A Week In Film #467: Quiet

[Kagemusha title screen]
Kurosawa’s superb mournful late period samurai picture, sort of I Was Monty’s Double with more swords and extra pathos. Tatsuya Nakadai gives the performance of his life as a lowly criminal saved from execution to act as a doppelgänger for the recently deceased daimyo of a royal house; slowly he takes to the role, only to succumb to hubris, and fuck everything up. The recreation of the Battle of Nagashino at the end is stupendous, as is the use of colour throughout.


A Week In Film #466: Catch up

[Under Fire title screen]
Under Fire
Roger Spottiswoode gives us the Sandinista Revolution, seen through the love triangle between American journalists Nick Nolte, Joanna Cassidy and Gene Hackman. Much of the best stuff comes from the supporting cast – Embassy buffoon Richard Masur, shady Frenchman Jean-Louis Trintignant, amoral mercenary Ed Harris.

[T2: Trainspotting title screen]
T2: Trainspotting
Honestly I thought it worked really well, revisiting visibly aged if not matured characters, with plenty of visual flair and silliness and sadness. Anjela Nedyalkova was an interesting addition, meatier roles for Macdonald and Henderson were sorely missing, but McGregor, Bremner, Miller and Carlyle were all magnificent.

[Children Of The Revolution title screen]
Children Of The Revolution
Pretty decent dark comedy about an Aussie communist (Judy Davis) having a brief tryst with Stalin which precipitates his death; from this emerges her son ‘Joe’ (Richard Roxburgh), who in time displays ever-more unignorable tics from his presumed father… From Peter Duncan, who late created the might Rake along with Roxburgh. Wonderful cast, including Geoffrey Rush, Rachel Griffiths, Sam Neill and F Murray Abraham.

[Mystery Road title screen]
Mystery Road
Superb, gritty, depressing, beautiful, provocative, sweet Australian western, about an aboriginal girl who is found dead on the outskirts of a dusty outback township, and the aboriginal police detective who pursues the case (Aaron Pedersen). Absolutely a stand-out film – exhilarating stuff from writer-director Ivan Sen, who packs his cast with redoubtable scions of the southern screen, like Jack Thompson and Hugo Weaving, familiar genre faces like Robert Mammone, Damian Walshe-Howling and Bruce Spence, but also younger actors like Ryan Kwanten and Tricia Whitton.

[Goldstone title screen]
Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen revisit their aboriginal detective Jay Swan, here in very different circumstances. Okay, so it does not match the majesty of Mystery Road, but if you hadn’t seen that one you would still be impressed by this one. Another nice cast, rounded out by the likes of David Wenham as a dodgy mining company manager, Jacki Weaver as a bent local politician, and Alex Russell as a morally uncertain local cop.

A Week In Film #465: Moody

[Argo title screen]
Ben Affleck’s not-terrible take on the true-life story of a CIA rescue operation in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. Some decent bits of tension, some decent performances, but nothing stupendous.

[The Hunted title screen]
The Hunted
So much potential: Benicio del Toro, Tommy Lee Jones, a tale of a black ops dude gone off the rails and the efforts to bring him in, directed by William Friedkin. But a mess, and never hits its stride.

[Foxcatcher title screen]
Bennett Miller’s slow, muted, awkward telling of the story of a fucked-up rich dude with an interest in wrestling (Steve Carell as John E du Pont) who sponsors an Olympic programme, does some bad shit, gets super dark. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are also excellent.

A Week In Film #464: A classic and two turkeys

2 October

[The Wizard Of Oz title screen]
The Wizard Of Oz
Classy and classic.

[Mercury Rising title screen]
Mercury RisingNot Harold Becker’s best work – burnt-out FBI agent Bruce Willis finds himself trying to protect autistic savant Miko Hughes from a shadowy NSA kill team.

[Black Site Delta title screen]
Black Site Delta
Absolutely appalling nonsense, trying to do the Die Hard thing but in a military stockade being attacked by… Actually, it’s just not worth bothering. Nothing to commend whatsoever.

