Talking Movies

September 21, 2019

From the Archives: 3:10 to Yuma

Another ransacking of the pre-Talking Movies archives uncovers director James Mangold’s first collaboration with Christian Bale just as their second revs its engines for release.

Notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) is separated from his gang and captured by Civil War veteran and struggling rancher Dan Evans (Bale) who then volunteers to put Wade on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison for $200. As Evans fights off the attacks of Wade’s pursuing gang a strange kinship forms between the two men.

If you didn’t know that James Mangold was the writer/director responsible for Copland, Girl Interrupted, Identity and Walk the Line you should remember his name after 3:10 to Yuma, as by remaking a classic western he has delivered one of the best films of 2007. Mangold has always drawn terrific performances from his casts and it is vital to note the absolutely top notch characterisation, down to the tiniest supporting roles, that distinguishes this film. Every person who steps across the screen convinces as a character with a rich history of their own. This is a western that combines the gritty realistic action of the recent Brosnan/ Neeson vehicle Seraphim Falls with the deeply satisfying human drama of Walk the Line. The fraught relationship between drought-stricken rancher Daniel Evans and his resentful teenage son William (Logan Lerman) drives the film every bit as much as the relationship between Daniel Evans and Ben Wade.

The casting of Russell Crowe in the role originally played by Glenn Ford was always going to be interesting. Russell Crowe can’t do outright charm (see A Good Year) in the way that old-school leading men like Glenn Ford could. Ford’s villain was almost indistinguishable from his usual shtick when playing heroes which was contrasted ironically with Van Heflin’s unheroic rancher. Russell Crowe can add charm to noble heroes like General Maximus and Captain Jack Aubrey and here he adds charm to the principled villainy of Ben Wade. William Evans insists Wade won’t let his gang kill his captors “Cos you’re not all bad”, “Yes, I am” replies Wade. This Wade is tougher but his introduction (sketching a falcon while his men attack a stagecoach) proves he’s lying, he does have a soft side. The celebrated flirtatious conversation with a barmaid that leads to Wade being caught is truncated and Wade kills people in this version but Crowe makes us root for him enough to still complicate the straight good/evil division.

Christian Bale is given a peg-leg to assure us Batman ain’t no hero here but doesn’t need that prop, the hurt in his eyes at his son’s wounding remarks show us a man deeply aware of his unheroic status. Mangold’s film improves on the original with pace and suspense and also has some wonderful moments of humour. X-3’s Ben Foster as Wade’s psychotic lieutenant Charlie Prince is a terrifying presence who Mangold skilfully uses to create dread and heighten anxiety for Evans’ fate. The thus inevitable blood-soaked finale is a violent departure from the charming ending of the original but it is necessary and pushes the film close to mythic Sergio Leone territory.

5/5

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August 25, 2019

So tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1999

It’s now twenty years since I passed on the Pierce Brosnan remake in the cinema because I’d recently seen and not loved the Steve McQueen original, and because I found it disquietingly salacious how much of the publicity focused on fortysomething Rene Russo’s bare breasts.

Having recently got round to watching it I was struck by how I would never have thought the director was John McTiernan, above all because of the boring opening to get to what we already know. It strikes me that this film suffers from this more than anything else I can recall, and I think there might be three reasons for that. It is a remake so we all know that Mr Crown is a dilettante criminal. It is clear from the trailer that Mr Crown is a dilettante criminal, that is the reason to see Brosnan play the role with his customary insouciance. It takes damn near twenty-five minutes to reveal that Mr Crown is a dilettante criminal, that is too long in a film under two hours to faff about structurally on something the audience already knows twice over.

April 14, 2019

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XI

As the title suggests here are some short thoughts about the movies which aren’t quite substantial enough for each to merit an individual blog posting.

