think of first if you wanted a thoughtful, sensitive treatise on America’s inability to face up to slavery and racism. Still, watchable-enough courtroom dreck, with Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Patrick McGoohan, Oliver Platt and, um, Brenda Fricker.

[The Client title screen]
The Client
Schumacher’s previous effort in taking Grisham to screen, and in much the same ball-park when it comes to subtlety. With Brad Renfro as a young trailer trash kid who witnessed a Mob-related violent death who secures the services of lawyer Susan Sarandon in the face of attempts by Federal legal hot-shot Tommy Lee Jones to secure his evidence.

The Gambler (2014) title screen
The Gambler (2014)
Remake by Rupert The Escapist Wyatt and William The Departed Monaghan of Hollywood sex-pest James Toback’s 1974 movie about a nihilistic academic and his gambling addiction. Mark Wahlberg in the lead is actually pretty good, backed up by his star student Brie Larson. Michael K Williams and John Goodman are larger than life as a pair of shylocks who lend him money he can’t pay back.

A Week In Film #509: Talk

The Negotiator title screen
The Negotiator
Sam Jackson as an expert police hostage negotiator forced to pull some rabbits out of the hat when he finds himself framed. Bonkers and tacky – my favourite blend for a highly watchable thriller. Good, clichéd, trope-stuffed stuff from F Gary Gary, with a cast crammed with the likes of Kevin Spacey, David Morse, JT Walsh, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, Paul Giamatti, Michael Cudlitz, Dean Norris and Paul Guilfoyle.

Self/Less title screen
So/so near future body shock thriller from Tarsem Singh, with sick tycoon Ben Kingsley buying a new body to live longer from shady high-end body swap company. He’s pretty stoked to end up injected into Ryan Reynolds’ buff physique, but all is not quite what it seems. Solid.

Jason Bourne title screen
Jason Bourne
Paul Greengrass has a third bite of the cherry, and to be honest, it’s starting to smell a bit rotten. Very much sale old, same old – jitter cam fights, spying on the spies, moody pouting etc. Tommy Lee Jones gets the ageing spook boss gig, Vincent Cassel’s the main Asset, Riz Ahmed a tech bro who’s out of his depth, and Alicia Vikander as a fast-track CIA cyber specialist. Julia Stiles returns, and there’s various locales to run around in – but it all feels like a retread.

A Week In Film #508: Crime

American Assassin title screen
American Assassin
Silly thriller about some angry survivor of a terrorist outrage (Dylan O’Brien) who is recruited to a secret arms-length black ops team led by Michael Keaton. Has its moments. Directed by the dude who did L.I.E. and Kill The Messenger, Michael Cuesta.

Black Mass title screen
Black Mass
Johnny Depp as Boston mob boss and Fed informant Jimmy Bulger, in Scott Cooper’s ersatz Irish Goodfellas.

After Porn Ends 2 title screen
After Porn Ends 2
Follow up by Bryce Wagoner to his 2012 documentary, this time haring from skin flick industry survivors Ashley Adams, Brittany Andrews, Chasey Lain, Lisa Ann, Janine Lindemulder and others.

A Week In Film #507: Blimey

[Wind River title screen]
Wind River
Pretty good, bleak yet hopeful snow noir drama written and directed by ex-actor (Sons Of Anarchy) Taylor Sheridan, who also penned the similarly exposition-averse Sicario and Hell Or High Water. Jeremy Renner plays a wildlife marshal who becomes involved in an investigation into the violent death of a teenaged Indian girl in rugged Wyoming country. Elizabeth Olsen is an FBI agent assigned to the case, Graham Greene the weary older tribal cop. Some truly beautiful scenes.

[Central Intelligence title screen]
Central Intelligence
So it’s not great – script needs tightening, set pieces are a bit flabby, there’s no jeopardy, a lot of the time it’s tone deaf – but Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart do have a rapport. Kind of funny.

