Monday, 28 February 2011

Between now and then, I'm gonna mess you up!

Drive Angry (2011)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot.

So aggressively set on being a cult classic, with every line being thrown away as though a bad ass bon mot it becomes very tiresome very quickly. When everything is turned up to Spinal Tap's 11, 11 isn't very special.
William Fichtner at least brings some fun by doing a Chris Walken impression but everybody else is so set on being 'awesome' that they fail to strike as actual characters, just a bag of supposedly kick ass tics in a skin suit.
Not that the film cares, but none of it makes any sense (why was the cult leader doing what he was doing? - there seems to be a suggestion he may have had a deal of his own already but why or how - god knows?) a couple of interesting actors turn up (David Morse at least gets to do something, but Pruitt Taylor Vince has nothing to work with, maybe there's a whole bunch of deleted scenes out there?)
The 3D is not bad I guess, it throws enough stuff out the screen to get you to flinch at least a couple of times.

The first one won't kill you; not the second, not even the third... not till you crawl over here and you KISS MY FOOT!

From Russia With Love (1963)
Chosen by BlogalongaBond

Another month, another Bond - this time one of my faves.

Bond's Intro: After an odd fake out (I assume the producers realised they didn't have Connery on screen for 15 minutes) that makes no sense what-so-ever but sets Grant up as a capable killer (even though it is of course revealed to not be Bond, the subconscious will have logged Shaw garrotting Connery). It's mildly amusing to see Connery as panicky, firing off a wild shot whilst the effortlessly cool Shaw stalks him. But seeing as Bond has kind of been a bit rubbish for all of Dr. No and will be for much of this film that moment doesn't work as well as perhaps it should.
I like to imagine that SPECTRE didn't tell Grant that it was a double for Bond, to see maybe if the reputation of the man (based on what? accidentally killing a bunch of people and bumbling his way into Dr. No's plot after he shot the guy in cold blood that might have told him what was going on) would effect performance against him. Maybe, god only knows?
We then get Bond proper, much later after establishing all the bad guys, smooching it up with the lovely Sylvia Trench (who comes off as a bit clingy here, shame as it's the last time we see her). Not a classic first scene for Bond but it does re-affirm that he puts the needs of his penis above the wants of his boss.

Theme Song and Credits: Once again we have no singing on our credits scene (though weirdly in my memory it does - strange the way we recall things) and our dancing female is not yet naked. Though it is much more overtly sexualised this time, the names projected onto the undulating thighs of a belly dancer, so we also start to see a thematic connection between the design sense of the credits and the film itself. The song is not fully heard until the end and is ok I guess, I'm of a mind that Bond songs should always be sung by women though.

The Ladies: Daniela Bianchi is quite, quite stunning and has more of an impact and presence than Ursula Andress. It's quite easy perhaps, and not entirely unfair, to dismiss her as a doting wisp of a character but unusually she is the driving thrust of the plot, rather than someone tacked onto it, and at least has more than one thing going on in her head (it's never really explored but she is working an angle on Bond and at least hesitates before shooting Klebb).
Sylvia Trench and Moneypenny pretty much slot in exactly as they did in Dr. No though Trench has a little less spark here.
Rosa Klebb is almost as aggressive at going for Romanova as Bond is, which if she was an attractive male may have changed the outcome of the movie. But alas, she is the first explicitly homosexual baddie we have for BlogalongaBond (i don't know, maybe you could make a case for Professor Dent) but by no means the last.

The Baddies: Now we get more of a feel for SPECTRE, who have a massive ego it seems. SPECTRE Island, really? And our first glimpse at Blofeld (it always amuses me to see the question mark where the actors name should be in the credits, for all the sex and violence, they're really made for kids).
We do so much better here than Dr. No. Grant, Klebb and Kronsteen are all interesting and varied. Grant the baddestassed thug of all badass thugs, Klebb all overt sexuality and Kronsteen the cold analyst.
Grant is the henchman that all future henchmen will be measured by (and come up short).