A Week In Film #463: Monsters

[The Siege title screen]
The Siege
So-so pre-9/11 terror-hits-NYC potboiler, with FBI counter-terrorism expert Denzel Washington and military man Bruce Willis battling to take the lead in the face of Islamist attacks.

[Carlos (film version) title screen]
Carlos (158 min Netflix version)
Not sure exactly how, but this particular cut is atrocious – no pace, no oomph.

[Grabbers title screen]
Silly but fun Local Hero-meetsGremlins deal, with alcoholic cop Richard Coyle, new arrival Ruth Bradley and resident boffin Russell Tovey the unlikely trio fending off weird alien invaders from a remote Irish island. Top work from Jon Wright and team.

A Week In Film #462: Genre

Red Eye title screen
Red Eye
Joyously silly genre thriller (shades of Nick Of Time) with hotel manager Rachel MacAdams tying to escape the clutches of a dangerous blackmailer whilst on a plane home at Christmas. Fun stuff from Wes Craven.

[Murder At 1600 title screen]
Murder At 1600
DC cop Wesley Snipes teams up with Secret Service agent Diane Lane to investigate a murder with political implications at the White House. Throwaway fluff of the sort I will lap up.

Spectre title screen
Dense but enjoyable neo Bond, with a satisfying plot that ties together the whole Craig era with previous canon. Strong work from Sam Mendes, with some excellent set pieces (continuous take Mexican day of the dead cold open, the Dennis Wheatley-eqsue meeting infiltrated by Bond, Bond’s capture and torture, the climactic chase) and energetic performances by Christolph Waltz Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott.

The Incredibles title screen
The Incredibles
Top animated superhero shenanigans from Pixar, directed by Brad Bird.

[Aladdin title screen]
Breezily fun Disney Renaissance take on the hoary old tale, with directors Ron Clements and John Musker letting Robin Williams run riot as the genie.

The Omen (1976) title screen
The Omen
Silly but very decent genre shocker, with peerless physical effects and expert timing from Richard Donner.

A Week In Film #461: Strong out the gate

[Good Burger title screen]
Good Burger
Silly but overall inoffensive Kenan & Kel vehicle, with the pair of buffoons working a summer job at a local fast food restaurant facing ruin when a huge new Mondo Burger outlet opens across the road…

The Day Of The Jackal title screen
The Day Of The Jackal
Fred Zinnemann adapts Frederick Forsyth’s rollicking based-on-real-events thriller with real verve, and keeps the tension running throughout. Edward Fox is ice-cold as the English hitman hired by right-wing OAS goons to assassinate De Gaulle following his treacherous withdrawal from Algeria.

[The Mask title screen]
The Mask
Silly early Jim Carrey star vehicle, adapted from a Dark Horse comic about a mask that turns its wearer looney tunes. With Cameron Diaz, Peter Greene, and some other people. Not really sure I could précis the plot. Directed by Chuck Russell.

Sicario title screen
Watched Denis Villeneuve’s Traffik-esque tale of the war against drugs fought on the US-Mexico border as a bit of a warm-up before Blade Runner 2049. Can’t make up my mind whether it really is fascist cheerleading, or a particularly bleak and pessimistic parable, or just very cynical. I think probably the middle one, though the tripling down on the ending suggests something of a wobble in intent. Some great set pieces, though – Arizona, border crossing, post-bar, tunnels, Mexican road – and some strong performances (Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin). Superb score by Jóhann Jóhannsson too.

Serpico title screen
Sidney Lumet, Al Pacino and a pre-gentrification city of New York in perfect harmony.

Jawbone title screen
Starring, written and produced by Johnny Harris – though director Thomas Q Napper deserves a shout too – this is a fine drama about a has-been, coulda-been boxer who has a chance of redemption. It’s not ‘the British Rocky, and no less great for that. Superb supporting performances from Michael Smiley, Ian McShane and even Ray Winstone.