Thursday, 22 October 2015

Freeview film of the day : thursday 22nd of october

Dazed And Confused (1993 98min.) [Film4 1.25am friday &+1}

Comedy drama. Texas 1976: at the end of the summer term, high-school seniors and freshmen get ready for a big party in the woods later that night.

Among the innumerable US High School movies made down the years there's a long tradition of the "one last night" sub-genre : the best known of these being George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973).
It's not too much of an overstatement to say that Dazed And Confused deserves to be as popular, as widely known and as highly thought of as its illustrious predecessor.

It's time frame is a single night as the senior year celebrate/fret about leaving school, the new intake worry about what the future holds for them and various hangers-on and siblings interfere with the plans of all of the characters.

It's written and directed by Richard Linklater, hot from the success of his debut feature Slacker. If you've seen any of his later work (School Of Rock, Before Sunrise/Sunset, Boyhood etc.) you'll already know what a talented screenwriter and director he is.

Here he marshals a large ensemble cast and moves them around the story with skill and ease. Like Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) this is no rosy, nostalgic look back at a recent school year - in among the laughs and chuckles (and there are plenty of those) there are real moments of pathos and drama, especially as the Seniors realise the reality of their changed circumstances.

The terrific young cast is lead by Jason London and Rory Cochrane, neither of whom really fulfilled the potential they show here; both are outstanding, handling the changing emotions of their evening with charm, wit and real depth.
They're supported by a large catch from the young Hollywood talent pool of the time : Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck and Adam Goldberg all pop up at various points and the whole thing is soundtracked by some great examples of seventies pop-rock (Alice Cooper, Kiss, War, Dylan's Hurricane etc.)

Brittle and fragile in places, laugh out loud funny in others this is a tremendously well made and acted film that deserves a much, much wider audience and a critical re-evauation to match.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Freeview film of the day : sunday 18th of october

Metro Manila (2013 114min.) [Ch4 1.45am monday &+1]

Crime drama starring Jake Macapagal. Impoverished Filipino farmer Oscar Ramirez is forced to move to the big city to provide for his family. He finds employment as a security guard, but soon discovers his new job is not without risk.
In Tagalog +subtitles.

The early scenes of the film play out like an earnest socio-economic polemic on the state of the migratory population of the Philippines and other emerging economies.
When a cash poor farmer's crop fails once again he takes a route chosen by so many others in recent years, sells up and moves his family to the big city in search of a better life.
Once there he's very quickly parted from his tiny savings by a unscrupulous conman and things look very bleak indeed until he's fortunate enough to land a job as a security guard with an armoured truck cash collection business.

Suddenly the film changes pace and direction and begins to resemble a John Woo style thriller with elaborate plans, bloody gun battles, duplicity on all sides, stolen and reclaimed cash and a twisted and convulated plot.

English director Sean Ellis keeps the various elements (the domestic, the personal, the action) all moving forward at a neat pace and, while it may be difficult to follow all of the intricate plotlines as they interweave, it's all done with a sense of style and in an entertaining way.

If you know Scorsese's overlooked After Hours (1985) you'll be familiar with the idea of the innocent let loose in the big city and suddenly finding himself caught up in affairs that he neither understands nor can control. While Metro Manila isn't in the same class as that film it's a well-made, thoroughly involving piece of work that keeps your attention and delivers some moments of real tension as well as some first-rate action sequences .

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Freeview film of the day : saturday 17th of october

[b]Drive[/b] (2011 96min.) [BBC2 10.45pm]

Crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. In Los Angeles, a mysterious, ice-cool driver not only works as a garage mechanic and film stuntman, but he also moonlights as a getaway driver during heists. But when he befriends next door neighbour Irene and her child, he is soon involved in a robbery that will put all their lives at risk.

Great cast (the two leads are supported by Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Albert Brooks) and directed with flair and verve by Nicolas Winding Refn.
The night time street set action scenes are very well crafted and the soundtrack pops and bubbles with eighties-influenced synthpop themes.
Ryan Gosling isn't really required to do much other than look grim faced and handsome, but he does both things very well and there's plenty of fine acting going on around him (especially from Brooks and Perlman as the genuinely nasty heavies putting the frighteners on all and sundry.)

There's some moments of graphic bloodshed that could upset the squeamish but the overall effect is of a neatly constructed old-fashioned Good Guy vs Bad Guys thriller where the leading man comes to the rescue of threatened inncocents ; in that respect it's most resembles a vintage western rather than the ultra-hip contemporary story whose clothes it wears.