The means defeat the ends: Part III

Bob Iger has declared a hiatus because of Star Wars fatigue. People he thinks can have too much of a good thing. Well, certainly people have can too much of a good thing. But that is not the problem with Star Wars. People are clamouring for more Fast & Furious movies and Mission: Impossible at a faster rate until Tom Cruise’s body gives out. But Disney has managed the incredible feat of draining the Star Wars cash cow dry in just 4 movies. The decision to make three Star Wars movies between 2015 and 2019 was always rather suspect, because it would inevitably lead to what indeed happened – not a singular creative force like George Lucas or Christopher Nolan or Christopher McQuarrie driving decisions, but instead development and execution by committee. And it is not for nothing that they say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. I bought some Star Wars socks just before Christmas in Marks & Spencer and they amusingly summed up what went so catastrophically wrong for Disney. The packaging was festooned with images of Rey, Finn, and Poe, who we are all meant to find enthralling beyond belief. And yet the socks themselves featured stitched in renditions of R2-D2, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, a stormtrooper, and the Star Wars logo. Because they knew that nobody would buy the socks if they featured Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo, and Rose. And so the socks themselves were entirely OT, and you could throw the packaging away with a maniacal laugh. Much like the end of the new Star Wars trailer.

Seraphim Falls Revisited

I recently watched Seraphim Falls for the first time since I saw it in the cinema in 2007 as it popped up on TV in an eerie coincidence. From a distance of twelve years I was surprised by how much I remembered of the physical details of the chase, even as I’d forgotten the particulars of the revenge, how the trippy ending took up less screentime than it did in my remembering, and also how it seems to inhabit a grittier version of the same fantasy Old West populated by Irishmen as Michael Fassbender’s Slow West. This is the film in which John Healy first pointed out to me what I later referred to in my review of The Revenant as “Pierce Brosnan’s grunting and moaning in pain school of physical acting”. It’s especially interesting watching Liam Neeson play a man out for revenge the year before Taken, when he was still riding high off playing two bearded mentors in 2005’s Batman Begins and Kingdom of Heaven.

November 15, 2018

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

July 11, 2012

MovieExtras 10 Years

Have you always wanted to stand around in the background behind Matthew Macfadyen murmuring “mumble, mumble, it be Jack the Ripper”? Well, here’s your chance!

MovieExtras is celebrating 10 years with an Open Casting Weekend, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th July, in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel on Grafton Street. The open casting hours are 10am-7pm for both days. All members of the public are invited to sign up for membership, have their make-up done by MakeupFablicious.com, and have a photo-shoot with an award-winning photographer.

MTV’s Laura Whitmore began her career with MovieExtras.ie, finding out what the behind the scenes world of TV & film was all about. So, for those who want a walk on part beside their favourite celeb or, like Laura, want to feed their curiosity about what really happens on set, MovieExtras.ie is for you. Over 550 companies and casting directors have access to the MovieExtras.ie members profile and can contact them for work as an extra, model, actor or for promotional work. Based in Ardmore Studios, MovieExtras.ie was founded in December 2002 by Derek Quinn and Kevin Gill and has become Ireland’s leading agency that provides extras and background artists to the film, television and advertising industries. MovieExtras.ie has won various Irish Internet Association Net Visionary Awards.

Recent Irish productions include TRIVIA, Asterix and Obelix, Titanic: Blood & Steel, Republic of Telly, Amber, and Ek Tha Tiger (where Bollywood met Dublin). MovieExtras.ie members have also starred in adverts for Bank of Ireland, Heineken, AIB, An Post, Budweiser, Aldi, The Referendum Commission, Dairygold and Paddy Power. And for football enthusiasts, members were part of several Euro 2012 promotions. Currently MovieExtras.ie are working with high profile productions including Ripper Street (starring Matthew Macfadyen), An Crisis, and Stay (starring Aidan Quinn and Mercy heroine Taylor Schilling), which is being shot in the West of Ireland. Previous notable productions include Camelot, The Tudors and Shadow Dancer.

“Our members have been involved in over 1,200 productions and adverts, and have had great stories to tell about amazing experiences and meeting some wonderful people, including lots of international stars including Pierce Brosnan, Colin Farrell, Glenn Close, Anna Friel, Bob Hoskins and Kiera Knightley,” says co-founder Derek Quinn. Members have received over €8m in fees and have been involved with well over 1,000 productions including films, movies, documentaries, adverts (TV, billboard & print), theatre, soap operas, idents, photocalls and reconstructions since the company was set up 10 years ago. All are welcome to attend the open casting weekend. The cost for an individual one year membership is €99.95 and for a special family package is €299.95 (for up to 6 members) and includes 3 professional photographs. Those who are unable to attend the Open Casting Weekend can register online at www.MovieExtras.ie.

 

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