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Bomb City (2017)
As someone who lived through the original punk era (late 1970's) as a teenager myself, I was looking forward to this reworking of punk as it appeared in the 1990's. I thought it may be reflective of this second wave of teenage nihilism and rebellion. Sadly, it wasn't.
I know the real story of what happened in Amarillo and the outcome for those involved (no spoilers from me). But, truth of the matter is, as the film progressed, it became more and more like this was just The Magnificent Seven with Mohican haircuts. Except, unlike that classic western/Japanese story, the characters herein are not developed in a way which makes the viewer care all that much about what happens to them.
For sure Dave Davis as Brian does an excellent job as the central protagonist but he's the only one with any chops in this movie. The remainder of the cast spend most of the film shouting loud obscenities, (badly) pretending to be drunk and swivel-eyed 'look at me, I'm so different' fakery. This was repeated over and over again in more or less each scene to the point where, as other reviewers here have commented, you could skip from minute 10 to minute 118 and not miss anything of any importance. It is very monochrome in that regard.
All that said, it's a 6 out of 10 film for me. This film would have worked much better had it been cut to an hour maximum. It needed to focus on Dave Davis' Brian more. It needed more of his family background, how and why he became a punk (when punk had been dead 20 years by this time anyway) and it needed to just tell the story without forcing sentimentality in our faces.
Tin Star (2017)
Poor Tim Roth
It's easy to see they spent money on this. It's big budget stuff in terms of personnel, locations, casting. But it's also very easy to see not much was spent on the script because, as many others have posted here, this is dreadfully thought out and so unbearably bad as to be all but unwatchable.
In the stead of good dialogue, what we get is a lot of googly-eye swiveling allied to staring into the distance, phenomenally annoying whispering whenever the actors think they have something 'profound' to say and all round awful acting. With a script as truly bad as this, it is little wonder that the characters struggle to become even one-dimensional in form. They include 'the good time gal' barmaid, the silent but brooding native people (who, given the dreadful nature of the script I expected to say 'White man bring heap big many problem' at any moment), the Frankenstein monster of a corporate executive, the cool but unhinged assassin, the pudding basin haircut kid (really? Jeez, that's not been around since Kramer v Kramer back in 1979) and the loyal but dim-as-a-two-watt bulb wife. There is nothing here for us to build upon, every character is a cliché - so much so that the show might as well come with a pre- printed check sheet so that we can tick off the cut and paste characters one by one as they appear.
The main point of writing this review, however, is to express my considerable concern, and indeed sorrow, that an actor as fine as Tim Roth would even agree to make a guest appearance in a single episode of this show, never mind become its leading actor. Surely to all that's decent, he can't be this hard up for work?
Poor, very, very poor. I am irrevocably dumber for watching this.
Welcome to the jungle
Well, this goes exactly where you expect it to go. After all, it is about 4 dimwitted buffoons who decide to demonstrate their stupidity in as clear a fashion as is possible and, oh what a shock, the inevitable happens. They get lost. In the jungle. Where they don't have a clue what they are doing nor how to get out. There ends my analysis of the story line. You can work out for yourselves what unfolds.
As for the film of this stupid tale, it's not badly made. Clearly there was a lot of effort put into ensuring the scenes attempted to recreate as much as possible the sense of being lost in such an environment. The scary beasts are portrayed as scary; the landscape is wild, the rivers fast flowing and treacherous. Yeah, yeah...we get it. It's not the place to go ... yawn...oh, excuse me...it's the er...uh- huh....jungle, yeah, got ya.
But, fret not. The flashback scenes add...no, hold on...let me think about them...I mean...when our 'hero' hallucinates...it's...yeah, no, wait...hold on a second...actually, you're right...what were they all about? Buffalo in fast food stores? Stunningly beautiful waitresses moving slowly to 1950's bee-bop... Amazingly western looking Amazon jungle women in $12.99 Walmart wigs and with boot polish make up? Ya know, now I think about it...ya lost me.
Still, back to the jungle. Daniel Radcliffe does his best, in fact, I'd say it's a great performance. Maybe his most dramatic role so far. I like Daniel Radcliffe...I thought 'Swiss Army Man' was great. And 'Horns' was a hoot. But here, the long shadow of 'why would anyone be this stupid?' keeps invading thoughts and it just all leads to a feeling of 'well, serves you right' and thus no investment in the character at all.
The supporting cast did their bit with a weak script based on a weak story. The square jawed chick bait guy was all huffy and puffy where needed. The 'I'm so full of life I could just explode' dude was OK until his boots began to pinch. After that, mercifully, the film dumped him. And the villain was not especially villainous. Just a guy whose hair looked great even in the humidity of the jungle. A lesson for us all to use conditioner regularly, I believe. And there's a woman in the film too. For a while. At the beginning. Why exactly, I don't know. But she is.
There is a laugh in the film, however - a big one, actually. It starts at the very beginning when the 'Based on a true story' image appears but you're not chuckling then. The real belly laugh comes at the end, when the film shows real photos of the four idiots this 'true' story revolves around. Yup, people this stupid really exist/ed. I walked out of the cinema thanking my lucky stars that I have my senses intact. Because, clearly, not a one of these clowns did.
All in all, kudos to Daniel Radcliffe. he does well here in an otherwise poorly dramatized version of a tale of 4 morons.
Vengeance: A Love Story (2017)
Nic Cage's wig
Straight to the point - this is a dreadful film. It has all the subtlety and breadth of a 3-year-old child's crayon drawing. Without exception, the support cast are absolutely awful in this. Their performances are clichéd, highly predictable and as wooden as a 2 by 4. The direction is unenthusiastic and the editing looks like it was done using Windows XP.