A lot of fun if you can get past the violence inherent in the story.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Freeview films of the day ; friday 16th of october

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009 95min.) [BBC1 11.50pm]

Thriller starring Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan. Two men kidnap a young woman and demand £2 million from her wealthy father, but their meticulously planned scheme soon goes violently wrong.

"Thriller" is a bit of a misnomer : the film is essentially a three-handed character study with the upper hand constantly rotating among the protagonists.

The always reliable Eddie Marsan leads the cast through an intense, claustrophobic film which has (to all intents & purposes) only one set and three characters ; director J Blakeson makes great use of these limitations and the film looks stylish and moody.

There's a few early scenes which might put you off but, while it may start out looking like just another kidnap-of-a-female movie it soon turns into something quite different.

The Runaways (2010 96min.) [Ch4 1.00am saturday &+1]

Biographical music drama.
Five teenagers enjoy a steep ascent to fame as part of 1970s all-girl rock band the Runaways and form an intense bond that is tested by the glare of the spotlight and an incredibly demanding manager.

Rock-pop fans of a certain age may have fond memories of The Runaways, LA based all-girl group whose rock sound was a welcome antidote to the cocaine fuelled laid-back country rock that seemed to be California's stock in trade at the time.

This biopic is based on the memoir of lead singer Cherie Currie and, therefore, is a little biased towards her contribution to the group rather than that of the two principal songwriters.

However, it's a well made film and a well told rags to riches to rags story with three excellent performances : Twilight's Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, the superb Dakota Fanning as Currie herself and Boardwalk Empire's Michael Shannon as legendary LA music mogul Kim Fowley, who becomes their manager.

Throughly good fun.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Freeview film of the day : thursday 1st of october

Under The Skin (2013 103mn.) {Film4 10.45pm & +1]
Freeview premiere

A woman roams the streets of Glasgow. She seduces a number of men that she meets but slowy her detachment begins to slip and she develops empathy with the people she encounters.
Sci-fi drama based on Michel Faber's novel, starring Scarlett Johansson.

I saw this film twice at the cinema on its initial release and was impressed and startled by it on both occasions.
Then it started to turn up in the 'best of the year' lists of critics and film writers whose opinion I respected and I was pleased that I wasn't alone in thinking that it was a very impressive piece of work.

Just to make sure I watched it again on DVD the other night and was pleased that it works just as well on the smaller screen.

The first thing to say is that it's possible that not everyone will have the same reaction.
Although it has a linear narrative (the central character starts at Point A and travels to Point E via B,C and D) there's no attempt at exposition or explanation. We see what happens but never discover why or how or what the consequences of the on-screen action are.

If you like your films to be literal and have resolution then you may find Under The Skin not to your taste. It's like a prolonged dream sequence or trance nightmare for much of it's running time only settling down into a more conventional approach in the final third.
The long opening section and near actionless first twenty minutes could see people reaching for the off switch; this is understandable but would be, in most cases, a mistake.

The other thing to say is that it's difficult to preview or review without disclosing plot spoilers and/or letting too much daylight in upon magic.
(I've edited down the Radio Times plot synopsis above to remove two fairly hefty spoilers)

There are three stars of the film : director Jonathan Glazer uses a wide mixture of techniques to tell the story. There's long, slow tracking shots and the use of a motionless camera at times which is most effective at giving a sense of place and isolation. He uses the tiny Go-Pro camera extensively to allow us to eavesdrop on unrehearsed, spontaneous exchanges between his leading actor and (non-actor, unknowing) members of the public and he uses some startling special effects work to give physical presence to one of the storys most striking and effective sequences.

Scarlett Johansson is on screen in almost every scene and carries the film throughout : there are only four credited acting roles and one of those is a non-speaking part.
It's therefore left to the lead actor to tell the story and she does it very, very well indeed. It's a remarkably subtle and smart performance from an actor who is physically virtually unrecognisable as the Hollywood actor we think we knew and who uses an impeccable classless English accent to great effect.

The rain sodden streets of Glasgow and the beautiful natural landscape of the rural areas around the city are the third star. Beautifully photographed in both cases - whether capturing the push and pull bustle and hustle of the city centre or the still and/or elemental natural world that Johansson visits as she steers her white van away from the metropolis.

The sound design is terrific and Mica Levi's clever score is very neatly wrapped into and woven around the story.

An engaging and rather special film that has the capacity to remain in the mind for several days after viewing and certainly one that rewards a second (or even third) watch.