Archive

Monthly Archives: September 2012

I must point out that this 2012 Best & Blah of the Year…so far post, is based solely on the films I have had the pleasure and misfortune of seeing in the cinema to date this year. Think of this as a mid-term report, a more conclusive list will follow at year’s end.

Best:

Moonrise Kingdom

 

movie_-_Moonrise-Kingdom

“Our daughter’s been abducted by one of these beige lunatics!”

Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film – Moonrise Kingdom, is a return to form after the misfires of recent years. Set in 1965 on the idyllic New England island called New Penzance, Anderson, the auteur of the eccentric, gives us the beautifully crafted adolescent love story of Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilam).

The star crossed lovers; foster child Sam and the misunderstood Suzy (daughter to on-screen parents Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) go on the run – avoiding family, friends and foe in order to escape a world that doesn’t make sense to them. When news of an impending storm is broken by the amply named “Narrator” (Bob Balaban) – Suzy’s family, along with Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Randy Wade (Ed Norton) begin an island-wide hunt for the safe return of young lovers. A superb ensemble cast is finished with pitch-perfect support from Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel.

The usual Anderson traits are here, the beautifully crafted framed sweeping shots, sets that effervesce with the ordinary of the everyday, effortless performances and a delightful soundtrack. Perhaps not Anderson’s very best, some questionable CGI aside, this is his most commendable work in years. Stripped of ego, focusing instead on a few well rounded characters with an elegantly told story, this is what Anderson has become known for. Kara Hayward wonderful debut must surely be worthy of an Oscar nomination for best actress next year. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Blah: 

The Avengers (a.k.a Avengers Assemble)

The-Avengers-2012-Poster

“I think we need to time-out”

Blockbuster season started early this year with the arrival of – The Avengers, which saw the dream team of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans),Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Remer) team up under the leadership of Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The film centres around Loki (Tom Hiddleston) the adoptive brother of Thor, who teams up with the Chitauri Army and having retrieved the Tesseract (a powerful source of unknown quantity) plots the invasion of Earth by the Chitauri in order to subjugate the Earth under his leadership. This causes the Avengers to assemble and pursue Loki to prevent Armageddon. What follows is a 143 minute bombardment to the visual and auditory senses consisting of; tiny plot, crash, bang, Iron Man quip, wallop, syrupy American patriotism, crash, another quip, bigger crash, the Hulk looks sad (don’t make him angry) bang, bang, explosion, another quip and more explosions……sigh.

What made Sylvester Stallone’s ensemble adventure The Expendables work (and in saying that I am being very generous) was the assumption of familiarity with all leads and the audience accepting this as a given. With the Avengers, you have to follow (or endure) the individual background stories of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor etc as part of the set up, but when you get past the initial set up (six separate films), it still feels like you are starting at zero. I enjoy a superhero film as much as the next person but this just feels tired and the entire Avengers exercise appears to be more about merchandising than anything else. With its huge success at the box office, $1.5 billion (and counting) sequels will follow, but unlike the S.H.I.E.L.D I will not be returning. Crash, bang, thud, zzz…………….

Rating: 2 / 5

words by david rushe

Advertisements

The-Sweeney-poster

Based on the famous tv show from the 1970’s and having spent years in development hell, this summer sees the long awaited release of Nick Love’s (The Firm, Goodbye Charlie Bright) THE SWEENEY with Ray Winstone (Scum, The Departed) stepping into the role of Jack Reagan and Ben Drew (aka Plan B,Ill Manors) as his sidekick and protégé George Carter.

After a jewellery store robbery ends in murder, Reagan and Carter set their sights on the illusive and eel-like Allen played by Paul Anderson (The Firm, A Lonely Place to Die) as they chase, race and debase a variety of London locations.

Regan has many plates to keep spinning as he attempts to nail Allen. He walks on thin ice with his boss Frank Haskins played by Damian Lewis (Homeland, Band of Brothers), keeps Steven Mackintosh (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Mo) as Ivan Lewis (who is investigating the Sweeney) at arms length, and romances Lewis’ wife and fellow Flying Squad member Nancy played by Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Captain America).