The story-line is something we've all seen a thousand times before - only, even the worst version of this hackneyed story is better than this. Every prejudice you can imagine is wheeled out, beaten with a stick until it screams 'stop, stop', and yet, is beaten again. I know we live in age of the 7-second attention span but this film is a waste of 6 of them.
Don't go to see it. And, sure as heck, don't pay money to see it.
American Pastoral (2016)
Too much bla bla!
About an hour in to this movie, a question struck me. 'When will this end?' I know the book is long and 'deep'(I read it several years back) and I know that bringing it to the screen would mean either producing a 4 hour 'epic' or cutting a lot out. Well, a lot WAS cut out. And it's still too long.
As a debut director, we can accept that Ewan McGregor is feeling his way here as he steps both in front of and behind the camera. His acting skills are not under scrutiny or doubt here as it's clear he gives this 100% of his undeniable talent. His direction, however, is on shaky ground. There is just too much (what they used to call) 'speechifying' in this movie. Some characters have no dialogue at all which does not have within it some intention to make some profound comment upon the way of the world or its imminent demise. Now, this may be because of trying to squeeze all the book contains into a 1 hour and 50 minute film. Or, more likely, it is misplaced intentions. Nobody is this intense all the time. And it wears pretty thin on the viewer after about 45 minutes. This is why I was asking, 'When will it end?' I'd like to add that the supporting cast did what they could to carry the film forward but, as other reviewers have posted here, this is Ewan McGregor's vehicle. It rests on him - both as an actor and as a director. And, for all his skill and experience as a very fine actor, it's the direction which lets this film down.
I will finish by saying, this is far from being a bad movie. Not at all. The challenge to turn the book into a movie is an enormous one. And Mr. McGregor did it. Bravo! Because it is stylish, generally well-acted and has its merits. But, if Ewan McGregor ever steps behind the camera again, I hope he will make that his only task in a future production. So that he can dedicate his talent exclusively to that.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
First world problems
A reasonably well intentioned effort by Tom Ford quickly trips over its own laces as whingey whiny first world problem after first world problem leads the viewer to care not a jot about anyone of the characters in this film; whether they be in the 'real' story or in the parallel 'fictional' one.
If I were to find anything praiseworthy about the film at all, it's the presence of Michael Shannon who dominates the screen wherever he appears. Actually, in my opinion, had he been chosen to play the fictional character of Tony, the story would have had more clout instead of watching plastic haired Jake Gyllenhaal pouting and feigning interest in a story he seems not to care much about either.
I found the cinematography flat and lifeless and the main purpose of this film appears to be to promote the (purportedly) beautiful interior spaces inhabited by the 'art-irati' and their vanity eyewear. In short, had this film been named 'Nocturnal Interiors', it would have had more of a focus to it.
All in all, a poor effort of a film. 4/10
The Accountant (2016)
Bourne gets a calculator
This movie has a lot of flaws. The script is rambling, the sequencing not coherent, the portrayal of autism stereotypical and, worst of all, it has Anna Kendrick in it.
Affleck does his best to portray the 'dead on the inside' accountant who just wants to feel and be loved. But, the messy story line and the altogether silly arc of the narrative left me thinking 'Just another bad movie you're in Ben...ya need to stop and think really hard before you agree to the next project'. Because, from his (let's say) 'crowning achievement' of Argo (which left me 'Eh!' for the record), Affleck has slowly slid down into roles that any guy over six feet tall and broad at the beam could have played. It would be churlish to say that, like his old chum, Matt Damon, Affleck is trying too hard to be part of a franchise action series like the 'Bourne' movies. (Though, 'The Accountant' left us in no doubt, like Arnie, he'll 'be back'). Nevertheless, this is just another pot-boiler action movie along the lines of so many others that take up space at the cinema and, unsurprisingly, do very well there too. So, 2017...book your seats for 'The Accountant 2...Payback'.
There is a well honed cast of supporting actors here. JK Simmons is good, though not great and must have choked on some of the lines he had to say. John Lithgow earned his keep (though from scene 1 he appeared in, we knew he was the bad guy...pantomime boo hiss). Cynthia Addai-Robinson tries really hard to be convincing in her role as a put upon special agent though, she fails. And the great Jeffrey Tambor is on screen for too little time to value the appearance and contribution of such a fine actor in this rambling story. Where it all really does fall apart is when Ana Kendrick appears on screen. Seriously? You expect us to take her seriously? For sure there are a lot of actors appearing in movies who got there by luck and not by talent but, she can't act. She can't do it. I mean, look...she cannot act! Now, before anybody goes haywire at me for praising some male actors here and appearing derogatory to the two female characters in this movie, I should add...Cynthia Addai-Robinson was great, I mean really great, in Luc Besson's/Olivier Megaton's 'Colombiana' a few years back. She did a really fine job in that movie. But, Anna Kendrick? Jeez, she stank in 'Up In The Air' (playing the same character as in this movie); she stank in '50/50' (playing the same character as in this movie); she stank in the truly awful 'Mr. Right' (playing the same character as in this movie) and she is currently involved in 'Pitch Perfect 3' (God help us all) which we all know will stink to high Heaven. In short, she's the luckiest, most talent-less actor out there right now. For one, I have no idea how she got there.
But, to finish on the only noteworthy thing in this movie. Jon Bernthal. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the presence of a film star. Even though a lot of what he had to do was clichéd nonsense (the good guy/bad guy gangster type), he did it all with absolute conviction. This meant that his performance was, by far, the only credible character in the whole powder-puff that is 'The Accountant'. (Immediate disclaimer - the incongruous and plain silly ending he had to cough the last lines out of remains just that, incongruous and plain silly). But, he's a genuine star and I hope to see much more of him in better movies than this.
All in all, 2 hours passed. 4 out of 10
The Good Neighbor (2016)
James Caan can't be this much in need of work?