License to Kill: Bond maybe the worst secret agent ever. That's ok, he generally there to blow shit up. But he's also kind of rubbish at that for the most part. Over 40 mins before he gets into action and he's rather careless about who he attacks (I'm not sure how making a tent fall on both a Bulgarian and a Gypsy is meant to help the Gypsys but he basically repeats that later with a wagon and then a pond). Still, about 3 and a half hours into the James Bond series he finally becomes Bad Ass. By having a worthwhile opponent in Grant and one of the great fight scenes of all times (good dissection of that here) we see Bond as fully capable, both in toughness but also smarts (clocking Grant stealing his cash gives him the edge he needs and he plays on that greed). The chase with the helicopter is thrilling but the action with the boats is let down by the standard idiotic goons. Oh and the final bad guy is of course not killed by Bond, which is not the last time that will happen.

Bond hates foreigners: Not so much of that here. The Gypsy scene is a little condescending but there is a genuine warmth between Kerim Bey and Bond (unlike the servant/master relationship Quarrel had in Dr. No).

Bond hates women: We get some pretty piggish behaviour from Bond. 'From this angle things are shaping up nicely' he says on seeing Romanova's legs. Is quite quick to slap her around to find out what is going on (but that's true of most people he meets so...) and makes a joke about oral sex and the size of his dick that isn't all that smooth (though Connery just about pulls it off).

Bond's Crazy knowledge: Not especially exhibited here. In fact he goes out of his way to assert his ignorance 'I don't know too much about cryptography, sir' he says to M. As Kerim Bey is filling him in on the history of his city Bond offers up a 'really?' but couldn't sound more bored.

Bond's a big fat snob: 'Red wine with fish, that should have told me something'

00's killed: None again, my memory of the section being slaughtered left right and centre may be flawed. But we do have Kerim Bey dead I guess.

Mini Overview: Terrific stuff. Really solidified the work of Dr. No into generating one of the great movie series of all time. Barry's work here is superb, defining the Bond (and action films generally) sound for decades to come. The plot is a convoluted nonsense (Grant's going to make Bond's death look like a suicide by shooting him multiple times?) but fun with a great cast delivering some interesting characters.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

It's a crazy fucking world.

Animal Kingdom (2010)
Chosen by me as I like to go to the cinema a lot.

A film about a group of bank robbers who you never see actually performing a heist but is never-the-less tense and compelling.
Well played across the board (James Frecheville being perhaps the weakest link as the lead, but it's hard to get a grip on him his character is so very passive) a more interesting main character may have pushed this film to the next level but as it stands it is a terrific thriller and well worth catching.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

have you ever had two Asian men pummel your balls right after you had sex with a questionably attractive older woman?

Big Stan (2007)
Chosen by Sabine Woolnough who had this to say about why she chose it: 'because i know you will hate it /diabolical laughter'

The kindest thing I can say about Sabine right now is that she was totally correct.
Hate may not be a strong enough word to describe just how negatively I reacted to this film.
About ten minutes in a sent her a message to say I don't know if I wanted to kill her or myself.
Basically an hour and a half of rape jokes, it has no sense of ironic distance to make the grossly offensive material palatable and no sense of comic timing to even be funny.
Horridly overplayed by everyone involved (Jennifer Morrison almost manages to eke out some sympathy for her role as Schneider's unfortunate wife) there is nothing redeeming about this film what-so-ever.
I don't really care that David Carradine debasing himself in every way here (making him a star in two of the worst films I've seen with Crank 2), but it saddened me to see the awesome M. Emmet Walsh slumming once again - he deserves better but was looking pretty ropey here (I was surprised to see him, thinking he was dead).

Not just the worst film I have seen for my film a day project but one of the worst films I have seen of all time.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Mom, Dad, I really love you guys. I wanted to take this time to say the times we've spent together have been awesome.

127 Hours (2010)
Chosen by me as I like to go to the cinema a lot and friend and contributor to the blog Lauren Parker was doing an introduction for it at the Quad cinema in Derby.