The film starts in top gear and never slows down to take a breadth during its 112 minute running time. A breadth or two, could have and should have been taken to finesse the plot which at times feels a little (quite a bit) rough around the edges, much like Reagan’s gruff persona and facial hair. Without spoiling anything, it is somewhat funny in a film with tonal and stylistic aspirations such as this, that it ends in such an off piece manner. The climatic ending takes place in a location that messrs Pegg and Frost would indulge in if they decided to make Hot Fuzz II – Back to Brighouse Bay! That said the film looks great, much has been achieved with the touted £16 million budget, and it shows, the product placement ranging from Apple products to WD40 is less than subtle.

Shortcomings aside, wonderful turns from Winstone and Drew create believable and likeable central characters who you route for, despite their questionable behaviour. Allied with this is a consistent tone, sumptuous colour palette, superb action set-pieces and an excellent soundtrack. In doing so Nick Love has created a thoroughly enjoyable action adventure with legs for future visits from the Flying Squad.

The Sweeney is back with a Dolby digital surround sound induced bang that grabs you by the jugular and never lets go. Recommended even if instantly forgettable.

Rating: 3 / 5

words by david rushe

Last week I had the great pleasure of seeing an advanced screening of Lawless, the latest work from John Hillcoat (The Proposition and The Road) based on the “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant with a script by Nick Cave (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds / The Proposition)


“I’m a Bondurant. We don’t lay down for nobody”

The film centres on the lives of the Bondurant brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeouf ), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) in the true story of the running of Moonshine during Prohibition America of the late twenties and early 1930’s set in Franklin County, Virginia. The brothers use their cafe as the legal front to their nefarious acts, producing and selling moonshine throughout the county. When they encounter the brutal Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) who demands a cut from all bootleg alcohol produced in Franklin, Forrest refuses threatening to kill Rakes if he returns. Forrest proceeds to convince other bootleggers in the county to resist the demands, however the others give in to Rakes’ brutal regime.


“Whatcha got? A little pea shooter?”

Hillcoat directs the action from a distance and while you are witness to the events of the Bondurant boys, often in graphic detail, you are left feeling like a voyeur, always on the outside looking in and never part of the story. This is most likely down to the central characters, the tough guy (Hardy), the wannabe tough guy (LaBoeuf) and the mute (Clarke – he’s not actually mute he’s just got nothing to say) Hardy chomps his way through as many cigars as he does scenes and makes the legend surrounding his character come to life and LaBoeuf shows that there is life after Transformers in a mature performance showing the versatility required to inherit the title of “the next Tom Hanks”. The mute Clarke (other than some literal howling in the woods), makes up the numbers in the family, and the wonderful Chastain and Oldman continue the theme of “making up the numbers” in non roles. Pearce matches Hardy for the audiences attention with a bombastic, sadistic portrayal of Rakes, a performance that will leave you feeling cold and with an aversion to black shoe polish. The only character you feel anything for is the Rickets suffering Cricket Pane (Dane DeHaan) but this is more out of sympathy for his illness.

lawless-movie-2012

“It is not the violence that sets men apart. It is the distance that he is prepared to go”

The violence is frequent and hard to watch, the brutality of the men’s behaviour be-it law enforcement or the bootleggers is graphic and its inclusion is misplaced. The lingering nature of the violence only widens the gap between the audience and the actor. Sympathy for the protagonists could have been made possible with the absence of the actual act of violence, leaving only the result of it. The film feels confused. A wonderful cast, with a wonderfully mature performance from LaBeouf, Hardy cementing his credentials as a leading man and loathsome Guy Pearce, are at odds with underdeveloped characters (namely Chastain and Oldman) The violent action would make Rambo blush and is juxtaposed with beautifully shot locations and sweeping vistas that would be the envy of Terrence Malick, however the film feels unsure of what it wants to be.

In a film with an inherit religious nature with themes of morality and transgression, the end result is a feeling of agnosticism. Perhaps the genius of Hillcoat is that he has created a flawed masterpiece, much like life itself.

Rating: 3 / 5

words by david rushe