Talking Movies

November 28, 2018

Notes on Assassination Nation

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 1:53 pm

Assassination Nation was the subject of exhausted complaint on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Not since M Night Shyamalan went wrong has been it so clear that a director should not write his own scripts but instead bring his considerable verve to bear on someone else’s better script. There are scenes here that bring to mind Orson Welles’ 1946 movie The Stranger, especially the highlight of this entire film where a camera tracks around and up and down and all about a house as vigilantes prepare to attack. And yet they are housed in a screenplay that is simply appalling. Tweaking Public Enemy provides a better title for this lecture masquerading as satirical horror- Fear of a Woke Nation.

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November 21, 2018

Notes on Overlord

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 11:35 pm

Julius Avery’s follow-up to Son of a Gun was the catch-up film of the week on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle last Sunday.

Watching Overlord is a time-travelling experience, and not because this WWII guys on a mission gory zombie horror mash-up begins with Ike’s reading his celebrated D-Day missive to the troops about to undertake the deliverance of Europe with Operation Overlord. This feels like a film from the mid-Zeroes. Hostel is in its DNA, as is the second episode of Band of Brothers, and, via Doom, the aesthetics of a shoot ’em up video game. In a film about Nazi experiments on civilians, that is seemingly oblivious of the existence of Dr Josef Mengele, proceedings end with a zombie boss fight – because that’s the logic at work.

There is also, regrettably, the trope that infuriates – of one life being prioritised to the point of insanity. Is it worth leaving Europe under Nazi occupation and letting the Holocaust continue for the sake of saving one kid? That is the choice one character forces on the others. Guess what they decide…

November 15, 2018

A Very Very Very Dark Matter

Filed under: Talking Theatre (Reviews) — Fergal Casey @ 3:36 pm

Martin McDonagh’s new play is undoubtedly the oddest thing he’s ever done.

Trying to explain the plot involving Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, two Congolese pygmies, and a couple of time-travelling dead Belgian soldiers makes one seem as deranged as the play. I have the feeling that, like Paul McCartney’s song on Picasso, this is an artist responding to a bet by showing there is nothing so implausible they can’t construct plausible work from it.

There is something to offend everyone; from mining the Belgian rule of the Congo for comedy, to jokes about the Famine, to deriding the English as an ugly race; and the effect is delirious. Jim Broadbent is a callously clueless buffoon as HCA while Phil Daniels brought the house down as a foul-mouthed Charles F****** Dickens, not Charles Darwin as HCA keeps addressing him.

4/5

From the Archives: Casino Royale

An unprecedented journey into the past finds amidst the uncollected material from even before the pre-Talking Movies archives a review of the film that brought James Bond back from the dead, where, in retrospect I find that I had been very willing to leave him after suffering thru Brosnan’s quartet.

I hate 007. It’s important to clarify this at the beginning so you will understand that it is through extremely gritted teeth I have inform you that not only is Casino Royale brilliant, but it is brilliant in all the specific areas where a Bond film has no right to be even half-decent. Specifically a strong female character, an element of realism, a coherent plot, a lack of cheesiness, a believable torture scene and Bond displaying human emotions.

The screenplay is credited to three people. The writing partnership of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade who wrote the last three execrable Bond films drafted the script, which was then completely rewritten by one Paul Haggis. I am not a fan of Haggis. I had a mean gag lined up about him being renowned in Hollywood by which I would mean not his back-to-back Screenplay Oscars for Crash and Million Dollar Baby but rather his ability to make Oliver Stone look subtle. It is with seething fury then that I have to tell you his contributions to this film are masterful. He locates Bond firmly in the real world of post 9/11 intelligence, complete with MI6 cleaners to get rid of dead bodies. We meet 007 assassinating crooked agents and investigating two bomb plots, all with thrilling believability, before he finally discovers who is financing these terrorist activities: a private banker named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).

