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Archive for the ‘film’ Category

Turks & Caicos (2014)

In Action, Amazing, BBC, Crime, film, Law, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/03/2014 at 11:00 am

A great BBC Original spy thriller-drama with a cast so starry it’s hard to believe it’s only a telly production. Former MI5 agent Johnny/Tom Eliot (Bill Nighy) is trying to stay out of trouble on Turks & Caicos – a tropical tax haven – but fails miserably when he gets entangled in a CIA efforts lead by Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) to catch some big-arse crooks. We’ve seen Nighy in many roles like this, but it’s hard to object as he does such a lovely job at being the well-mannered, understated and well-tailored Englishman.

When he fled from HM’s SS, he left behind the love of his life and also former spy Margot (Helena Bonham-Carter) – but his plight is bound to bring them back together. Meanwhile, Melanie (Winona Ryder) is in with the bad boys but the question is whether she wants to be. She’s all grown up, fragile, broken and seductive all at once. Back in the UK, Margot gets closer to Stirling Rogers (Rupert Graves, Sherlock) who is too rich and powerful not to be involved somehow, and also plays tennis with the PM, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes), which gives rise to the question of his involvement in illegal financial thievery.

All the plots, schemes, power play and politics are made more interesting by the central notion of this story: humanity. Not once does this film degrade itself to plot-driven cops&robbers trickery. The island’s police force, Johnny, Margot and Johnny’s love, Melanie’s MO – they all boil down to a sense of ‘as long as there’s people like them in the world, we might be alright’.

Also, writer and director David Hare (The Reader, The Hours) made a film that blatantly says: tax havens are corrupt, dangerous, criminal snake-pits that use our tax payers’ money to enrich themselves and politicians involved. And it’s about time.

NB: No trailer available yet – here’s one for Original British Drama featuring some tasters.

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Forget Me Not (2010)

In Amazing, film, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 17/03/2014 at 9:27 pm

This film plunges you into the lives of two strangers in London. A 24 hour meeting that could tie them together indefinitely or be a fleeting encounter – which it will be is as unclear to them as it is to you.

Whiskey and pills. Romance, perhaps. Sometimes tragic but more often visceral, Forget Me Not is a beautiful love story that doesn’t try anything too hard: it seems to just be. Eve (Genevieve O’Reilly)- beautiful barmaid recently returned from travelling and determined to take life more seriously – meets Will (Tobias Menzies) – attractive but tortured singer-songwriter who lives across the road from the pub. Proximity facilitates their encounter, but everything that follows is a peculiar (metaphorical) dance through London like only slightly awkward strangers who are fairly attracted to each other can do.

This doesn’t sound like I’m selling it, but it’s very good. Especially recommended as a romantic film option for those who otherwise avoid them.

Welcome to the Punch (2013)

In Action, Crime, film, new, Recommendation, Review on 30/10/2013 at 6:22 pm

A traditional action flick in almost every sense – except that it’s actually watchable. That’s down to these things: there’s no clichéd love interest with consequential snogging/shagging, it’s well written and acted, the good guy is an unsympathetic shit, and everything isn’t topsy turvy in the end. That said, there’s heaps of guns and chasing around and shooting.

All fans of James McAvoy be warned: he’s Max Lewinsky ie the good guy. An insufferable, stubborn, self-centred cop with a (melodramatic) grudge against a notorious criminal called Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). The story’s that the cop gets a final chance to catch the villain he’s after when Sternwood’s son ends up in hospital and he has to return to the UK. A standard plot, but well executed, suspenseful and entertaining. I think this film is probably great if you actually like the guns-a-blazing thing. If you don’t, it’s still a decent film – and it’s quite something to see that even McAvoy can be a complete dick if he wants to.

The Wipers Times (2013)

In BBC, film, Giggles, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review on 18/09/2013 at 10:34 am

Inappropriate jokes can save lives, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

The Wipers Times was a satirical paper printed in the Belgian town Ypres (pronounced wipers, obviously) by British soldiers in the trenches during the Great War. When Fred Roberts (Ben Chaplin) and his 24th division stumble upon an old printing press, starting their own paper is an outlandish idea – but then, not much is making sense any more anyway. None of them are writers or journalists, but they are more than a bit clever with words, and oh do they make them sing.