James Caan is a film star. No, no...I don't mean that he is well known; nor do I mean he is a Hollywood 'face'. I mean he is a FILM STAR! That rarest of things in the world of movie making. There are many who think they are; few who truly are. And, for sure, he is the only person worth mentioning in this movie. Because it's awful. I mean, absolutely awful.
The (cough) plot of this crude and crudely thought out post-factual crap indicates that it was both created by and aimed at pubescent, self-obsessed, highly entitled layabouts with an attitude of superiority and far too much time on their hands. And, that's the thing. Time on their hands. I'm afraid I don't have this much time in life to waste on rubbish like this. No on writing long reviews on rubbish like this.
There were some other actors in this movie, not all of them putting in a bad performance...but the two principal actors (whose names I instantly forgot because they were instantly forgettable) should not be spoken of ever again. Least of all because they were once in a movie with the film star, James Caan.
It's also sloppy film-making. For example, the video cam shows a time of 9.19pm. Cut to the two boys watching. The clock on the wall in their room says 8.30pm. 5 minutes of the movie pass in the same scene. It's still 9.19pm on the video. The clock on the room wall is 9.19 now too. Really? Come on...this is basic Film Continuity 101. And as for the silly CGI cold breath scenes. What did they generate that with? Windows XP?
Mr. Caan you are too good for this movie. Mr Caan - far too good. I can't imagine you need the money - I hope not, anyway. Continue taking great cameo roles like you did in the wonderful 'Small Apartments' (2012). But, please, never, ever consider working in such an amateurish, navel-gazing piece of trash like this again. You are, never forget, a film star.
Mr. Right (2015)
We couldn't see it through to the end
Sam Rockwell is a fine actor. Tim Roth is a legend of postmodern cinema. Anna Kendrick, I feel, has yet to find a role to match her talents - though, based on this film, those talents mostly involve fake goofery and gee-whizziness. Together, these three are responsible for this mess of a film. Well, them and director Paco Cabezas.
This is a film about nothing. The story - such as it is - comes straight out of the imagination of an 11-year-old and is peppered with the most awful dialogue. 'We're in a big pussy parade'. 'I gonna take him out'. 'I actually...er ...like...I mean...er...that's awesome'. 'I don't remember what my life was like 3 days ago'.
External dialogues reveal meaningless inner thoughts. Clichéd gangsters sit behind large desks with classic art on the wall while whispering comically threatening things. Overly rehearsed, supposedly spontaneous chit chat, comes across as some kind of theory lesson at acting school. Unintentionally comic fight scenes look like a Passa Doble. And the 'romance' facet is just silly.
And I think that's the word I would use for this film - 'silly'. I have no objection to suspending disbelief at the cinema - indeed, that's why we go there - but, I also do not wish to be considered mindless and so easily duped.
Pity - 3 great actors wasted. I can only presume they need the money for some reason.
'Get me the trackers on the satellite...NOW!!!' (Cut to scene of dashingly handsome square-jawed actor in a suit his character could never afford while standing next to product placed Pepsi can.) 'That's a breach of diplomatic protocols and you damn well know it Bill!' (Cut to scene of drop dead gorgeous actress using product placed Samsung.) 'You can't touch her...she has diplomatic immunity!' (Cut to scene of most picturesque tourist view of London.) 'The President is expecting answers damn it!!' (Cut to scene of underground bunker full of beep-beeping computers and hi-tech screens while someone types away furiously without ever looking at what's appearing on the monitor.) Get the picture yet? Sure you do...This is a movie so riddled with clichés and hackneyed dialogue that the viewer really can predict what will happen in each and every scene. And straight down that path of total predictability it goes without ever touching the sides.
To my surprise, there are some big name actors in this drivel - not one of whom needed the money so, we must simply surmise that they participated in this movie...well, for the money, obviously. Roger Rees is a very fine actor but his extremely dodgy middle European accent here is frankly comical. Frances De La Tour, consummate professional that she is, manages to keep her face straight while spouting non-sensical garbage. Dylan What-his-face just provides eye candy for the girls because his lines are so corny as to merit an award from the Wheat Farmers' Society. Mila Jovovich strides around London (which is portrayed as being about as big as a Hicksville instead of the largest city in Europe) in flowing open top blouses in the depths of a rainy winter and evades the (stereotypically) inept British police about 20 times, all in the most ludicrous of circumstances. And as for Pierce Brosnan, well dear old Pierce is just about the only saving grace in this twaddle. Because he consistently acts as if he believes what he's saying...even if he's the only one who knows it's all totally unbelievable. So, I'll give him full credit for making the best of a truly bad lot. I'm sure as he stands on the terrace of the beautiful Italian villa he bought with the money from this rubbish film he'll allow himself a little giggle as he reaches for another glass of Oltre Pavese Bianco to have with his Spaghetti Frutti di Mare as the sun sets over the Med. Good on you Pierce. Nice work if you can get it.
Everyone else involved had best shut up and never mention that they had any association with this nonsense. It will soon be forgotten anyway...very, very soon.
Fascinating and very well done
The only other reviewer of this documentary has already covered very effectively the major points it covers so, there is no need for me to do so too. Instead I'll say that this documentary is exceptionally well-made and throughout its full 102 minutes there is not a moment which leaves the viewer thinking anything other than how fascinating it is.
In effect, it reports a story which is both common place - 'Man disappears without trace'; and quite extraordinary - 'Man found burned to death and tied to a tree 3 months after disappearance'. In its pursuit to discover just what happened, we meet many fascinating local characters; all of whom seem to be burdened with some affliction or another which keeps them - no, chains them - to the wind swept wilds of Chadron, Nebraska. I was reminded of David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' and all the small town intrigues, jealousies and malice that story covered in the realm of fiction. Only here, in this documentary, it's fact. The ex-LAPD Officer turned Forensics professor who wanted to be Sheriff but lost out bitterly to the incumbent. The immigrant wife who feels disconnected from the community around her. The barkeep whose attempts at existential philosophy are interspersed with 'F***ing' every third word. The pretty stay-at-home Mom who openly tells us how long she's been on her antidepressants. In the realm of fiction, they would appear fictional. In the realm of fact, they are fascinating.
