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Best new show in ages
I really hope this goes to a second series (I don't know how much of the original writer's material is available). Quarry works at every level: an engaging and plausible story about a Vietnam vet returning and finding himself trapped in a murderous enterprise for supporting a friend; an engaging and plausible domestic story about the difficulties faced by a wife whose husband has been away at war for so long and returns with demons; an engaging and plausible period piece, looking at a turbulent America in the early 70s. As well as great acting by all the leads, embracing moral ambiguity, desire to do the right thing while questioning what the right things is, friendship vs treachery, the period is very well invoked with clothes, music, cars, hairstyles and, sadly, a sense of optimism and realising the American dream that has vanished from the world today.
brain dead hell
I won't repeat the many excellent points that other reviewers of this film have made, mostly in the extreme negative. I've just watched it on the TV and came reeling to IMDb to see what I was missing? Nothing, apparently. It's just awful. I thought the remark by one of the metacritic reviewers that maybe the film was a deliberate parody of all Cruise's other roles was interesting and plausible. Why would anyone want to do that? Did the Scientologists pay for this rubbish? Of the many films people have referenced in their reviews, from 2001 ASO to The Matrix, via Top Gun and Planet Of The Apes, no one seems to have spotted the homage to The English Patient in which the pilot of a crashed plane leaves his wounded female passenger in a cave promising to return for her. But unlike TEP, Tom does actually bother to come back. If you want to see a film about the poignancy of enforced memory loss, watch Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and give this trash a wide berth.
Le Mans (1971)
Endurance race, endurance film
Nothing to recommend here, even for hardcore race fans. Only three stars for excellent shot of racing cars (mostly Porsche and Ferrari) of the day. Nil for plot,characterisation or acting. Without these, a pure documentary would have been better. Acting can be be summarised as moody looks and long pauses between cheesy lines. If motor racing is exciting, this film isn't. (BTW I'm only reviewing now because I think this whole mess is about to be re-released).Steve McQueen (son of the Queen?) is more or less famous these days for his appearance in The Great Escape on Christmas day, just when most people are nodding off after the pudding and brandy butter. Bullitt was terrific but has this man actually made any really good films? The Towering Inferno was a load of dross and the Magnificent seven looks long in the tooth. Only his directing on 12 Years A Slave offers us anything substantial.
Iron without the irony
For those of us sick to death of smartypants post-post-modern irony, like Breaking Bad and Dexter, SAF3 comes as a breath of fresh air. Lung Dolphin is a proper leading man like Rab Butler in Gone in the Wind, not a wheezing creep like self-styled Dr Heisenberg. Give me men like this any day, men who take care of business without the pathetic need to talk everything out. I think the soundtrack by the Carpenters underscores the timber of the acting but the show also displays technical innovation, like the radar screen showing North America. We need more shows like this about the unsung heroes of everyday life. Come on writers. What about some shows about policemen? Or medical emergencies? Anyone?
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Derek Jarman this is not
It's probably the case that whoever committed the various crimes that go to make up WNTTAK was once a film school student who admired both Derek Jarman and his muse Tilda Swinton. What a wheeze then to get Swinton on board for an adaption of a woeful book, which says more about the psychosis of the author than the subjects, and make it in a throw-everything-in-the-air Derek Jarman kind of way. And anyone who doesn't get it can go hang. Because the Guardian and a bunch of other jerks with drizzly beards thought it was cool. Unfortunately, while Mr Jarman (respec) was pretty good at handling this stuff (Last Of England being a particularly fine example) this is just a, literally, bloody mess. If you haven't read the book, forget it. If you want to see a decent film about evil kids, try The Omen or The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. If you want some insight into why adolescents start killing people, see Bowling For Columbine or If. But if throwing your money down the drain, boring and depressing yourself at the same time whilst stopping to pause just briefly to wonder if Tilda Swinton was a) doing someone a favour (TS and the director of this nonsense are both Scottish) b)saving up for her kids' university tuition fees or c} has completely lost her marbles, then the film for you is undoubtedly We Need To Talk About Kevin.
Stone - that's what you'll turn to
I hear this film is now shown at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland to remove any final remains of the will to live from its visitors.
AT first you might think, ah, here goes Bob again with his Dwight character from This Boy's Life with a bit of Awakenings thrown in. In fact if all the dialogue in this film had been conveyed via an Ouija board it would have been more interesting. Sadly, it seems that action flick Ronin was the last watchable performance De Niro had in him back in 1998, and Stone makes Analyse This/That and Meet The Fockers seem like career highlights of the last 10 years.
So after the film imitates paint drying for an eternity of 10 minutes or so, Ed Norton comes on to get your hopes up that we may be going somewhere. But no. Watching Ed, the eponymous Stone, is like being cornered by a man on a train who has just read Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance and wants to tell you all about it. Many years on, we're still waiting for the kind of performance promised by Fight Club and even Rounders.
So maybe sex can save the day? Welcome Stone's wife Milla Jovovich who brings to this film the kind of acting integrity that marks her out in the Resident Evil franchise. After appearing in Wim Wenders woeful Million Dollar Hotel you would have thought she could sniff out another bomb but apparently not.
The only person perfectly cast here is De Niro's broken whisky-and-bible clutching wife Frances Conroy who was at least familiar with such deathly material from her days on Six Feet Under.