There’s nothing at all funny about the endless, desperate, muddy and bloody Great War, and that’s why the distractions of the Wipers Times were vital. Ian Hislop, editor of today’s favourite satirical rag Private Eye, and Nick Newman did an amazing job writing this for the BBC, and all the cast, but especially Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt, were incredibly human and lovely to watch despite the misery taking place around them.

The Wipers Times is an entertaining, very funny, heartwarming, educational and well balanced bit of historical drama.

Trance (2013)

In Amazing, Crime, film, new, Recommendation, Review on 08/04/2013 at 2:41 pm

It’s oh-so quasi cool to say Danny Boyle is overrated because he’s been catapulted into national hero-dom since he made Olympic opening ceremonies fun. But it’s rubbish. Trance is superb, this hero deserves to be embraced.

Trance isn’t just a film, it’s an experience. Or a ride. Both Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire accomplished this as well: you fall into the story immediately, are lifted all the way through, only to be spat out bewildered but satisfied at the end.

This particular story is literally a bit of a headfuck as it’s about hypnosis, manipulation, memories and especially, forgetting. The excellent James McAvoy stars as Simon, who forgot where he put something stonkingly valuable – that was meant to be given to a quite notorious criminal called Franck (the also very excellent Vincent Cassell). Hypnotist Elizabeth (yep, also impressive – Rosario Dawson) is meant to get them out of the mess.

The result is a complex and cruel yet human, hopeful, tense and original film that’s a bit brilliant. Oddly, there are some tiny production and script glitches, but the overall everythingness of it makes up for it.

This one is going to stick around for quite a while is my guess.

The Making of a Lady (2012)

In based on novel, Classic Story, Crime, film, period drama, Recommendation, romantic on 18/12/2012 at 11:27 pm

Here’s a nice little Christmas treat from ITV. The title of this story is a bit deceptive: think less satin sashes, more creaky old house and macabre stuff. It starts with a poor girl who marries into aristocracy, but unlike in most historical dramas of this sort, that’s not the problem. The Making of a Lady, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Making of a Marchioness, subtly turns thrilling and unsettling for reasons I won’t disclose because that would spoil it all.

This tale’s simple premise unwraps nicely and it’s very well made and entertaining. It’s more a thriller than anything else: not much dealing with the topics of the time or anything too complex. It keeps things quite close to home and hearth, but I think it deserves praise for this: it’s the story on its own that carries so well, it doesn’t even need any heightened class tensions or politics to make it more interesting. An overall great cast is complemented by Joanna Lumley‘s debut as the grumpy rich auntie, and she does it splendidly.

The Making of a Lady is on ITV player for UK viewers. A trailer will be available soon I’m sure.

Skyfall (2012)

In Amazing, Crime, film, Giggles, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/11/2012 at 8:14 pm

However raving the reviews and my Twitter feed have been over Skyfall, the last thing I expected was to be blown away by a Bond film. I’d given up on them a long time ago and my memory of them involves images of mostly, cheesy sex scenes. It’s safe to say that Bond just wasn’t my kinda spy.

So, surprise surprise: Skyfall is amazing! All the truly stunning fast paced action scenes aside, this film is actually very well written. The characters are great, the dialogue is witty and the story is about more than baddies and shagging for a change. Bond and M’s relationship is pivotal in Skyfall, and they both refreshingly become real people because of it. And it was about bloody time M (Dame Judi Dench, of course) played a big part in a Bond film. Better late then never.

Daniel Craig is easily my favourite Bond, not because I like him that much as an actor, but perhaps because he’s not as slick as the others. In Skyfall he’s not the most likeable of figures, and he’s obviously somewhat damaged, leaving room for the viewer to make him a real person with worries and things like that. Perhaps the greatest addition to the Bond saga is the new Q, in the shape of the talented and pleasantly captivating Ben Wishaw.  I hope they hang on to him for a bit. Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory is another nice surprise.

Skyfall’s villain Silva (Javier Bardem) is a beautiful character, and I’d expect nothing less from Bardem. He’s subtle, sly, sympathetic, charming and absolutely ruthless. But he isn’t ruthless without reason, that would make a very dull baddie. He’s been wronged, and as a viewer you can’t help but be a tiny bit on his side, sometimes.