Why would anyone watch Titanic if you know the ship sinks at the end? This was said by every wag going and completely misses the way people view movies. The ending doesn't actually matter, we watch movies for a journey. No-one thinks that James Bond will lose. 127 Hours is based on a fairly famous real life event, so there is little tension to be had as you might expect from if this was a fictional film. Aron Ralston's name is in the credits at the start of the film to say this is based on his book. The question is never will he get out? Or even to a lesser degree, how will he get out? But what manner of man would do this? How would you get into this situation?
Boyle is one of Britain's foremost film makers bringing a great sense of style and immediacy to everything he does. Bolstered by a blistering performance from James Franco, 127 Hours is never dull, often funny and life affirming. The film positvely sizzles, capturing the sense of thirst and loss incredibly well.
Ralston may have been a bit of a twat for getting into the trouble he did but it's hard not to be sympathetic and  warmed by the ending (although there is a very spurious link made to the horrific event and Ralston finding his wife).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Everyone's afraid to die alone.

The Bucket List (2007)
Chosen by Victoria Charvill who had this to say about it: 'Another test for your stone cold heart. Brilliant performances from Freeman and Nicholson. It never fails to make me laugh as their unlikely friendship develops. Yet it is still quite a somber story about life's lessons.'

Whilst in the hospital this is a reasonably amusing and touching tale of friendship with a terrific performance from Jack Nicholson. If the bucket list in the movie itself had remained an academic exercise and the film focused on a relationship forged not through silly obvious stunts (skydiving, yawn) but connecting over hardship this may have been a reliable tear jerker. But it gets distracted by spectacle (and Reiner has never been the most visually interesting director) and loses all sympathy from me by playing a rather mean trick.
This isn't the sort of film that needs to have a 'twist' to have an emotional resonance, they are dying, isn't that enough? Apparently not. In order to tug at the heart strings it feels the need to mislead you into thinking Nicholson dies first and tries to blindside you with Freeman's death.
This is, in the parlance of today, a dick move.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Time does not exist here. And wherever it went, it's not going to make me need Annie any less.

What Dreams May Come (1998)
Chosen by Victoria Charvill who had this to say about it: ' A test of your stone cold heart. It oozes sentimentality and wants you to believe in soul mates. That aside, it's my favourite Robin Williams film and possibly one of the most under-rated films of all time. It's portrayal of heaven and hell is the most creative and beautiful I have seen.'

Richard Matheson is a terrific writer but I have never read the story this is based on, and honestly have little interest in doing so after seeing this film.
Horribly miscast Robin Williams can neither do the comedy bits (some horrid Patch Adams sections here) nor the emotional drama (he manages ok the couple of times he gets angry though - suggesting, perhaps as with One Hour Photo, he's better when with a darker edge) but is still far better than an incredibly annoying Cuba Gooding Jnr.
Annabella Sciorra is however rather good and anchors some of the film (hey I could believe he would walk through hell to get to her) and it's murkier concepts (his family pretending to be other people is given some cod justification but doesn't really make sense).
The idea of heaven being made from a painting is visually arresting (till they ditch it) but the hell, whilst looking good i guess, never gets beyond Bosch in it's influences.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Chocolate Subway, Marshmallow Overcoat. Those kind of names, you know?

The Last Waltz (1978)
Chosen by Caleb Bailey who had, well a lot to say about it so I'm going to put it after the picture.

Caleb says: 'When I say (in true 1960s style) that "I dig The Band", the most common response is, "what band?". That would be this band - four Canadians and an Arkansas farmboy, gradually assembled by Ronnie Hawkins before being poached by Dylan (these are the boys who helped ol' Bob 'go electric'), before ultimately making some beautiful music in their own right. This is their final concert; a fantastic concoction of roots, blues, country, funk, rock 'n' roll, soul and, of course, a last waltz. Joined by a host of musical luminaries - Van Morrison, Dr. John, Clapton, Neil Young, Paul Butterfield, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris and, well, and Ringo Starr - this is a fitting, kinetic, kaleidoscopic tribute to The Band and their distinctive brand of music. Okay, so I'm supposed to be recommending the film, not the music...Well, what can I say, Scorsese's direction is sublime, choreographed to within an inch of its life: cameras glide on rails, along pre-planned routes, ignoring the audience (usually a primary focus for most concert films) and focusing on the natural musical skills of its subjects, their telepathic understanding of each other, and the vastly differing takes on showmanship of their guests. The intercut interviews with The Band are certainly cornball - unnecessarily fawning even - and clearly ripe for the later lampooning that Rob Reiner/Marti DeBergi provided a few years later. But, forget 'Tap', there's none more The Band.'