It is agonising to have to knock down a film that someone obviously thought was a brilliant mind play, and then complain that the cinemas are full of blue wall action for the kids. But Stone is not art-house niche, so clever and intriguing that the peasants don't get it. It's just depressing and boring and pointless.
The public voted with their feet, returning less than a third of the production cost, and for once they were absolutely right.
The Company Men (2010)
A film with Chris Cooper in it is usually worth watching for that reason alone. American Beauty, Adaptation, Syriana and so on down to The Bourne Identity. So put him in a film about the ravages of capitalism and globalisation and you would expect him underline the films Big Messages, even as a senior exec getting the chop at about the time most people think of retiring. Go on Chris, throw it back at the stockholders and the money men, the heartless HR bitches, have a good rant and explain to us all how it went so wrong. No can do. I'm gonna kill myself because despite having spent my life in steady and increasingly remunerative employment, I can't afford to send my kiddies to college. Where did it all go? Down his throat? Up his nose? On the horses.
But the film wasn't really about Chris. It was about Ben Affleck, an obnoxious golf'n'marketing alpha male who's also been given the push, much to his arrogant disbelief. And Ben hasn't been saving either because within a very short space of time they've had to stop payments on their kid's Xbox (who, on $160K buys an Xbox on a payment plan?) and lose the crappy Porsche Boxster (not even a 911). Within no time at all they're all back with mum and dad and Ben's had to swallow his pride and ask brother-in-law Kevin Costner, who he's previously dismissed, for a charity job in his small construction outfit.
In the meantime, Tommy Lee Jones, who may or may not have helped start the firm that's now gone tits up, has gone all dark and moody and thinking' about the good old days, even though he's got a pile of dough and is banging the good looking broad who's doing all the firing.
Two hours, or however long this is, is an ambitious time to follow the arcs of three or four largely unsympathetic characters through the turmoils of post-2008 "downsizing". For real people, this is an experience of fear, anxiety, depression, frustration and hopelessness. But this film does not take you there, apart from in the glibbest fashion. Ben's rage at his reduced status finds its apogee in throwing stones (from a distance that would seriously embarrass a Palestinian protester) at his old office building.
The only thing that rings true is Ben's uselessness as a builder. The only realistic line is delivered by the otherwise perfunctory Costner, when asked by Ben if he can bring another failed exec into the building game: "let's just hope he's faster than you are," says the man of few words.
But in the end it's all OK because Tommy buys back the old shipyard, pulls the team back together and with a jolly "What's the worse that can happen?" they chug off into the future. The film closes with some sort of ship emerging from the rusting yard, a rebirth if you will, a veritable Phoenix.
I imagine this film will leave a lot of people feeling short changed and some, positively seething with anger.
waste of talent
Jason Bourne meets Harrison Ford in "Frantic". Maybe that was the pitch though I doubt Polanski's '88 thriller would ring many bells with today's Hollywood green lighters. "Unknown" Liam Neeson is quoted as saying (IMDB) "Acting is invigorating. But I don't analyse it too much. It's like a dog smelling where it's going to do its toilet in the morning." Judging by this and other recent performances Mr Neeson will produce ordure at will. Diane Kruger has a brave stab at the beautiful-but-complex European babe so excellently portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner and Franka Potente in the films mentioned earlier, but is let down badly by the stale material, laughable plot and the appallingly wooden acting of her main man, not to mention the sub-Sweeney awfulness of the baddies. But perhaps the most shocking waste here is the talent of Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella. Having to watch Bruno go through some truly terrible exposition when explaining to dimwitted Neeson what the Stasi was - "you mean the East German secret police??" - I had to shed a tear for this star of Wings of Desire. As for Langella, a man who gave a masterclass performance in Polanski's much underrated Ninth Gate, the best thing that can be said about him is how he wore his raincoat.
I can understand why older actors are keen to keep going and even getting caught up in nonsense like this for a hip young Spanish director of music videos might seem flattering and rejuvenating but it is a poor day for movie lovers when they are required to turn in work like this.
As for the subject of amnesia, it has boundless possibilities, even within the confines of a commercial thriller. But "Unknown" is not the answer and unknown is what this film will be on supermarket discount shelves in a few short months.
Where have all the heroes gone?
Despite Mel Gibson's best and frequent attempts to make the English/British look cruel and ridiculous, it has taken another two antipodeans to give us back our pride. Master and Commander is both masterful and commanding for its portrayal of the "Senior Service" as an organisation where man management took place on a personal basis, everyone was committed to a common cause and people of all ranks looked out for themselves. While this utopia is no doubt idealised, and we are given an idea in the film of the fate of those who don't "fit in", it is nonetheless such an an uplifting and encouraging view of the world that I now watch it at least half an hour every day. Bravado aside, the screenplay is deliciously witty and inventive, taking us into the territory of Darwin and the origin of the species (I trust that's not a spoiler). Seeing Crowe and Bettany again on such symbiotic top form after "A Beautiful Mind" is just the icing on the cake. If only the British could make films like this about themselves, Bettany and a few others excluded of course.
To quote the great Roger Ebert: "...to see it is to be reminded of the way great action movies can rouse and exhilarate us, can affirm life instead of simply dramatizing its destruction."