I recommend this to you. It's one of the best documentaries I have seen in a very long time. There's no-one in a foil hat. No-one who claims the aliens are coming. No-one whose stocked up on arms for when the zombie apocalypse comes. These are work-a-day folks with work-a-day lives and, quite simply, each one is mesmerizing throughout as they give us their contribution to a deeply sad and unusual story.
All pain no gain
I'll kick off by saying any film with the Anglo-Australian actor Guy Pearce in it will always draw me toward watching. He's that rarest of things - an actor who can act. An actor who is a bona fide film star. A bone fide film star who has achieved his status by rejecting Hollywood. In short, hats off to Guy Pearce.
This film is a slow burn. Indeed, it's a bit of a tiresome slow burn. Contrary to most films which move at this slow a speed but which make sure they reveal some depth to the characters, we come to learn less about the characters in this movie as it progresses. Or, rather, and perhaps more accurately, we care less. Their 'inner turmoil' and 'hurting' are all self-inflcited and, were we to meet people like this in real life, we may very well be tempted to give them a kick in the behookey and tell them to get a grip.
The ridiculously named Cobie Smulders plays the ridiculously named 'Kat'. She's a fitness instructor who possesses an excellent physical appearance but a sour and bitter emotional one. She works for Trevor (Pearce). She's also his ex-lover who becomes his lover again. That's what 104 minutes of this film tells us. Not much else that interests us happens.
In the middle of this is Danny (Kevin Corrigan) a 'got-rich-quick' pot smoking no mark of a man. The plot stumbles for a short time around a flash in the pan sexual contact between Kat and Danny. It was never going to be interesting and resulted in exactly that.
In addition, there's some Soviet weight-lifting guy, Grigory (Anthony Michael Hall - who was great in Aftermath ), who appears to have nothing to do with anything which comes before his appearance in this movie, and precisely zero to do with all that follows it.
In short, the script is rambling and was clearly written from the point of view 'Hey, we got nothing to lose'. And, doggedly, it stays on that road - chasing after imaginary shadows with nothing to lose because there was nothing there to start with. The direction is average. The cinematography sufficient. Locations anonymous. Supporting cast immediately forgettable.
So, what are we left with? We're back where I started - Guy Pearce. And it's to his credit that this film keeps the viewer watching from the beginning to the end. Because he's the talent here. He adds the clever guitar solo to a dull, lacking in melody B-side of a movie.
6 out of 10 - thanks Guy.
Dark but loses its way
Tom's a complex character. If he wasn't written that way, Aidan Gillen (reviewers - that's his name...I see hardly any of you spelled it correctly) makes him so.
Tom didn't have to be so complex but, where would we be if a movie set out to show us the humdrum nature of your life and mine? We need fantasy, right? Even when the fantasy is this dark and, to be frank, pointlessly so.
Tom's got a beautiful ex (played by the beautiful Amanda Mealing); he has a beautiful live in lover (played by the beautiful Elodie Yung); and he has a beautiful business agent (played by the beautiful Caroline Ford). In sum, this deadbeat fart of a nothing human being is surrounded by beautiful women who, for whatever unfathomable reason, find him irresistible (at least to begin with). He isn't. He's a prick.
Tom's best bud is Ed. No-one likes Ed except Tom. But Ed has balls. Tom doesn't. It was Ed I felt sorry for. He considered Tom a friend. But Tom's a prick.
Tom's a professional photographer. The only one alive who has not changed to using a digital camera. Well, he wouldn't, would he? Because Tom's a prick.
Tom lives in the grottiest apartment in Christendom. It's in North London where rents prohibit anyone without either a high salary, or social support, living there. Tom has neither. Yet Tom lives there. He could have moved out in a heartbeat once his troubles began. But, he didn't. He's a prick.
When Tom wants to say something deep and meaningful. His voice becomes a whisper. Just like they do in the vigilante movies. Tom's seen a lot of them. Because he's a prick.
Tom's got a lot of trouble on his hands. He should have phoned the police within the first 15 minutes of the film. He didn't though. That's because he's a prick.
Yet, because Tom's a prick, this film (ultimately) starts to work. Because he's not supercop Bruce. He's not ex CIA Denzil. He's not Black-Ops Keanu. He's a prick. And his prick mentality was pushed to the point where he decides he can no longer be a prick. He's surrounded by enough of them already. And it's only when he stops being a prick that this film starts to work. Sadly, however, it took far too much screen time for us to arrive at that point; by which time we could see only one thing - he's an angry prick.
In the end, it is a disappointing and messy film. The street thugs are not nuanced in any way which just leaves the viewer wondering what went wrong in their lives. Or, put another way, how could these young men commit such heinous crimes in a society which, truly, has not (yet) reached the despicable lows presented herein. Moreover, the ending is despicable in itself - a grown man kidnaps and murders a 15 year old? What does that try to tell us about our world? Surely to all that we know, we've not reached that point yet, have we?
I understand director Simon Blake has a theatrical background which may explain why the best scenes work because they are cramped into claustrophobic spaces. However, when it does not work (which is frequent), it's also because of the director's theatrical background. Small gestures are what the cinematic camera sees best but, all too often, it's not what it is done here. And that can also be 'seen' in the script which gets way too intense at times. We had no real reason to explain why Tom became the target of the street thugs' anger. No reason except to make this film it seems.
In sum I have given this film 5 from 10. As I said in the title of this review, it's dark but it loses its way. Watch it but don't let it exploit you into thinking this has anything to do with reality.
