Saturday, 17 May 2014

Freeview films of the day : saturday 17th of May

Monsters (2010 90min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Science-fiction drama starring Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy. Six years after an alien life-form has spread throughout Mexico, a cash-strapped photographer escorts the daughter of his newspaper-magnate boss out of the quarantined region and back to the US, fully intending to give the area infected by aliens a wide berth.

Debut feature film by Gareth Edwards who for many years was one of the most highly regarded digital special effects people working in the British film and TV industry.

It's a very slight story made watchable by the likeable lead characters, the direction and the special effects. Part road-trip adventure part character drama - all underpinned by some very expensive looking CGI monsters and effects.

The fact that Edwards did all the special effects work on his computer at home is startling and impressive; the way he uses this skill to deliver a film that looks as though it costs several million times it's tiny budget even more so.

The tiny details and obvious care just add to the enjoyment - as does the guerilla film making style; the cast and crew shot many scenes on the fly without official permissions and with little more than a bare bones script and a couple of lightweight cameras.
This gives the film a real sense of urgency and a fantastic pace.

His work on this film got Gareth Edwards the job of directing the mega-million dollar Godzilla re-vamp that's currently in cinemas everywhere.

Mesrine : Killer Instinct (2008 108min.) [BBC2 12.25am sunday]

Biographical crime drama starring Vincent Cassel. The first part of the story of notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine, from small beginnings as a Paris thug and armed raider, to fugitive bank-robber and jail-breaker, until he was eventually declared Canada's Public Enemy Number One.

Extraordinarily powerful film full tot he brim with great performances and superbly directed by Jean-Francois Richet.

Brazil (1985 137min.) [Ch.4 1.35am sunday &+1]

Science-fiction fantasy starring Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro and Katherine Helmond. Sam Lowry's frequent flights of fantasy take him away from the drab reality of his job at the Ministry of Information. Then a mistake in the system plummets Sam into a nightmare world of renegade heating engineers, storm troopers, terrorists and torturers.

Terry Gilliam's fantasy film has a lot of fun with the conventions and form associated with 1984 style imagined future worlds.
The totaliterian regime is depicted as a top-heavy bureaucracy obsessed with paperwork and the rituals of office life and Gilliam's visual flair is given free reign to contrast the grimness and tattered decay of Sam Lowry's "real" world with the glorious beauty of his inner fantasy existence.

Pryce is excellent in the lead role, Robert De Niro has great fun as an SAS-style repair man and there's some neat counter-type casting of Michael Palin.

It's the dark reverse of The Wizard Of Oz and it rattles along at a decent pace; thoroughly entertaining and a significant film in the development of Gilliam's career from animator to top level fantasy director.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Freeview film of the day : friday 16th of May

Lone Star (1995 129min.) [BBC2 12.10am saturday]

Murder mystery drama starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson and Matthew McConaughey. When small-town Texas sheriff Sam Deeds discovers the skeleton of corrupt predecessor Charlie Wade - supposedly run out of town years before by Sam's father and local legend Buddy Deeds - he initiates an investigation which will reveal a hidden past with disturbing consequences.

John Sayles is a really interesting writer/director who consistently manages to create believable worlds populated by people who it's easy to recognise as real, no matter how far from our experience the events of the story may be.

He produces films with small ensemble casts that are beautifully shot and constructed and focuses on the personal and inter-personal rather than the spectacular. When he gets it right he's among the best storytellers working in the US cinema mainstream; and in Lone Star he gets it absolutely right.

A terrific piece of film making with an outstanding cast.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 14th of May

Sunset Blvd. (1950 105min.) [Ch4 2.35am thursday &+1]

Drama starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim. Screenwriter Joe Gillis floats dead in the swimming pool of a neglected Hollywood mansion. Six months earlier, out of work and desperate, he'd been hired as a writer by former silent screen star Norma Desmond, who was hoping to make a triumphant comeback.

Utterly superb film, directed with great care by master craftsman Billy Wilder.
Part thriller, part domestic drama, part love poem to a lost Hollywood it's a dark, witty, brooding film shot in pin-sharp black and white.

