Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 28th of June

Battleship (2012 125mins.) [Film4 6.25pm & +1]

A reckless slacker joins the Navy, hoping to win the respect of his girlfriend's father, a stern admiral. He and his shipmates are put to the ultimate test as part of a force of vessels that must battle an invading fleet of powerful alien spaceships.
Sci-fi adventure, starring Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgard.

The lazy review is "Transfomers At Sea" but director Peter Berg remembers the thing that Michael Bay often forgets : these big budget sock 'em rock 'em blockbusters are supposed to be fun for the viewer ; to this end he keeps the action moving forward, with plenty of set-pieces (which are kept to a sensible length) and some moments of humour in the interactions of the characters.

Of course it's stupid and utterly unscientific in every way but the decent cast and spectacular CGI at least make it an entertaining watch.

Liam Neeson and Alexander SkarsgÄrd are the nominal stars but they really get very little screen time, they're there to provide a little depth and acting gravitas in support of the younger cast members who do most of the actual work.

Taylor Kitch and Jesse Plemon (both off of TV's Friday Night Lights) are reunited as the young officers suddenly having to Save The World from The Bad Things From Space rather than boozing, chasing girls and cracking wise.

There's the novelty casting of Rihanna as a senior weapons specialist (no, really!) who actually does quite well with a badly underwritten part and some good work by Tadanobu Asano.

Obviously it was never going to win any awards or be hailed as a cinematic masterpiece but it does enough to keep you engaged and entertained for a couple of hours - and really that's the whole point of films like this.

And there is a reference to the classic pen and paper game of Battleships at one point which made me smile as the grid appeared on a computer screen and Captain Nagata shouted "B9! Fire!"

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Freeview film of the day : tuesday 20th of June

Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003 97mins.) [Sony Movie Channel 10.50pm &+1]
(Sky 323, Freeview 32, Virgin 425)

Directed and written by Robert Rodriguez.

In this sequel to 'Desperado', a Mexican drug lord pretends to overthrow the Mexican government, and is connected to a corrupt CIA agent who at that time, demands retribution from his worst enemy to carry out the drug lord's uprising against the government.

Rodriguez revisits his El Mariachi hitman character (played again by Antonio Banderas), the titular star of his breakthrough self-financed film and his first US film ("Desperado"). The obvious question is - why? Did he have anything new left to do with the character? and the answer is a resounding no.

This second or third (depending on how you're counting) El Mariachi film has a plot that either makes no sense whatsoever or is overly complicated that it defies untangling. There's a whole mass of well known faces in the cast list who don't really have an awful lot to do and the dialogue seems to exist only to link the set-pieces together.

However, the action sequences are remarkable : Rodriguez has a real talent for choreographing fight scenes and gun battles ; each one is slightly more frenetic than the last and they give the film a real sense of momentum.

There's some small splashes of humour in among the killing sprees : the undercover CIA man wearing a CIA branded T-Shirt to a bull fight for example.

And there's another winning, slightly off-kilter turn from Johnny Depp who walks away with the acting honours despite the presence of Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Eva Mendes, Salma Hayek and Danny Trejo among the sprawling cast.

An utterly superficial film but still enormous fun for the 100 minutes or so that you're watching it.
Perfect viewing for a hot and sticky tuesday night.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Freeview film of the day : monday 19tth of June

Seance On A Wet Afternoon (1964) [Talking Pictures TV 6.30pm]
(Sky 343, Freeview 81, Freesat 306 & Youview 81)

Written by Bryan Forbes from the book by Mark McShane, directed by Forbes.

Somewhat overlooked and partially forgotten British film that takes the realistic style that was popular at the moment and overlays it with an air of the supernatural and other worldly to extraordinary good effect.

Myra, a fake medium, tired of eking a living "contacting" the dead on behalf of her tiny group of adherents once a week, devises a plan to find fame, fortune and celebrity for herself and, with the aid of her down trodden husband Bill, sets about putting it into practice.

There's all sorts of themes and ideas being explored here : the nature of self-deception, the lure and pull of fame (long before it became fashionable to comment on), insanity, loss, delusion and desperation.

Kim Stanley as Myra is utterly astonishing. She holds the centre of the film and turns in a magnificent performance; by turns dominating, beguiling, wheedling, cunning and (ultimately) broken. Nominated for an Oscar (she lost to Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins) it's a fine piece of work, even down to an almost note perfect English accent.

She was to be nominated again in 1983 for her supporting role as Jessica Lange's chillingly dominant mother in Frances (1982) (losing again) - in between times working only fitfully and then mainly in TV; another example of a woman of enormous talent that Hollywood found difficult to slot into it's rigidly stereotyped casting moulds.

The other lead role - the defeated and compliant Bill, Myra's husband - is taken by Richard Attenborough, again giving one of his quiet unshowy performances that he was capable at one time. Meekly sublimating himself to his mentally scarred wife's every whim and command until, in the final reel, she pushes him just a little too further bringing about the hugely satisfying climax to the film.

Good support work from Nanette Newman as a clutching-at-straws young mum, Mark Eden as her husband and Patrick Magee as the investigating superintendent, all charm and urbanity.

A quick word for John Barry's score which is not only excellent (as you would expect) but adds superbly to the general air of strangeness that pervades the film.

And special words for director Bryan Forbes whose best film this is by some comfortable distance. He builds tension into every scene by the use of unusual camera angles (there's a lot of low angle shots), some well used extreme close-ups and constructive use of lighting. He subsumes the entire film in an aura of other wordiness and drops in the shocks and surprises with a deft touch.

Finally praise for the location shots of London just on the edge of becoming "swinging". A document of lost times including some great scenes shot in and around the Underground system.

A truly excellent and thoughtful film.