P.S. I agree with another reviewer here - some shill reviews have boosted this film's overall rating.
The Historian (2014)
Diminishing by degrees
I'll give you some headlines and then expand, if I may. Soundly written. Nicely made. Highly annoying soundtrack. Poorly acted. Too many threads. Far from reality/Fairy dust education.
Let me preface everything here by saying that I am an academic. I have been for 30+ years. So, forgive my immodesty here if I claim to know a thing or two about universities and the people in them. What 'The Historian' presented has one toe of one foot in a small corner of university reality, but the other 4 toes and the entire other foot is far, far, FAR from what happens in universities. Because, in truth, life there is much weirder, much more vicious, much more conspiratorial and infinitely more clown like than this film portrays. Still, now I've said that, onward...
Soundly written - There is much to praise in the writing here. Miles Doleac, who did all the hard work here in terms of both the script and the direction, not to mention his own acting performance, put together a mostly believable script with reasonably well-rounded characters (with some exceptions). There are holes in the story that needed to be fleshed out better (or just dropped altogether - more on that later) but, on the whole, it's a meritorious effort in terms of the script (if a little heavy-handed in 'the message'). Sadly though, the story also ultimately ends with a cliché which, now that I have seen the film, was in truth clearly evident from the beginning. It needed to go down another road if the viewer was to be satisfied.
Nicely made - quite a simple directorial style here with some clear, easily accessible camera work. It drags its heels sometimes, however, in its pursuit of 'the grand narrative' when it should have moved on more swiftly. Nevertheless, it's a good effort and the cinematography gets full credit from this reviewer.
Highly annoying soundtrack - oh dear, this is where the film begins to annoy. And annoy it does. The dour, miserable music chosen drags us down long before the film turns on its dark course which is a pity because it could have been a better film without the score that was chosen. Now, I'm not suggesting that such a miserable message this film contains should have toe-tapping cheery tunes but there's been much too much of this type of 'lonely chanteuse' style presented in other films. It's now a bore. Don't do it.
Poorly acted - I mentioned before that Miles Doleac turns in a sound performance given that this was his project in most areas and hats off to him for all he did. The acting by some others, however, was just too far removed from the believable. Or, as my great Aunt used to say, 'Just too thick to swallow'. In particular, Jillian Taylor's turn as the oh-so-chipper Anna (who we quickly see from early on is the one who's going to be the real loser here) grates badly. She needed to turn it down a lot and portray your typical grad student in a way we could believe - worn out, fed up, flat broke, abandoned and desperate. Colin Cunningham (as the straight-off-the shelf-just-add-batteries departmental weirdo Chris Fletcher) was another wholly unbelievable character. His attempts at comic relief failed and, in truth, the film would have been able to tell the same story without him. Even dear old William Sadler (an actor I admire very much) hammed it up enough for me to lose faith in his character, Valerian Hadley, quite quickly too. Vaccilating between looking like he was under sedation most of the time to promoting the idea being crazy was all the rage, he soon looked like a man with nothing left to lose in this film. I felt a bit sorry for him to be honest because he has the capacity to pack some serious performing into his roles. All in all, the above (except for Miles Doleac's character, Ben Rhodes) gave the viewer little to cling to by way of meaningfulness.
Too many threads - Mr. Doleac. Thanks for showing us your insides. All your hopes, all your sadness, all your love turned into stone, all your loss, all your broken dreams, all the people and places you have known. Now, what have you got left for next time? Screaming and shouting? A puppet show? Because they are just about the only things you didn't reveal here. Now, don't get me wrong; I like to see fully formed characterization - people who wear their flaws on their sleeves as much as they do their hearts. But, really, don't try to pack so much into one story. Plus, is it never sunny where you are? It just rains and rains on everyone? We go on with the show but...don't lose sight of the fact that life's funny too. Damned funny, actually. Let's see some of that next time, eh?
Far from reality/Fairy dust education - The silly ending of 'teacher as hero'. Yawn...please...come on! In an era when colleges survive by churning out future systems analysts and lawyers, no-one, NO-ONE, is going to see a lecture theater packed to the gills with students oh-so-anxious to study the classics. That don't pay the bills and the Bank of Mum and Dad ain't going to fund it either. That ending made me feel empty inside...pity.
Overall, 5/10. Looking forward to see if Miles Doneac has more up his sleeve. I hope so because I have a feeling he could write a great story and make a great film out of it too. Good luck.
A Dark Matter (2013)
The devil drinks strawberry milkshake
OK, someone got way too big for their boots. That someone is the director of this baloney - James Naylor. (Who - surprisingly unapologetically - also openly lays claim to producing and writing this piffle). Now, before I go on to elaborate about A Dark Matter, let me start by saying I'm not so tuned into reality and only reality not to allow a bit of fantasy and 'dark forces at work' to come along once in a while in a film and allow myself to follow that path to see where it might lead the viewer. And, of course, every film has its Grinch. You know what I mean - The director takes a certain tone of voice. Dishes out a thinly veiled 'plot' while hoping the viewer will pick up on the dark, nosy question hidden somewhere in the middle of...well...something. It can work (Donnie Darko) or it can fail (District 9, Chappie, Don Jon). At the very least, however, win or fail, these films had something to cling to from the get go.