Well there's little for me to add really, Caleb pretty much hits the nail on the head. I'm not sure I've ever watched a concert film before (sure something will come to mind the second i post this) and can't believe that it took me so long to see this (there's still a couple of other Scorsese gaps I should fill actually) but it's rather excellent. The music is terrific and it really captures a time and place beautifully whilst barely leaving a concert hall. Some of the finest D.P.s worked on this and it shows being both incredibly personal and grandiose at the same time.
And good lord, Mannish Boy by Muddy Waters is amazing.

Monday, 21 February 2011

♫pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep♫

The Music Man (1962)
Chosen by me because it influenced perhaps the greatest episode of the Simpsons ever.

Overlong, with some of the worst singers in a musical I have ever seen (and I've seen, and loved, Romance and Cigarettes) - a young Ron (Ronny) Howard is here with a terrible lisp but he's not much worse than some of the actors around him.
None of the plot really makes sense (a con artist is scamming a town into buying lots of music equipment), we are told our 'music man' has no ability at all but of course this is a musical so he keeps breaking into song. He may be the worst con artist ever as he basically just does what he says he was going to do.
The songs are often cleverly constructed (one has a bunch of gossiping townsfolk resembling hens pecking at the ground) but not very catchy and often completely superfluous to the plot.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

you're not going to marry me because i don't make you laugh?

Paris Je T'aime (2006)
Chosen by me from my stack of unwatched DVDs.

I love short story books, comic anthologies and the like. Paris Je T'aime is a delightful collection of twenty different filmmakers making short odes to love and Paris. As with anything like this, some are better than others (but ask ten different people for their most and least favourite and you'll get ten different answers) but most are at least interesting (and short enough if they are not).
Filled with whimsy and sadness and romance and grief it covers a multitude of ways at looking at it's subjects, some full stories but others just fleeting moments in time.
Standouts are the Coens with a very funny tale and a great gag involving a tourist guidebook and Alexander Payne's story following a wonderful Margo Martindale falling in love with the city delivered in a very badly accented French voice-over (that is read with so much detail it should be used as a textbook example of delivering character through v.o.) that ends the film on a powerful, sad but not depressing note.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Let's go, bitch. I've done action films!

Team America: World Police (2004)
Supplied by Vicky who had this to say about it: 'Nothing to do with me, this one is Peter's choice for you. He thinks you'll like it. I, personally, got bored with trey Parker's sense of humour quite a while ago. I do know a few folk who still giggle at lines from this, so maybe you will like it'

One has to admire the chutzpah and effort of Parker and Stone to put out a very silly puppet action movie.
Luckily there is more to admire in this daft, funny sometimes pointed (though not as successfully as their South Park film) satire.
It takes pot shots at left and right wing politics (it may just be my bias but the stuff targeting left wing do-goodery is not nearly as on point or funny as the barbs to the other spectrum) but mostly just fills itself with gags about sex and violence, often heightened by the fact that is all done with puppets (the sex scene would have been amusing live action but here transcends into something outrageously funny).
It misses as much as hits (an extended vomiting feels like it should be in lesser fare like Family Guy and it's Michael Moore joke is basically 'hey he's fat') but is punchy enough to get away with it.
America Fuck Yeah! is an anthem for the ages.

Friday, 18 February 2011

How much can I learn from an ass?

Paul (2011)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot.

