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Fight-night makes a comeback
I saw the trailer for this and immediately thought that this was a Rocky for 2011. To a certain extent this is true as everything builds up to the main event - a $5 million cage fight for the toughest fighters around the globe - and it is the story of 2 underdogs both of whom happen to be estranged brothers. Brought up in and then split by a harsh, patriarchal family, the 2 brothers follow their own separate paths - one a physics teacher and family man, the other a troubled marine.
Both Edgerton (Brendan Conlan) and Hardy (Tommy Conlan) play their respective parts well but it is Edgerton who gets more screen time and is the more likable character - a struggling teacher who needs to fight to pay his mortgage and keep a roof over his family's heads. Hardy doesn't get to flex the acting muscles too much as we only get to see him do angry or angrier. He is angry about his past and angry about his present. He does however play the pit-bull pugilist to a tee with his fight scenes in the cage being the most brutal. Nolte plays the rather pathetic, recovering alcoholic dad competently but I found a few of his scenes slightly forced as this character was too sketchily drawn for the viewer to become emotionally involved. Brendan' wife, Jennifer Morrison, is no Adrian Balboa as her character is given little scope to express anything more than mild worry about her husband's decision to return to fighting as a career.
I enjoyed this film immensely but I personally don't think that it's the Oscar material as some are touting. Warrior is hugely watchable but for me, this is not in the same league as the Fighter or Rocky. Both of those films provide us much more in terms of character development, back story and in the Fighter's case far superior dialogue. It is, however, a fantastic Friday night fight film that will entertain and excite in great measure.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Not everyone can be one of Smiley's people.
It is true to say that Smiley is no Bourne nor Bond but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a beautifully played and observed spy film. Should you expect car chases, spills, thrills, gadgets galore and closely-choreographed fight scenes then you WILL be disappointed.
Set in smoke-filled, sepia-tinged 1970s, the film centres around the uncovering of a mole 'right at the top of the circus'. The 'circus' is the British Intelligence Services and is made up of a who's who of British acting talent - Firth, Hinds, Cumberbatch, Hardy, Strong and Hurt. For the most part, the action takes place in the brown-suited and wall-papered world of England but we are given brief glimpses of the spy territory in Budapest, Paris and Istanbul. Smiley, played inscrutably by Oldman, is tasked with uncovering the mole and is ably assisted by Guillam, the ever-watchable Cumberbatch.
Admittedly this is a slow-burn of a film, full of meaningful looks, pregnant pauses and one that hints at deeper and more complex plot strands but it has an authentic air and it is a fascinating to observe a build-up of tension and cold-war paranoia which culminates in a dramatic if subdued fashion. Being slightly too young to have watched the original Alec Guiness TV series, I cannot make any direct comparisons and I imagine that a TV series allows much more time for plot and character development. The film must be judged on its own merits, and whilst I am sure that this will not be to many mainstream movie-goers' tastes, it is one for those who are looking for a film of a different type, time and pace.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Horrible...no just disappointing
Having seen some of the trailers for this film, I was looking forward to a really funny 'Saturday-night-at-the-movies' film. Unfortunately Horrible Bosses didn't live up to the hype. The laugh-out-loud moments were just too few in number and the strand of the storyline , which involved Jennifer Aniston was quite uncomfortable to watch. I say this as had it been a female employee with a male boss then some of the scenes would have taken on a creepier edge. The strongest storyline was Justin Bateman's with Kevin Spacey as his over-the-top boss - a character, which was very easy to hate. Colin Farrell's character was criminally under-used and Jason Sudeikis's character was a wee bit too irritating. I reckon that this film could have been much better but if you lower your expectations then maybe you won't be as disappointed.
Oranges and Sunshine (2010)
The acidic truth of Oranges and Sunshine....
I caught this film as part of the Glasgow Film Festival and I'm glad that I did. Knowing very little of the story about the the organised deportation of children in care from the United Kingdom to Australia, I found much of this film was shocking and upsetting. This film concentrates on Margaret Humphrys, the social worker who uncovers this scandal. Under her own steam and then with the support of her employer, Margaret discovers that more than just a few children were deported. She makes it her mission to help those deportees who wish to find out about the families they were forced to leave behind. This proves to be no easy task as the British government stonewall her and provide no help with the details of the deportees or their families. No deliberate attempt is made to overplay the injustice or high emotions running through the story; it is told in a simple, straightforward and affecting manner and it is all the more powerful for that. Take some time out and go and see this film as it's one that deserves a wide audience and stay to the end as that's when the viewer finds out when an apology for this very sad situation was given.
Third time unlucky for Mullan
Mullan has provided us with 2 excellent films in Orphans and the Magdalene Sisters but NEDS is disappointing in the extreme. I went to the cinema expecting a hard-hitting, funny and accurate portrayal of school and life in the 1970s in Glasgow. There were some funny moments and some brutal moments but the major letdown of NEDS....was the story. Were we really to accept that a young, quiet, bookish lad who excels at Latin and at school in general turns into a knife-wielding thug within the space of 4-5 weeks in the school holidays because his friend's mum takes a dislike to him? We also get very little character development for many of the characters. Mullan plays the typical Glaswegian drunk father but Mullan the director never takes the time to give us a clue why he has become a menacing lush. (You people in Glasgow in the audience who laughed at the father's drunken abuse of the mother -shame on you as this was not funny nor was it intended to be.) The film has been commended for its attention to detail and portrayal of Glasgow in the 1970s. I'm sure some of the detail was right for a Glasgow seen through Mullan's eyes but in no other school did teachers smoke in the classroom. I think a bit of fanciful mis-remembering is going on there. The feel of the 1970s didn't come across and at one point the main character 'John' calls himself a 'ned' - not a term used by ordinary people at that time. I agree with one of the early reviews that at 2 hours, the film is far too long.
Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
Swede film is no turnip
Like some of the other reviewers here, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I haven't read the books but I will be reading them on the strength of this film. The film is dark yet brightly shot and directed. The main characters of Lisbeth and Micke are really well acted and very believable. I like to be shocked and scared and this film provided on both counts. It has a fair amount of adult content and sexual violence but this is totally relevant to the story and nature of Lisbeth's character. I can't wait for the second part, and if Hollywood do try to remake this then they'll have a lot to live up to..... Go and see it even if you're not fond of subtitled films.
Green Zone (2010)
Bourne again? Not likely.
Those wishing to see a Bourne-a-like movie will be sorely disappointed as the only things that this film has in common is Matt Damon and the trademark jerky directing by Greengrass. Damon is good as per usual but the story is one-dimensional and, dare I say, a wee bit facile. Damon is the gaffer of a WMD-finding unit and they're having a bit if a bother finding any WMDs. Damon's character, Miller, isn't overly happy about this and wonders about the source of the intel. The story hangs around this central point and that's about it really. The movie isn't bad but it just isn't great either and I wish Mr Greengrass would tone down the queasiness-inducing direction as well as it detracts from each film that he directs.