And there's the rub. A Dark Matter has nothing to cling to. Nothing at all. It takes the viewer nowhere because there was never any place to go with this. It is not a cul-de-sac, rather it's a 'Road Closed for Construction'. Its fundamental problem is, it does not know what it is. Oh, and please don't tell me it's a hybrid of styles...noir, plus sci-fi, plus mystery thriller, plus future dystopic world...it isn't...it's an utter mess of styles. Indeed, for a while, I thought it was becoming a musical...seriously...the female lead (played with all the enthusiasm of someone undergoing chemotherapy on an intensive care unit by Shauna Bradley) kept bursting into song every ten minutes with dreary, 'now you're gone how can I go on' torch songs that start la-la-la'ing after the first vacuous verse. (Oh, they were bad). Or, I expected the lead male character, Angus (stoically played by Daniel Briere given the crap he had to handle both by way of the script and via the direction-less story) to avenge this cruel world and become a crusading dark knight. Instead, what we got was a man in a white suit (called 'the Al-BY-no') with an accent which refused to settle anywhere between German, Scottish and Danish who wanted to take people's eyes. Yeah their eyes...why? Pfff! Not a clue. Then there was the wannabe detective with a fetish. A tattoo artist who had nothing to do with anything. And, in the middle of all of this was the femme fatale, Eve (Ah...Eve...the first woman...oh Mr Writer/Director, you're so clever) played by Alexa Cortez/Ashiko Westguard. Full credit to this lady - she deserves an award. For wooden performance of the year. (Pout lips, squint eyes, show cleavage...repeat...repeat...repeat...repeat) Anyway, I'll let the Forestry Commission know about giving the award to her. And then there was an assorted bunch of other low grade actors who, in fairness, did their best to make something out of nothing and promptly made nothing out of nothing.
So, to get to a point here - Mr. Naylor. No. You hear me? NO. Pick up your life, take what you learned from this film (i.e. how NOT to make a movie that is not some masturbatory half-constructed hotch-potch of esoteric ideas), say sorry to your audience, get a job in a warehouse for two years and then make a film about the real people you met there. I'll watch it even if it is only a 5% improvement on A Dark Matter. Because I won't be watching A Dark Matter again...ever.
I'm afraid I was very very drunk...
Poor old Jonny Depp. Where has the magic of 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' and 'Donnie Brasco' gone? Even the silliness of the final two 'Pirates' movies flew up to a point but 'Mortdecai' really has seen the fella crash and burn. Oh dear oh dear.
I have only one point to make here and that is how ironic it was to see the truly gifted actor Paul Whitehouse reduced to a silly side role as 'Spinoza'. I say so because it's clear from the very first second that Depp (who is good friends with Whitehouse) based his Mortdecai character entirely upon Whitehouse's own (genius) comic creation 'Rowley Birkin, QC'. If you do not know Whitehouse/Birkin, then a hundred videos easily accessible on youtube will show you the crossover (I won't say 'thievery'...oh, damn, I just did) between Whitehouse's original 'bounder' and Depp's poor imitation.
As Rowley Birkin always says, 'I'm afraid I was very very drunk', all I can add is, get drunk, it's the only chance you have of enjoying this piffle...maybe.
What a pity.
American Sniper (2014)
Mumble mumble MURIKUH HELL YEAH mumble mumble
(Pulls up an empty chair, speaks to an imaginary figure there) Dear Mr Eastwood, We don't know each other, we have never met and it's highly unlikely we ever will. I'm writing to say, I like your movies. In fact, a few of them are among the finest movies ever made. 'Unforgiven', 'Play Misty for me', 'Magnum Force' to name but the first few that come to mind - oh, the memories, oh the skill. Thank you for them all sir.
I just saw your latest 'American Sniper'. Good choice in Bradley Cooper. He does a great job even if he seems to have based his portrayal of Chris Kyle on the youtube clown 'Mumbles' because it's almost impossible to understand what Cooper flub-bubs his way through for 90% of the film. However, that may also be attributable to what I think even you know Mr Eastwood was a weak and much too MUCH gung-ho script. Hats off though to Tom Stern for some really great cinematography.
Sienna Miller - no. Don't, OK? Don't. Not your smartest choice.
On to the film. There's an old John Wayne movie, 'The Green Berets' - you are sure to have seen it Mr Eastwood. It's one of the earliest attempts to portray what life was like for the average soldier in Vietnam. This was made long before the true darkness of Vietnam was revealed to us all via the first hand accounts of those who were there, as well as through films such as 'Platoon', 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Full Metal Jacket' to name but a few. In Green Berets, the Viet Cong are portrayed as fanatical, do-or-die, indoctrinated insurgents who almost cheerfully run headlong into the line of fire of American bullets, and where every one of those bullets seems to take down 15 VC at a time while their own bullets seem to whistle past the American forces, never striking GI Joe even once. Your film 'American Sniper' showed us the same thing. Turn any corner in Iraq, and it seems there's someone openly carrying a weapon and who is intent on making sure everyone knows it too. That good men do bad things in times of war is a given. The reasons why people who have seen their homeland illegally invaded and their loved ones dead in pools of blood because of that invasion should choose to do bad things by defending themselves was never addressed even once. It's almost like this film chose to ignore what we have all seen, read and learned about war. For you Mr Eastwood, there is no cultural cross fertilization, no understanding, no reflection upon such grave matters. You need to think hard about why that did not happen in your movie Mr Eastwood. You really do.
What I found more offensive, however, was the awful dichromatic version of historical events this film chooses to portray. White skin equals 'Good, right, free, logical'. Brown skin equals 'despicable, duplicitous, savage, barbaric'. Surely to all that is known we know enough that such a division is not only wholly erroneous in the extreme but does great harm in a world already divided along social, political and economic lines - never mind racial and/or religious ones. Again, think hard about that Mr Eastwood. You have let us all down by choosing to be so racially divisive in such a clownish way but, most of all, you let yourself down. At your age, and after all you have seen people achieve in trying to bridge the racial divide in your own country, surely such a poor representation of human diversity as you display in your film serves only to take us all backwards and not forwards toward comprehension and inclusion.
