Only God Forgives (2013) dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

I was curious about this as in the UK ‘Only God Forgives’ has had some tremendous reviews, but at the Cannes Film Festival a large chunk of the audience booed or walked out.  Where would I sit?

I think anywhere but in the cinema I saw it.  It’s a baffling revenge thriller with loads of corridors, nasty violence and unpleasant characters.

And a lot of karaoke.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) dir: John Moore

A friend worked on this movie. He overheard this conversation between the Producer and the Studio:

Producer : Yeah we’re making this action movie with Jai Courtney. It’s got huge explosions, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of cars we destroy. It’s cool. Really cool. The director’s really great at blowing shit up! Looks fabulous.

Studio: (a long pause) ……Jai who?

Producer: Er…Jai Courtney a great Australian actor!

Studio:  We’re talking about the same movie right?

Producer:  Er…

Studio: The movie we’ve given you 150…million…dollars…for… to shoot in Eastern Europe?

Producer:  Er…

Studio: I think we have a problem.

Producer: (thinking on his feet)  Trust me – it’s GRrrrrreat!…. But I can see where you’re going with this.  Tell ya what….give me another $25 miilion and I’ll ask Bruce to come on over. It’ll be a blast.

Studio:  Bruce Willis? Hmmm…Tricky…Very tricky.

Producer: Look we’ll change the title of the movie! Make it .. ‘Eat shit and Die Hard’ or something.

Studio: Hmm. Die Hard 5. I like it. I like it alot.  But…..What about the script?  You’ve shot most of the movie already!!!

Producer: No problemo! Bruce is GREAT. He’ll make up some shit on the spot.  No one will know the difference. Audiences today are stupid 5 year olds. They don’t care about stuff like that. Blow shit up! Flip cars! Michael Bay does it all the time and  look at the huge amount of money he makes.

Studio: You have a point there.

Producer: My mate Geoff is here. He’s bald. I can drop him into all the 2nd unit shots we’re going to do in Moscow until  Brucey boy arrives.  Anything else we’ll just stick Brucey in front of a green screen and have him stare or smirk.  Then cut him into the action. He doesn’t even have to get off his own couch.

Studio: What about the villain? Die Hard movies have to have a great villain.

Producer: Way ahead of you there. After all, what do you pay me for? We’ve shot stuff with one villain but I’ll get another. Two for the price of one. And we”ll use them less, but make ’em speak Russian – they’ll appear serious and scary and intelligent and… and… and… Anyway all that good actory stuff.  All at the same time.  But we’ll give them less screen time. …Less is more. What do you say? It’ll be GRrrrrrreat!  Humungous box office moola!

Studio: You know I think this might work.

Producer:  Here’s my bank account details.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) dir: Martin McDonagh

This is writer/director Martin McDonagh’s follow up to ‘In Bruges’ (which I quite enjoyed – hell I even visited Bruges this year only to find myself swamped by tourists – yeah I know I was also a tourist – stayed for about 2 hours before jumping on a train to the beautiful Gent). Anyway. This film very much goes for the chatty dialogue extreme violence combo of Tarantino – and although it doesn’t reach the heights of Tarantino at his best (it sometimes feels a bit contrived) it definitely has a good try.

Colin Farrell is Marty, a Hollywood screenwriter who has a great title for a movie: Seven Psychopaths. Unfortunately that is it. Great title followed by 99 blank pages. His mate Billy (Sam Rockwell) decides to help him out and, amongst other things, puts an ad in the local paper for psychopaths to come on over and tell Marty their story. Billy also has a sideline business with Hans (Christopher Walken) in which they steal pet dogs, and then return them to the grateful owner in exchange for the cash reward. Things go pear-shaped really quickly when they steal the Shih Tzu belonging to Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who is definitely of the psychopathic type – and local gangster – who will stop at nothing to get his dog back.

I’m not really doing the story much justice here as there is shitloads going on and any more info would be a spoiler – I’d avoid reading reviews – suffice it to say there are twists and turns, and given that Marty is a screenwriter, self referential discussions on gangster type movies: such as why women are so badly written in these types of films (like this film), stories within stories and films within films. There is so much that is enjoyable in this movie that it didn’t really matter that occasionally it kind of disappeared up its own arse. And with such a great cast including Gabourey Sidibe, Tom Waits, Zeljko Ivanek (who should have got more screen time – you’ll probably recognize him instantly as that bloke from…) and a really great section with Harry Dean Stanton, there are surprises and laugh out loud moments. Definitely check Seven Psychopaths out.

Oh yes. Don’t suddenly leap out of the cinema (or hit stop on your DVD etc) as soon as the credits roll. You don’t have to wait long for one ‘uh-oh’ hanging story thread to be tied up.

Shadow Dancer (2012) dir: James Marsh

Set in the the early 90s, the fabulous Andrea Riseborough is ‘Collette’, an IRA terrorist who leaves a bomb on the London underground. Only she doesn’t set the timer and is caught by MI5. Still hating the British for the murder of her little brother 20 years earlier, she is desperately seeking a way out to protect her young son, and is recruited by MI5’s ‘Mac’ (Clive Owen) to spy on her two brothers who have committed a number of sectarian killings in Northern Ireland. However, Mac is not sure that he can trust his boss Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) and the IRA soon suspect a traitor in their midst.