Bond must defeat Le Chiffre at a high stakes poker game at the Casino Royale where his buy-in is supplied by Treasury official Vesper Lynd. Their first meeting on the train to Montenegro is delicious. Over dinner the pair verbally dissect each other’s characters based on their first impressions of each other. Bond is cruel but Vesper hurts him back with interest. Eva Green plays the first Bond girl who really is his equal. Furthermore in his relationship with Vesper we actually see James Bond displaying human emotions! There is a scene with Vesper slumped in the shower trying to wash blood off her hands after helping James in a gruesome murder which is jaw dropping: Bond makes no gags and does not try to take sexual advantage but actually just sits next to, and comforts, her.

The much touted castration torture scene meanwhile is gruellingly tense, blackly comic and utterly believable. This film has no Bond jokes. The funniest gags in the film are funny simply because they are unexpected unlike the double entendres of yore. David Arnold refrains from using the Bond theme for the entire film making its entrance incredibly impressive. Indeed the film’s final Get Carter style image confirms that Daniel Craig’s gritty Bond is in debt to Michael Caine’s unglamorous 1960s spy Harry Palmer. What’s more this scene makes us as impatient for a sequel as the promise of The Joker which ends Batman Begins. Damn…

4/5

Notes on Widows

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 3:31 pm

An overseas appearance on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle saw Widows the focus of attention.

Steve McQueen directing a trashy crime movie makes about as much sense as David Fincher directing a Jennifer Anston rom-com. As when Christopher Nolan stepped up to big budgets the question was whether McQueen could retain his sensibility. The answer is intermittently and not to particularly good effect; indeed in one instance to particularly counterproductive effect.

This is a curious heist movie that forgoes the pleasures of heist movies. Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal et al took 2 million from scary people led by Daniel Kaluuya before they exploded. Neeson’s widow needs to use his notebook to pull a job to pay this debt. But we are watching a heist movie where the thieves don’t know how to pull a heist nor even what their score might be. We are also deprived of the joy of assembling a team based on their skills. We get Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez because they were also widowed.

November 5, 2018

From the Archives: Quantum of Solace

Another dive into the pre-Talking Movies archives pulls up from the depths Daniel Craig’s pointlessly reviled outing; whose problems derive from the strike everybody knew about but affected not to.

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in Quantum of Solace, which features a lot more action than Casino Royale. It doesn’t quite measure up to its mighty predecessor, but it does offer an intriguing re-invention of Bond’s 1960s foes.

The opening establishes that this is less the talk-talk-bang-bang formula of Casino Royale and more bang-bang-bang-BANG! The opening sequence is an incredibly frantic car-chase, after which we have to put up with the godawful Jack White song and sleazy silhouettes of naked ladies, but then it’s straight into the interrogation of Mr White, the villain Bond caught in the final scene of the last film. This scene features a shock so good it took me 20 minutes to get over it. 20 minutes of action as Bond travels to the Caribbean for a vicious Bourne style fist fight in a bathroom and a boat-chase. It really is surprising just how much action Marc Forster, the director best known for Stranger than Fiction and Finding Neverland, has crammed in here. He only comes unstuck with an aerial dogfight which comes perilously close to returning the franchise to Roger Moore style campiness but just avoids doing so, and only displays art-house leanings with a silent shootout in Vienna wonderfully sound-tracked only by the opera the characters have been attending.

The sheer preponderance of action over meaty drama though makes this film feel like a victim of the writers’ strike. Paul Haggis’ rewrite of the script was infamously delivered mere minutes before the strike began last year and it could have used more character beats, even though there are great unexpected moments throughout. There is an absolutely priceless gag involving Bond’s distaste for cheap accommodation amid many other quotable lines. The CIA is depicted as morally bankrupt, willing to turn a blind eye to any right-wing dictatorship’s human rights abuses if there’s a plentiful supply of cheap oil to be had, while a high-ranking member of the British Government is revealed as a member of Quantum, Haggis’ reinvention of super-villain organisation Spectre. The rights to Spectre are owned by Irish writer/producer Kevin McClory so Haggis has re-imagined Bond’s 1960s foe as a network of ex-spooks and shady businessmen and politicians. This film pays further homage to the 1960s with the death of a major character, a score which evokes the softer, and more sinister, moments of John Barry’s scores, and a desert lair in Bolivia which is pure Ken Adam in its set design.