All nations need a Chris Kyle and his like. In times of peace, they end up in jail, locked up for life because of their psychopathic behavior and inability to deal with reality (Let's not forget, Kyle was proved in court, not just once but several times, to be a liar). However, in times of war, men like Kyle get sent out to kill under a banner of 'right and just', get medals put on their chest after they kill and acquire the sobriquet of 'Legend'. Mr Eastwood, your film would have been much better had you focused on the former rather than the latter of these two scenarios.
I gave this film a rating of 6 out of 10. That's because of Bradley Cooper's performance. He did the best he could do, in spite of being saddled with a bad script. Mr Eastwood, I give you a 2 out of 10 and a 'must try harder'. Please don't choose to go down this same road again.
One Rogue Reporter (2014)
Read all abarrrt it
This is an interesting documentary on many levels. In its one hour running time it manages to punch above its weight and drive home just how odiously the British tabloid press have been treating people for several decades.
Via a juxtaposition of interviews with celebs and non-celebs about the wholly invasive scrutiny they were placed under by the tabloids, as well as clips from movies about the press and from the recent Leveson inquiry, the viewer is taken on a rather dirty (but interesting) journey into the world that many Fleet Street reporters inhabit. It isn't pleasant.
The documentary's presenter, Rich Peppiat - himself an ex-tabloid journalist for the execrable 'Daily Star' - has some balls for sure as he confronts the powerful editors and owners of these nasty papers and turns the tables on them by making them the focus of the same kind of intrusive and wholly fabricated stories these newspaper men had inflicted upon others. Does it work? No. Is it interesting? Yes. One particularly memorable scene is when Peppiat projects a porno film onto the side of the Daily Mail's offices in protest at its editor, Paul Dacre's, hypocrisy over sexual mores. There are more scenes of a similar nature but I won't reveal them here.
All in all, I thought this documentary about the gutter that is the UK's tabloid press was well made and worth an hour of my time. In effect, it told me nothing I did not already know and which was well documented by the Leveson inquiry and the trials which followed it. There remains one question for me, however, and that is...OK, so now we know; now what's going to happen?
Quickly becomes as lost as its central protagonist
Hats off to Jack O'Connell for his portrayal of 'lost' soldier Gary Hook. Given that most of what he had to do was in silence, his character came across as fully fleshed out and recognisable as a human trapped in a dire situation far from his own making and far from being the result of his choices.
The movie, on the other hand, is not so clear cut and understandable.
As someone who grew up on the streets the film purports to portray (no, it was never like that) I may claim some limited authority here with regard to what the film claims to represent. And what it represents is a very stylised and considerably manufactured view of what 'the Troubles' were like. Back when I was a kid, I frequently heard the sounds of bombs exploding; more frequently the crack of rifle bullets and assorted small arms being discharged as well as (what I always thought the be the worst of all) the results of indiscriminate beatings and maimings carried out by those on the same side of the divide. It was my people who invented 'kneecapping' and we got pretty damned good at it too. Pity it was usually against our own.
However, what this film fails to show (because, if it did, there would be no story) is that Belfast was a city under total surveillance by the Army and/or the RUC, 24/7/365. Every few hundred metres there was a checkpoint of some kind or another. If a person needed assistance, raising a hand would do it. There was no running through badly lit back streets, no hiding out in abandoned terraced houses, no wandering empty streets in the dead of night (Man! Belfast was, is and always will be one of the most bustling cities you'll find anywhere in the world. People are out on the streets both day and night - even during the very height of the Troubles.) Oh, and we also had public telephones on the street corners.
What I'm saying is, this film really needed to have done more research. As others have said, it did not need to be set in Belfast in 1971. The themes in this movie could just as easily have been represented as 'Die Hard 912', 'The Equalizer 48' or 'John Wick - This Time You Killed my Cat' set in a hospital, an airport, or the streets of Boston. The shoot outs at the end of the film prove that. It may as well have been the OK Corrall. That's a pity because there is an important story to be told about life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles but this is not it. For now, the great work on this period in history remains Alan Clarke/Danny Boyle's 1989 triumph 'Elephant'. Watch that if you really want to know something about NI during the 1970's, not '71'.
Top Dog (2014)
Clichéd and in need of a good ironing
Top Dog does what it says on the tin - a London crime thriller with everything you'd expect something of this ilk to contain. 'Geezers' who hiss their dialogue through gritted teeth, hookey goings on in the shady underworld of extortion and strip clubs, men who only wear black, worlds that fall apart because of a twisted version of 'justice', big crime bosses who only whisper deeply profound things. In sum, enough to keep any gangster movie fan's sofa surrounded with a growing collection of empty lager cans and Monster Munch bags throughout its 1 and half hour run.
As director, Martin Kemp (best known from his Spandau Ballet days) holds on to the reins most of the time though he brings nothing new to the genre. It's all fairly predictable and goes through the motions in a way even the most discerning viewer can understand.
Clearly the ending was set up in such a way so as to encourage us to believe more of the same will follow. If it does, it needs a better script, correctly ironed out and with fewer clichéd characters. It passed a rainy afternoon.
We Still Kill the Old Way (2014)
So long as you don't think too hard...
Great to see Ian Ogilvy back on the wide screen. It's been a while and he still has it, indeed never lost it; even when working with what is a creaky, clichéd script. Because this film more or less goes through an entirely predictable routine for the 'vigilante' genre by ticking all the required boxes. That said though, in fairness it does enough to keep the viewers' interest for its 94 minutes. That's because the idea of 'old school' versus 'street gang' had an interesting enough momentum to entertain but, I must confess, it all seemed rather silly by the end. Especially when it came to the scenes in the hospital. I'm always prepared to suspend disbelief at the flicks but...come on now...a major shoot out in a public place involving armed police officers, 10 dead and everyone walks free? Please!