A breezy, silly, fun romp starting at San Diego Comic-Con and getting geekier from there.
It's a much lazier script than Pegg's collaborations with Edgar Wright, many characters are mere sketches (some homophobic hicks and God botherers in particular) indeed even the character of Paul gets annoyed by how one note Wiig is, mirroring my thoughts at the time (though i couldn't zap the writing into gear as he does for proving evolution).
It suffers a little also from a couple of Pegg's weaknesses as a writer, falling back on easy jokes about being gay or making punchlines just be some dialogue from other movies ('get away from her you bitch' a particularly egregious example). There's obviously some fun to be had from that as a nerd (I may have been the only person to laugh at the mention of Mac and Me at my screening), and as in Spaced and the Wright films it's also used to suggest how these characters relate to the world through pop culture.
One of it's slyest gags is that the Alien is much more like Pegg and Frost than most humans they meet and the bonding between them often sweetly funny.
It is populated by some terrific American comedy talent, Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman, Jane lynch, Bill Hader, David Koechner - some who get more to do than others but raise some of the lesser material so it's always enjoyable.

Probably the most fun I've had at the cinema this year. But I am a big fat old nerd of course.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

You mention that place again, and I walk.

Just Go With It (2011)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot and Paul had sold out.

Just horrid.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

If I had a real gun I'd come out and shoot you!

Time and Tide (2000)
Chosen by Owen Todd who had this to say about it: 'An excellent film, a good narrative with some nice fight scenes along the way. Distinctly better than most run-of-the-mill martial arts flicks' 

I can vividly recall the time I saw Tsui Hark's Once Upon A Time in China. I had seen some Jackie Chan (loved) and Bruce Lee (not so keen) but nothing like the insane wire-fu of that Jet Li classic. I was just buzzing from seeing it, simply blew me away in a way no film since has really.
This certainly doesn't do match up but is a generally fun romp with some pretty good action scenes but little else to recommend.
The ever reliable Anthony Wong unfortunately doesn't have much to work with and disappears from the movie completely for the last act. Nobody else really registers as the plot is too messy (i'm still not sure why the hell it spends so much time on the bloody music box) though the main character as a bodyguard who has to run around with a fake gun and is trying to give money to his kid from a one night stand with a drunk lesbian (the movie really is a mess) is reasonably interesting.
Had the film had more focus could have been a minor classic of it's type.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

We are modelled on trash

Never Let Me Go (2010)
Chosen by me as I like to go to the cinema a lot.

There is a habit in science fiction films to over explain, to set out the rules of it's world unsubtly, reams of exposition (not always badly delivered) t explain something that doesn't really matter. Never Let Me Go certainly does not have that problem. Unfortunately, quite the opposite. It works in all the small details of the world (the casual way they scan their wristbands, the pills and milk)  but fails to find a big picture, it's never clear why the world accept the way things are.
The reason this doesn't work is that the main characters are so passive, so passionless that the movies focus on the romance angle (and throws in a question about the nature of a soul to show it's a serious science fiction film not some nickel and dime B picture - except of course they often ask these questions too, so it's really nothing special) singularly fails to engage.
Andrew Garfield is good but the role so wet (he pretty much just does what ever anyone tells him) that it's hard to believe he is in love, or care whether he has a soul or not.
The moment that is meant to kick the tear ducts into gear never takes off (for one it's fairly obvious that he's not not going to get what he wants - the excellent Carey Mulligan plays it as though she probably knows) because even his anger is passive.
Why do the donors go along with everything? Why does the world go along with everything? Had we had a stronger love story these questions wouldn't have mattered but it is so austere and sterile, even one characters death barely registers. If the characters themselves don't seem to care much about their fate why should we?
The casting for the younger Carey Mulligan was uncanny, had her mannerisms down pat.

Monday, 14 February 2011

But secretly you'd love to know what it's like, wouldn't you? What it feels like for a girl?