Adapted by Tom Bradby from his own novel, and directed unfussily by James Marsh (who made the amazinig documentary ‘Man on Wire’) this BBC film is about grit – not glamour, car chases and explosions – in a similar way to ‘Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy’ and ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking‘. The performances were universally terrific, and Andrea Riseborough – the female equivalent of Michael Sheen – notches up another first class role, even Clive Owen (who I personally often find a bit wooden) was great – this was compelling, adult story telling.

One thing though: I was walking back home after the film, when I suddenly realised that the film’s ending wasn’t what I had thought it was!

For those of you in the USA, I don’t think it has a release date yet, but if you like your thrillers intelligent, real and gloss free – look out for it.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation (2012) dir: Adrian Grunberg

First of all I got a bollocking when I took my wife to this as I didn’t tell her it was a Mel Gibson film. She used to be a huge fan but now refuses to watch anything with him in it – which is, I guess, how much of America feels about him at the moment. Anyway, I wanted to see it because there were elements of the story that were of interest to me and I thought – once it starts – she’s less likely to drag me out.

This is a lowish budget film for Mel ($20m) and unusually for a film there weren’t loads of producer and company credits at the start of the picture, just his company, Icon.

Mel plays a guy who has stolen loads of cash from a gangster (who would like it back) and crosses into Mexico where he is locked up in a prison – which is more like a small town run by criminals. Here he finds friendship with a boy (Kevin Hernandez who is great) and uses his ill learned skills to survive.

I liked the film, it was entertaining and had some Tarantino type moments in it nicely put together by director Adrian Grunberg (Mel’s 1st AD on Apocalypto). What I found annoying was the voice over which explained the obvious and the night time camera work which produced a poor strobing video effect.

Other than that it had some clever sequences, and if you can ignore Mel Gibson’s personal life, is a movie worth checking out.

It has the appaling title of ‘Get the Gringo’ in the USA which would have only worked if it was a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie, who are a big influence on this.

Oh yes, I think my wife liked it too but I am going to have to let her choose the next ten movies for us to go and see.

Sometimes her choices are…questionable.

The Raid (2011) dir: Gareth Evans

Or ‘The Raid: Redemption’ to those of you in the USA. This is so much more than a small indie martial arts action flick.

I’d been looking forward to this movie for ages. It had a trailer which screamed: “this is a cool film! Check me out and don’t worry I promise the film will be even better than the trailer! Trust me!!!”. And you know what? It sure is.

I’m a huge martial arts fan so tend to be less keen on Hollywood style action sequences which involve fast cutting and multiple angles – usually either attempting to generate excitement or destroying the skill of the performers involved. This is old school fighting with some modern twists – which looks dangerous (and is) – executed with huge skill – not only by the lead (Iko Uwais) but by a whole host of other performers.

The story is crisp, a swat team get trapped in a building full of bad guys trying to kill them, but what elevates the film from a good action movie to greatness is the sound design, the score, the stylish direction and the little details – such as, well that would be telling.

The combat is hardcore, such as a knife battle involving multiple knife men, and fights end in fast close up gory kills with the odd “eep!!!” moment. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s visceral, tense and exciting.

All credit must go to the writer/director, Welshman Gareth Evans, who has taken an opportunity to make a movie in Indonesia – in a language he doesn’t understand – and smash a six (or homerun) out of the stadium.

Update:

You want the trailer here:


http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/sony/theraidredemption/

Not some of the other bastardised ones that distributors have been putting out.

Carriers (2009) dir: Àlex & David Pastor

I have to admit that I have a bit of a penchant towards end of the world type movies – and there have been some particularly good ones over the last few years such as ‘Right at your door’ (2006). I tend to prefer those based in reality rather than say zombie flix, maybe because part of me is secretly going ‘what would I do if it was me in this position? Perhaps I can learn something here for when civilization does collapse and maybe survive!’

There was definitely some of this going on as I was watching ‘Carriers’. It opens with 4 friends mucking about on a road trip in a stolen car. Within moments we discover that they are survivors of a viral pandemic that has wiped out almost everybody. They live by a certain set of rules, one of which is that if someone is infected you leave them because they are as good as dead. Of course it all goes horribly wrong. If it’s you who gets infected – screw the rules! But I felt that it was all played out pretty truthfully, any person they came across was terrified of these four characters and vice versa. Who is infected and who is not? You can’t immediately tell and so fear leads to ‘ordinary’ people killing each other – dwindling the tiny human population further. The whole story was convincingly and economically told by writer/directors Àlex and David Pastor with good performances all round (I thought Christopher Meloni whom I hadn’t seen before was particularly good – he reminded me of Mark Strong).

Even with a pre James Tiberius Kirk Chris Pine the film criminally only took about $100K in the US and disappeared without a trace. Track it down!