Tiny Beam of Light

Shining a tiny beam of light on some great films you might not know existed (and the odd blockbuster too).

The Monuments Men (2014) dir: George Clooney

Well I wasn’t expecting Ocean’s Eleven meets the Dirty Dozen, but I was expecting to be entertained. With such star wattage on the screen (Blanchett, Bonneville, Clooney, Damon, Dujardin, Goodman, Murray) and having such a talented guy in George Clooney behind the camera and a crack writer/producer team (including Grant Heslov – look him up!) – what the hell went wrong?

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It’s 1944 and the Nazi’s are looting Europe’s finest artwork, so Frank Stokes (Clooney) assembles a team of crack art experts to go to war torn Europe to try and rescue mankind’s heritage. Unfortunately as well as the Nazi’s these guys (based on real people who risked their lives to do this) also have to face limp dialogue, zip chemistry, lack of tension, and a death scene that looked like it came out of a 3rd rate school play.

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The whole thing was just….well flat. All that effort to re-create the backdrop of WWII totally wasted.

I was so disappointed!!

Filed under: drama, film, war, , , , , , , , ,

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) dir: Jeff Wadlow

I loved Kick-Ass (see my original Kick-Ass write up!) and thought it truly great.

Or to put it in perspective: my wife hates comic book movies.  Her verdicts:

The Dark Knight: “Boring.” She’s watched it three times, but only the first 10 minutes on each occasion.

Watchman: “Fuck off.  It’s a little boys film.”

Spider-man 2:  Fell asleep. I remember this was on my birthday – a day when I can choose to do anything (it’s my BIRTHDAY for CHRISSAKE!) We went to see it after 3 hours of arguing about my choice.

Avengers Assemble? Don’t even go there…she’d been ruined by the first two Hulk movies.

And she is not at all keen on extreme movie violence either.

Double whammy.  So I dragged her kicking and screaming to see the original Kick-Ass . At the end of the movie, as the credits rolled, she turned to me and said: “I’d see that again”.

And we have. Loads! So she was dead keen to see the sequel as well! Hurrah!

I know Kick-Ass 2 has had some shoddy reviews but that doesn’t always reflect the enjoyment that you can get from watching a movie. So…

Dave (Kick-Ass) and Mindy (Hit-Girl) are now at high school, Chris (Red-Mist) wants revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his Dad in Kick-Ass the Original and to become the worlds first super-villain. Dave wants to train to be a real superhero, Mindy decides to quit as Hit-Girl and to become accepted amongst her bitchy high school peers, so Dave/Kick-Ass teams up with some other superheroes.

It all goes pear-shaped. As does the film.

First 30 minutes in and I’m wondering… what the fuck has happened? Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Chloë Grace Moretz. Christopher Mintz-Plasse. All great actors. But they’re delivering lines flat and gurning away in their close-ups – they’re just…bad. Did the director not turn up, just go home early or what? I found it painful to watch.  Thank heavens for John Leguizamo and Morris Chestnut in their roles.

Then Colonel Star & Stripes (Jim Carey) arrives. We start to get a few good lines, however now we’re getting some odd edits and the fight scenes are choppy.  But at least the movie is finally becoming entertaining – super villain side-kick Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) makes use of a lawnmower in a pretty novel way – and the story is picking up… and it stays “entertaining” all the way to the end.

Hell there is even a particularly nice action sequence with Hit Girl atop a moving  van as she’s being shot at.  She clambers all over it as it speeds along (what looks like very British countryside) and takes out the bad guys – knocking them under and over the other traffic . Unfortunately it didn’t half remind me of the good (or bad) days of the Sir Roger Moore James Bond movies:  great action, brilliant stunt work, nice humour, cut to actor – shit fake background – sequence ruined.

And I think that is the problem. It’s a fake Kick-Ass movie. Pretending to be Kick-Ass the Original. Photocopying all that was great about the Kick-Ass the Original but really only a faded and skewiff two dimensional Xerox.

So ultimately “entertaining” but a major disappointment.  My wife agrees.

I wonder if they’ll let me direct Kick-Ass 3?

Filed under: action, comic book, fantasy, film, martial arts, Must Read, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Only God Forgives (2013) dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

I was curious about this as in the UK ‘Only God Forgives’ has had some tremendous reviews, but at the Cannes Film Festival a large chunk of the audience booed or walked out.  Where would I sit?

I think anywhere but in the cinema I saw it.  It’s a baffling revenge thriller with loads of corridors, nasty violence and unpleasant characters.

And a lot of karaoke.

Filed under: arthouse, thriller, , , , ,

A long way from home (2013) dir: Virginia Gilbert

A bit of a curiosity for me is this UK/French co-production, as there were things I liked about this film and stuff that really annoyed.

Based on a short story by the writer/director Virgina Gilbert the film tells the story of a retired couple  in their late 60s early 70s, Joseph and Brenda (James Fox and Brenda Fricker), who now spend their empty days in a monotonous routine in the South of France. When they meet a young couple on holiday (Natalie Dormer and Paul Nicholls), Joseph finds himself irresistibly drawn to the woman – the beautiful Suzanne.

So the annoying stuff first:  story? Ahh, it just didn’t really feel meaty enough, the frailty of growing old is touched upon then forgotten and the whole endeavour wasn’t helped by the use of a lot of cutaways (shots of stuff edited in between scenes) and long starts to scenes (often using lengthy pans before the ‘action’ began). For me some of these really jarred and it just felt like they were being used to pad out the film’s 80 odd minute running time. Basically the film could have been a great short film – but then that would have made it a bit of an expensive undertaking.

I’m pretty rock solid when it comes to paying attention in films and suddenly the story picked up dreamatically (and I mean dreamatically):  Joseph lies to his wife, Brenda, about a day trip he is undertaking when in fact he is secretly meeting up with Suzanne. He takes her and her boyfriend, Mark,  to a vineyard just so Joseph can be with her, and there’s a definite sexual frisson happening when they’re together. After the day out Mark wants to thank Joseph by taking him and Brenda  out to dinner.  Joseph makes some excuses. Fails to put Mark off. Oh fuck. How’s Joseph going to handle this? Brenda’s shown a sign of Alzheimers, maybe (we never know), perhaps he’ll use that to make his lie work? Now things are beginning to motor. We’re going some where.

Next scene Joesph’s with Brenda and I discover that I must have misheard the whole thing,  as Brenda clearly knows about this day out – it wasn’t a secret tryst  at all. No lies.  No deceit. No tension.  It was all wishful thinking on my part. Crap.

Sorry but it would have been better if Joseph had lied to his wife about this!

And what the fuck was the old man at the game of Boules about? Please tell me!

And it has a poor use of music…..I’m making the film sound terrible it is not, just really annoying in parts… it could have been…. so…

Stuff I really liked and which make the film worth a look: James Fox and Brenda Fricker. In particular Brenda Fricker who delivers a masterclass in how a look can convey a thousand words. These two fabulous actors raise the film above it’s source material and imbue their characters with real humanity.  They live the dream but the dream is empty.

Filed under: drama, film, romance, , , , ,

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