The Cement Garden (1993)
Chosen by Ian Love who had this to say about it: 'a dark tale of family grief which takes a turn for the worse or a touching love story which ever way you wish to view it! Charlotte Gainsbourg is stunning in one of her very early roles and this movie always leaves me shocked and heartbroken all at the same time!!! enjoy Dave :)'

Hmm, enjoy is probably not the word I would use.
As bleak and featureless as the house you can see above, The Cement Garden exists in a world of emptiness and is mostly a sad, powerful treatment of nihilistic living and sexual awakening (it's not quite subtle at times, the son masturbating as his father dies unseen in the garden is perhaps a little too on the nose).
There is a strange passivity to the relationship between Gainsbourg (superb in this) and Robertson (also good) which works better here than in the film I am 'reviewing' for tomorrow (I feel a rant coming on about romance in films but that have been tempered by the time I come to write it up) Never Let Me Go. A deliberate lack that works in it's favour creating an unusual, interesting (i wish we could have had more from the younger daughter, whose reaction to her mother's death is fascinating) tone but one hard to casually recommend.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!

True Grit (2010)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot and the Coens are probably my favourite film-makers.

After a weak start with a pointless voice over (not used again till the end, where it is also useless, everything that is said could have simply been shown) the Coens once again forge a masterful, beautifully elegant Western. Less nihilistic than No Country for Old Men (or indeed a lot of their recent films) and filled with exceptional performances and an amazing score it is not the best Coen brothers film but is essential viewing.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies.

Ran (1985)
Chosen by me (i've had this on video for well over 10 years) but with a dvd supplied by Andrew who had this to say about it: 'Akira Kurosawa's final Samurai epic is a haunting tragedy about mortality, greed and power. Ran is an exceptional piece of film making especially considering that Kurosawa was almost blind during filming.'

Ran Poster

Taking one of Shakespeare's best plays and reworking it for feudal Japan worked well for Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and once again strikes gold here. There is no blistering performance on the level of Mifune in this picture (and the age make up on the old Lord is less than brilliant) but it is full of terrific imagery and an austere tone (all long shots and the first excellent battle sequence has the sounds stripped out leaving a viewer more isolated but contemplative of the goings on) that make this a must see classic.

Friday, 11 February 2011

I'm the guidance counselor; I should know all the students, especially the ones that dress like prostitutes.

Easy A (2010)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot.

Easy A Poster

A generally smart and funny teen comedy that wants a little too hard to be Mean Girls (Emma Stone even looks like Lohan here) but whose secondary cast of characters aren't as strong.
Like Shane Black's rather brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this film often falls back onto highlighting it's cliches by announcing loudly 'see just like the movies' which doesn't really excuse hackneyed storytelling but also like that film has snappy one liners to cover it all up so it never really matters.
It can't quite wrap it all up plausibly, the end seems to come from nowhere (why should someone who has lied non-stop through the film and says so be believed just because she made a vlog) but since the whole thing covers school life with as much veracity as the average episode of Glee I guess this is not a huge problem.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

he is very immature and hates to lose... just like me.

Death Note (2006)
Chosen by Brian Marshall who had this to say about it: 'A film I came across thanks to the evil that is amazon recommends. I'd not read the manga so wasn't sure exactly what to expect. I was hooked from the get go and it's one of only a few films where the ending took me by surprise. '

Staying fairly faithful to the early volumes of the successful manga, it doesn't quite manage to get past the books very exposition heavy dialogue dumps and lacks the artistic visuals to make up for for the fact that nothing exciting is happening (heart attacks are rather dull to watch really) for much of it's lengthy running time.
But it is still an interesting premise set in a world just left of ours (the Police seem to happily accept  a supernatural explanation without ever questioning it, i guess this kind of thing happens all the time, where's Scully when you need her?) nicely played by most involved.
It does annoyingly have very little in the way of a conclusion, a neat blackly comic gag (that leads to a moment as important to manga fans as De Niro and Pacino meeting in Heat) is somewhat negated by the fact it cuts to another storyline that goes nowhere here merely forcing a pointless nod towards a sequel.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

We just want to play!

Ils (2006)
Chosen by Lauren Parker because she wants to give me a heart attack and had this to say about it: 'I don't remember much about Them to be honest apart from its very creepy playing on the fact that even your home is not necessarily a safe haven, alot of bumps in the dark.'