A Week In Film #506: So tired

[Stalin (1992) title screen]
Stalin (1992)
Sort of okay HBO biopic with an unrecognisable Robert Duvall as Jughashvili, running through the greatest hits… Revolutionary bit-part player, the blagger nobody likes, wheedles his way into the inner sanctum by agreeing to do the shitty admin no one else will do, elbows out Lenin’s pals when the auld fella karks, does for the kulaks, secret police business, has a few more Old Bolshies knocked off, bit of Terror, purge the army, crap taste in art, show trials, quite big on anti-semitism, not a huge fan of doctors, Molotov-Ribbentrop, oh shit that didn’t go so well, war, hunger, destruction etc, win the war, few more put on trial, bit more purging, oh shit I’m having a stroke FIN. Directed by Czech New Wave dude Ivan Passer, whose big flick after coming West was Cutter’s Way.

[JFK title screen]
Infuriating Oliver Stone conspirobollocks, but with many nice elements to it – the structure, despite it all, and many of the performance notes, and the confidence with which such a big bag of ‘maybe’ is shaken about and emptied over the screen.

[Sleepers title screen]
Barry Levinson’s indulgent (TWO AND A HALF HOURS) adaptation of Lorenzo Carcaterra’s period novel about who a group of New York kids in the sixties had their childhood stolen from them at a Borstal, and how they came to wreak revenge on those who tormented them. Silly, portentous, but very watchable, with son Patric, Brad Pitt, Ron Eldard, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Bruno Kirby, Frank Medrano, De Niro, Hoffman etc.

[The Thing (2011) title screen]
The Thing (2011)
Terrible, misguided preboot, getting us to the start of the 1982 John Carpenter horror classic. Frankly completely redundant, unnecessary, unasked for, pointless. Too much of it rehashes bits from the earlier film, which doesn’t even make sense, and without the charm or wit of the in-camera, physical effects that gem of a movie put before our eyes.Decent enough cast – Mary Elizabeth Instead, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuouye-Agbalje etc – but truly AvP levels of script bodging. Never even heard of director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. before. Probably won’t again.

[They Who Dare title screen]
They Who Dare
Somewhat tedious, non-action filled Lewis Milestone wartime sting, with Dirk Bogarde leading an SAS team into Occupied Greece (Crete) to fuck shit up at some Axis airfields. It all goes a bit tits, almost everyone dies.

[Presumed Innocent title screen]
Presumed Innocent
Enjoyably silly court room thriller with straight arrow prosecutor Harrison Ford finding himself in the frame when an ambitious young colleague, with whom he had a brief affair, winds up murdered. Takes itself a bit serious, but not bad. Adapted by Alan J Pakula from a Scott Turrow novel.

A Week In Film #505: Astonishing

[Beirut title screen]
Jon Hamm is a burned out, alcoholic ex-fast stream US diplomat dragged out of crappy provincial arbitration consultancy to assist in a Civil War kidnapping fubar in 80s Lebanon. Directed by Brad Anderson from a Tony Gilroy script. Nice turns from Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris and Larry Pine, but never really seals the deal. It’s Green Zone meets Syriana by way of Die Falschung, though less exciting than that might suggest.

[Manhunt: The Search For Bin Laden title screen]
Manhunt: The Search For Bin Laden
Documentary from HBO on the CIA’s long running interest in OBL, from way before 9/11 through to his final assassination in 2011, with plenty of interesting talking heads.

[The House Of War title screen]
The House Of War
Strong documentary about the November 2001 Gala I Jangi prison uprising in Afghanistan from photojournalist Paul Yule, pulling together eye witness accounts from journalists who were there as it happened. A lot of intense footage.

[Good Morning, Afghanistan title screen]
Good Morning, Afghanistan
Rookie war reporter Damien Degueldre’s take on the Qala I Jangi Taliban prison uprising – good to compare with The House Of War.