Everyone in the small cast is perfect : in addition to the three headliners Nancy Olson and Jack Webb grab your attention and there's some beautifully judged cameos by the likes of Hedda Hopper and Buster Keaton.

A masterpiece of twentieth century US mainstream cinema.

Earlier ....

Nowhere Boy (2010 93min.) [Film4 11.00pm &+1]

Aaron Johnson stars as a 15-year-old John Lennon in Sam Taylor-Wood's biographical drama. The young Lennon, who lives with his aunt and uncle, is prompted to visit his real mother after his uncle dies from a heart attack. While forming a complex relationship with his mother, their shared love of music leads to the rebellious John getting his first guitar and forming a band called the Quarrymen.

Artist turned director Sam Tatlor-Wood's film about the fifteen year old John Lennon is more than just another Beatles hagiograpy as she focusues more on the relationship between Lennon and the two women who direct and influence his life and attitude.

The very talented Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) is Lennon, and very convincing he his is too. Anne-Marie Duff is Julia, his mother and Kristin Scott Thomas is beyond excellent (as usual) as his Aunt Mimi.

In among the top draw supporting cast Thomas Brodie Sangster deserves special mention as the young Paul McCartney.

No prior knowledge or affection for the subject is required - it's a classy, well put together drama with warm and likeable central performances and a good sense of period and setting.

A bouncy of-the-time soundtrack is a terrific bonus.

earlier still....

The League Of Gentlemen(1960 108min.) [Film4 4,45pm &+1]

Crime caper starring Jack Hawkins and Nigel Patrick. Infuriated by his enforced retirement from the army, an ex-officer plans a huge bank robbery using his military experience and a group of old service colleagues.

Great British crime caper with Jack Hawkins in a career best performance and a cast full of fifties character actors at the top of their collective game.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Freeview film of the day : saturday 10th of May

Telstar : The Joe Meek Story (2008 111min.) [BBC2 11.45pm]

Biographical drama starring Con O'Neill and Kevin Spacey. In the 1960s, music producer Joe Meek invented new methods of recording that resulted in a string of hit records. But behind the genius lay a troubled soul who struggled to come to terms with his sexuality and was prone to violent outbursts, which would ultimately lead to tragedy.

Terrific film which not only tells the life story of the troubled pop genius but is also filled with amusing little scenes from the history of 60s British pop.

As well as the spot-on central performance by O'Neill and a charming cameo from Spacey there's great work by Pam Ferris as Meek's put-upon landlady and downstairs neighbour (there's a priceless scene where plaster cascades from the ceiling as Meek attempts to get just the right 'stomp' sound on a Honeycombs recording).

Good work too from JJ Feild as Heinz, Tom Burke (songwriter Geoff Goddard) and Ralf Little as a young Chas Hodges. Even James Cordon (as Clem Cattini) can't ruin the mood.

Novelty casting to look out for includes: Justin Hawkins as Screaming Lord Such and Carl Libertine as Gene Vincent; and there's a host of familiar faces in tiny roles (including Hodges himself, John Leyton, Mike Sarne and Rita Tushingham).

A thoroughly entertaining period piece - there's a tragic story at it's heart but the strength of the script and the acting are such that it entertains while telling it's story.

Highly recommend.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Freeview film of the day : friday 9th of May

Frozen (2009 89min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

Thriller starring Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers and Emma Bell. Three snowboarders stranded on a ski lift halfway up a mountain are forced to make terrifying choices to stay alive.

Rather well done, low budget lost-in-the-wild thriller which explains why you should never muck about on a chair lift.
There's a stand-out performance by Emma Bell and a moment (and a sound effect) that will make you wince and grimace with pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 7th of May

DOA (1949 83min.) [Ch.4 1.45am thursday &+1]

Film noir starring Edmond O'Brien. When Frank Bigelow discovers he has been given a deadly, slow-acting poison, he desperately races around San Francisco trying to hunt down his own killer.

Not in the top drawer of post-War film noir thrillers but it does have several things going for it including the neat set-up whereby the hero is effectively searching for his own killer, some great LA location shooting, Dimitri Tiomkin's cracking score and a strong lead performance by O'Brien.

Takes a while to get going but once it does Rudolph Mate's film is a great example of the second division of the genre.