Supposedly inspired by real events this is a rather effective little thriller for the most part. Taut (runs just over 70 mins), it plays well with the fear that even your home can be unsafe, your haven turned into something horrible and dangerous.
It loses a little edge when it leaves the house (whose geography is never quite laid out enough, it's massive but we see only a few rooms - and has an unsed attic bigger than my entire home) for some running around the woods and a telegraphed 'shock' (it tries to play coy about shooting the invaders in full perspective) but manages to be tense and uncomfortable in it's best moments, working the stalking cliches into a sort of grounded reality.
As with a lot of these films it has more than a whiff of middle class paranoia about it as a school teacher and a writer are stalked by hoodies in a massive country house.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Your death sits in that cage, and she hears you.

The Last Unicorn (1982)
Chosen by Victoria Charvill who had this to say about it: 'We only discovered this after looking for lists of the best kids films and I'm so glad we did. It has an A list cast and the core members of the animation team went on to form Studio Ghibli. It does have some cheesy music, but hey, it was the '80s. It is a kids film but it has enough adult themes that I can watch it over and over with my kids. A classic to rival any Disney film'

One of those childhood favourites that I had never even heard of until recently (a comic adaptation came out that I sold in store) but when mentioned people seem to love.
It's pretty decent until it stalls itself at an empty castle for what feels like ages, but the road trip, quest narrative until then was fun and a little dark, let down by Mia Farrow's weak voice talent (her duet with Jeff Bridges is terrible) and some dull, far too specific songs (there's little room for poetic metaphor, if they're singing about an eagle soaring, there is an eagle on screen) sung by the band America.
Tammy Grimes brings some life to the character of Molly who has an endearing look and holds the group together (more should have been made of this, by ditching the songs and playing up the relationships more perhaps?).

Monday, 7 February 2011

Brighton's on the move

Brighton Rock (2010)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot.

I think Graham Greene is one of the greatest writers of all time (fuck Shakespeare who should be taught in Theatre Studies not English anyway) and yet I have never read Brighton Rock or indeed seen the version with Richard Attenborough. Something I must attempt to amend.
This film, rather pointlessly updated to the 60s, is perfectly decent but uninspiring for the most part. Pinkie may be one of the great bastards of all time (the message he records for Rose seems somewhat nastier than the bashing in of someone's head with a rock and the most unbearable scene in the movie where she is about to listen to it) but the film fails to really get into him and why he does what he does. Though at least you can see some motivation (his father figure is killed, power corrupts) Rose is a non-entity. Pinkie too scary to work as someone she would fall head over heels in love with without more reason (there is the slightest suggestion she may be continuing a pattern of abusive relationships with the briefest mention of her father's moods) let alone listen to when told to kill herself. Sam Riley, or perhaps Pinkie as written, lacks the charisma to make this whole thread work and the climax by a lighthouse daft and confused.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

True Grit (1969)
Chosen by me but supplied by Victoria (whose splendid blog is linked to on the side) as I wanted to see it before the Coen's version.

A very talky western, but when the dialogue is this good that doesn't matter. Funny and interesting, offering three great characters in La Beouf, Cogburn but most of all Mattie Ross. Unfortunately the playing of them is not quite as consistant. Wayne is fine but can't find the darkness in Cogburn that makes his relationship with the young girl all the more compelling. Kim Darby is generally pretty good as Ross, holding the film together, as she is pretty much onscreen the whole running time. The weak link is certainly Glen Campbell as La Beouf who never gets past his smile, the smarm a little too wooden and one dimensional even when the writing isn't.

There's not much action to speak of, perfunctory and slightly dull (though someone getting their fingers chopped off is quite the shock but this was the year The Wild Bunch was released and some riders essentially blandly charging each other doesn't cut it even with the iconic 'fill your hands you son of a bitch' line beforehand) but that's not the focus of this film and the words 'zing' more than the bullets do.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

I had to read the whole fuckin' movie.

The Fighter (2010)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot. And it looked good.