Mathieu Amalric, a god of French cinema, is slightly underwritten as Quantum villain Dominic Greene but makes his ‘environmental philanthropist’, who’s secretly plotting to seize control of the natural resources of Bolivia, a worthy foe for Bond. Olga Kurylenko, who graduated from taking her top off in French films (Le Serpent) to taking her top off in Hollywood films (Hitman), miserably fails to escape the shadow of Eva Green’s Vesper. Her character has an intriguing back-story but the parallels between her search for vengeance and Bond’s search for closure evaporate due to her inert screen presence.  The best relationship is between M and Bond who develop almost a fraught mother/son bond by the end. Craig is once again magnificent as Bond; physical, but also offering glimpses of the inconsolable grief behind his driven pursuit of Mr Greene. This is a good film and well worth seeing, and the consistently brutal action combined with some clever conceits left unresolved suggest that Craig’s next Bond film may surpass Casino Royale.

3/5

November 4, 2018

Notes on Juliet, Naked

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 9:25 pm

Juliet, Naked was the topic of tired discussion on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle early this morning.

Juliet, Naked is based on a 2009 Nick Hornby novel, and wastes the considerable talents of Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke in a rehash of 84 Charing Cross Road for the internet age that again demonstrates Hornby’s penchant for psychological improbability. High Fidelity. Brooklyn. Hornby can’t seem to be near a screenplay in any capacity without implausibilities multiplying and odd life choices being endorsed if not pushed at the audience.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 9:19 pm

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November 3, 2018

From the Archives: Mirrors

Another dive into the archives, another forgotten movie…

Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t seem to have grasped that the point of making a film between seasons of 24 is to stretch his acting muscles and avoid typecasting, not to bloody keep on playing Jack Bauer…

Kiefer plays disgraced undercover NYPD detective Ben Carson, suspended for shooting a fellow officer, who is battling alcoholism and rage issues (subtly depicted with lots of wall-thumping and shouting) and is thus estranged from his wife (Paula Patton) who keeps him from seeing their two children. Jack, I’m sorry I mean Ben, gets a job as a night-watchman guarding a burned out department store whose redevelopment is being held up by legal wrangling. His younger sister, whose couch he’s crashing on, strongly disapproves of this move as she thinks his ramblings about seeing horrible reflections in the mirrors of the store herald a nervous breakdown. Amy Smart is actually quite sympathetic as Ben’s sister, however her role is a glorified cameo as she’s only in Mirrors for two reasons. To take her clothes off (of course) which she does briefly, and to suffer one of the nastiest screen deaths seen in quite some time.

Her death sparks some farcically Bauer-like rampaging, the comedic highlight of which is Kiefer kidnapping a nun at gunpoint from a monastery (yes, all the characters refer to it being a monastery…). Mirrors is destroyed by being three very different films: a quality shocker where images in any reflective surface can hurt you; a ho-hum ‘the ghosts want you to avenge their murder’ whodunit; and an all-action showdown with a demon which seems oddly uncommitted to actually killing Ben given its preternatural speed and strength, intercut with Ben’s family being seriously menaced in their house by a number of logical inconsistencies in the high concept.

Alexandre Aja is the talented horror director who gave us French chiller Switchblade Romance but he comes badly unstuck with his script for this remake of a Korean film. While Aja will never lose his absolute mastery of using sound to create dread this script crams in so much that it becomes an endurance marathon. You have vague memories, amid the pyrotechnics of Bauer Vs Demon, that 100 minutes ago you were watching a visceral shocker about evil reflections in mirrors, before being hit with Aja’s trademark asinine ‘clever’ finale.

There is nothing in this film which isn’t done better on a weekly basis by TV horror show Supernatural. If you want some enjoyable scares catch that at midnight on Mondays on TV3. If you want the experience of this film watch it – while mentally replacing Jensen Ackles’ Dean Winchester with Jack Bauer, hilarity should ensue. If Mirrors was just a little less efficient at the “HA! Made you jump…” scares then it would be gloriously bad. Regrettably that efficiency means that it’s just rubbish.

1/5

November 2, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 11:58 pm

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