The film's biggest flaw, however, is due to an almost entirely universal error in casting (with the exception of Ogilvy). Alison Doody is the biggest of these mistakes and is hugely miscast as the Detective Inspector because (and I hate to say this) one can never get past her incredible good looks. Lysette Anthony in this film, while doing her best, does not have much to do other than be vulnerable throughout (Now, swapping the roles these ladies played would have made the whole thing more believable. Lysette Anthony could definitely play the part of a 'seen it all before' cop and Alison Doody would have provided a more credible love interest). Chris Ellison looks like he was mailing it in half the time and dear old James Cosmo depended on 'I'd best go raving psycho nuts in this scene...again' to get him through the entirety of his role. That's a pity because he is such a fine actor capable of immense depth. Steven Berkoff was on screen too short a time to analyze what he had to offer but, I'd say he did what he had to do.
The street gang types were one dimensional and the leader of the gang (the unfortunately named 'Danny-Boy Hatchard') was completely over the top throughout. If he'd turned it down about 9000% he could have made the role interesting. Instead, he did not, and it was not...at all.
I'll end where I started. Great to see Ian Ogilvy on screen again. He's a man with great talent and deserves to be praised for being the only actor in the ensemble capable of carrying this film. In part the movie did not work because of the bad casting around Ogilvy. But mostly, the film was entertaining because Ogilvy is that extremely rare thing - a film star who can really act. I hope this role returns him to our attention more.
Two-Bit Waltz (2014)
Quite the worst film imaginable
I'll start by saying there is nothing whatsoever in any way, shape, form or style that could ever possibly justify why this film should have been made. And I include within that the presence of the usually marvellous actor, William H. Macy. Clara Mamet needs to hang her head in shame for allowing the Mamet name to be associated with something truly this awful. Its juvenile - indeed, infantile - premise defies adequately logical description and there can only be one possible reason to confirm why this 'story' ever made it on to film. Nepotism.
There is not one single believable moment in the entire muddy dreariness this film wades through let alone a single credible character. In addition, the dialogue stinks...really, really stinks...and has no merit attached to it whatsoever. Added to this are some meaninglessly 'surreal' dream scenes which were clearly added to pad out what is a very flimsy idea.
Somebody in the Mamet household needs to take Clara to a quiet corner and shake her. Then, shake her again. After that, she needs to be taken to get a job in a fast food joint some place and leave her there for around 5 years. If she ever wants to use her father's name to make another film then, at least after some real life experience, she may possibly have an idea worthy of putting on film. Because, for sure, this is not it. Dreadful.
Bacheha-Ye aseman (1997)
Just about perfect
Oh man...this is a film that the whole world needs to see. I confess I am guilty of taking 20 years after its release to sit down and watch it (though I recall when it was released critics said how great it was but, in the passage of time, I guess I just forgot to see it). Nevertheless, I am very happy that, finally, I did. It is gripping in the most charming of ways. The children are wonderful; the story so real (at least for those of us from a poor family background) and the narrative's progress utterly convincing.
Other contributors here have expressed the meaning of this film in far more eloquent and comprehensive ways than I ever could so, I will not go down the road of explaining the plot or its ramifications. What I will say though, which was also mentioned by other posters here, is that this film absolutely needs to be on IMDb's 'Top 250' list. It is everything we want from a film. If only 99% of the world's film makers did but know that.
Long but enormously worth it
I'd best begin with an admission. Usually, I only come to post a review on IMDb for what turned out to be the lousy films I paid hard-earned cash to see. I do this in the vain hope that others who also work for their money do not waste it on trashy flicks of which, as we cinema heads know, there are far too many. This time, though, I am here to praise a movie. This, believe me, is a first for me on IMDb.
The plot and characters of 'Incendies' have been discussed elsewhere by those who have reviewed this movie long before I saw it. So, I won't bore you with repeating all that. My intention is different. You see, I am a European expat who has lived and worked in the part of the word this movie is set in for many, many years. I remember very well the horror of seeing bombed out buildings, the dead everywhere, militia on street corners, gangs running amok on shooting sprees. The fear in the eyes of those in blind panic as they faced the dilemma of trying to get to the shop to buy food for their hungry children without being shot by a sniper's bullet.
Now, not for one moment am I suggesting that I ever experienced anything approaching the losses and utter misery of local people. I did not. Rather, what I am saying is that this film is so wholly accurate in depicting the arbitrary nature with which torture, immeasurable pain, and death descend that it left me quite emotional (and, believe me, I'm a tough old so-and so who has seen some real messes from war around the world.) This film is so exquisitely made and so well acted that it has the power to grip from the very first moment as it leads us, oh-so-carefully but painfully, toward the only conclusion available in a world so desperate and lost. It is, quite simply, stunning from beginning to end.
I can give it no higher praise than to say it is required viewing for every adult. Please take the time to watch it.
Short Term 12 (2013)
The short term quickly becomes the agonizingly (too) long
I read all the reviews I could find about this movie before I decided to go to see it. Given that the vast majority of the reviews I read gave the film a very positive thumbs up, I was expecting something at least above average.
Sadly, it turns out to be a very ham-fisted affair with 'the message' being hammered into you in a way that leaves you wishing that you'd chosen to scrape old paint off a chair in the rain outside in November rather than watch this.
Irrespective of the 'novelty' of the subject matter, clichés abound here. The whispered scenes to show 'sincerity' between the characters (when oh when will directors realize that no people - no people on Earth - speak that way in real life?). Long, lingering scenes of the principal character (I watched for the full 97 minutes and never even bothered to listen to find out whatever her name is) in the shower cleansing away 'the pain'. And an innumerable number of scenes where someone whispers, 'We really need to talk about this...' 'You have no idea what I'm going through right now...' 'I can't help you if you won't let me in...' And as for the kid choosing to slash his wrists at 1 hour 15...man, having given this film that much of my time, I understood exactly why he did that.
All in all, I feel I wasted my time watching this. The only thing I can say to potential viewers of this film is...well...don't.