Mark Wahlberg (who always gives his best performances in David O'Russell films) is brilliant in this terrific biopic of a boxer I've never heard of (but that's most of them so there we go).
Bale is good but has a showy rather irritating role that Wahlberg underplays next to with great effect.
The film doesn't quite escape the cliches inherent in both biopics and sport flicks (training montage - oh yeah) but films most of the boxing matches with great delicacy the focus being the fight rather than any filmic techniques (for the most part).
Amy Adams and Melissa Leo offer fine support.

Friday, 4 February 2011

I'm a fireman. We don't arrest people.

An Accidental Husband (2008)
Chosen by the Quad Cinema in Derby. Kinda.

Once a month I attend with some friends (including some people you have seen or will be seeing quoted on these very pages) a film quiz at the splendid Quad Cinema in Derby. Often we do well enough to get into the top three and win some prizes, usually some free tickets and a book or dvd sometimes signed posters are up for grabs (curse the team that just beat us out for a signed 500 days of Summer one!).
Well last night we came third. And one of my team mates came back from the box office with the prizes in hand including this film. Which I had never actually heard of. I don't recall seeing one trailer for it (and I go to the cinema a fair bit you could say) or a review.

All of that was a way of me padding out this entry because I have so little to say about the film itself. A rather dull, by the numbers affair with little sparkle or wit and bland characters who aren't even interesting enough to be unlikeable.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

♫I Think that You and I Should Get Acquainted♫

What A Way to Go (1964)
Chosen by me from my stack of unwatched dvds. And I love Shirley Maclaine

Despite that cast I had never heard of this film until I read Nathan Rabin's excellent column in the, My Year of Flops. After that I spotted it for a few quid and picked it up to never watch. Until now.
The film starts with a horridly pink coffin, in an horridly pink house being dropped down the stairs and chased after, Benny Hill style, by the pallbearers.
I came close to switching it off at that point.
It did get better (slightly) and has some fun in poking at the perils of wealth and fame but is such a bloated excess itself (again, look at that cast) that all the good ideas are lost amongst some shameless mugging (of course I don't really expect anything else from Dick Van Dyke and a chimpanzee that paints) and expensive but boring looking sets.
Shirley Maclaine is a hoot, whether bouncing off the laconic Mitchum (who mostly retains his dignity despite trying to milk a Bull), dancing with Gene Kelly (the best sequence of the film) or ignoring Dean Martin's advances she remains adorable.
An unexpected modern laugh comes from Paul Newman playing an artist called Larry Flint.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Welcome to Potters Bluff!

Dead and Buried (1981)
Chosen by Lauren Parker who had this to say about it: 'Dead and Buried is just a great film I think everyone should see as it's not that well known. It has amazing gore effects and just has something about it I can't quite place my finger on.'

The second of three horror films lent to me by Lauren (knowing that I am a big wimp - I'm sure she is trying to give me a heart attack) and an interesting but flawed mini gem.
Opening slowly but strikingly, it immediately sets up an intriguing mystery that turns out to be a cross between Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and a zombie film.
With a couple of stronger performances (especially the lead James Farentino who comes close to Troll 2 levels in expressing his disbelief whilst watching a home movie) and a more coherent ending (i'm not sure anything really made any sense, but certainly not the timeline of events) we may have had a real hidden classic.
As it is, it's well worth catching, with some creepy atmospherics, some good gore (though a man's face being injected with acid is not so great) and unusual take on zombie cliches.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Let's just assume for the moment that everyone in here doesn't like me!

Tangled (2010)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot and I had heard good things.

I can see why this has been well received - it's quite a throwback to old school Disney movies. Songs and Princesses and all that jazz.
Which means, of course, that it didn't really do anything for me. It is fairly amusing with a strong interesting Rapunzel but as soon as the first song started it lost me and never quite got it's groove going.
I'm not sure why that should be I love musicals but songs in children's animated films drive me up the wall (don't get me started on those damn Randy Newman songs in Toy Story) with few exceptions.
This has very little for me, and nor should it but that doesn't matter to the fact I didn't like it.