Another big star in Skyfall is, quite deservedly, London. After a glorious summer thanks to the London 2012 Olympics and everybody’s love for the metropolis having been wildly rekindled, it’s as if much of Skyfall being set in London is meant to be, and oh, how they’ve made the city shine. The cherry on top being the befitting theme song by London’s very own Adele, of course.

Skyfall is a better Bond film than any other I’ve seen. But it’s still a Bond film, meaning it’s outrageously over-the-top in its heroics and action sequences. There’s only one way I believe you can get away with this without making a complete twat film in my view, and that’s with a giant sense of humour. And that’s just what they did. Mr director Sam Mendes: well done.

The trailer is a bit shit. Sorry.

Perfect Sense (2011)

In BBC, film, future, Review, romantic on 12/11/2012 at 5:29 pm

A dystopian drama starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green. To me, that sounds like a proper treat.

Perfect Sense is a story built around a truly terrifying idea: an unstoppable virus that slowly takes away all human senses. It starts with smell. Chef Michael (McGregor) and epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green) are both affected, yet they fall in love. And this is, unfortunately, all there is to the story. What follows is more of the same.

No dystopian story is compelling enough on its own: it needs to tell us about life and society today, using a ‘what if’ premise as a metaphor, such as a terrible epidemic of some sort. This story is paradoxically too pompous as well as too thin. The former because a virus taking all our senses is too incredible and too hopeless. There is no story left to tell. There is nothing to resolve, nothing to learn, nothing to enjoy or be sad about. The latter because, although Green and McGregor are as captivating as ever, the characterisation – or the personal drama – is to flimsy to actually stir any emotions. It is quite a shame to waste two great actors on mediocre writing.

This mediocre writing is also very apparent through the over-abundant use of a narrative voice-over. Not that I’m ever not annoyed by voice overs, but this one is particularly irritating as it almost flaunts the filmmaker’s lack of skill in telling the story with actual film. Oh, and then there’s the score. I would compliment director David Mackenzie on avoiding melodrama, if he hadn’t thrown in such a shiteload of appalling melodramatic violin goo.

I’m really sorry there aren’t nicer things I can say about this film. If you’re intrigued by the topic, I suggest you read Saramago’s Blindness. A very beautiful novel about an epidemic that makes the world’s population blind. It’s astonishingly realistic, touching, disgusting and compelling.

Scenes of a Sexual Nature (2006)

In feel good, film, Giggles, LGTB, Recommendation, romantic on 28/10/2012 at 4:32 pm

Not a fan of romantic comedy dramas? Nah, nor am I. Make an exception this time.
Scenes of a Sexual Nature is a warm summer afternoon on London’s beautiful Hampstead Heath, capturing brief moments in seven couples’ lives. The scenes are odd, all funny and generally unexpected and surprising. It’s very well written daily life with all the extremes of the ordinary we take for granted. Things stranger than fiction, made into good comedy.

On top of all this praise, it’s all the more fun to watch because the cast is well starry and you’re likely to come across one or two of your favourite British actors making some sort of an idiot out of themselves. Take your pick: Tom Hardy, Gina McKee, Catherine Tate, Hugh Bonneville, Eileen Atkins, Sophie Okonedo and oh yes, Ewan McGregor.

More small independent films like this please.

Stuart, a Life Backwards (2007)

In Amazing, BBC, biopic, film, Recommendation on 27/10/2012 at 2:38 pm

This is quite brilliant. Or actually Tom Hardy is quite brilliant as the very seriously fucked up Stuart Shorter.

Shorter is a very real extremely violent and traumatised homeless alcoholic from Cambridge, really: this BBC/HBO co-production is an adaptation of Stuart Shorter’s biography by Alexander Masters.

For the film, Masters has turned into Benedict Cumberbatch, who tries to figure out Stuart for the purpose of his book. They of course go through all sorts of personal processes, predictable but essential, and they do it it quite spectacularly. Then there’s the bits where you see Stuart’s life backwards, which still doesn’t explain his insanity, but is very impressive nonetheless.

I don’t think this needs much more explaining. Just watch it. Good film stamp.