I tuned out of the last chase sequence AND the last fight sequence of the new Bourne film: I don’t know what I missed and I didn’t care. I hate the way Greengrass films action. And yet….I quite liked Jason Bourne. It has a terrific cast, all-star, an interesting development in the story, that great final song, the explicit commentary on the political, and that continuing sense of being completely alienated from everything except survival. I never get tired of watching them on tv. And I’m sure I’ll see this one many more times to come. A contradiction I suppose.
The all star cast includes Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel and Julia Stiles, all in great form and a pleasure to see.
I loved Florence Foster Jenkins and I didn’t expect to: Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg (from The Big Bang Theory) are terrific and it’s laugh-out loud funny, camp, touching. Stephen Frears is really superb in creating and maintaining a tone for the film that allows us to laugh at but also feel for all of the characters involved.
Meryl Streep plays Florence, the deluded society lady who lives for music, loves performing it, and hires out Carnegie Hall so she can share her gift with the world. Streep’s performance is a tricky one: she could have sung badly and simply grate our ears; or she could have made the singing comic but go a bit too broad and we would lose sight of the person, her delusions and vulnerabilities. Her performance is a tour de force: I laughed at each wrong note, incrementally, and more so because of the relish with which Street acts it out. She’s greatly aided by her costumes, enormous vulgar tiaras, piles of bracelets and necklaces and gigantic tassle earrings that teeter dangerously with each note and frame Streeps’ eager and gleeful eyes. It’s what she lives for.
Hugh Grant has always been under-rated. There’s been no better light comedian in the last two decades. As St. Claire Bayfield, Jenkin’s watchful husband, he’s not just funny but touching. He’s the man who makes all of Florence’s delusions possible; who cocoons her against a too harsh world; and that takes charm, and money, and steel and a considerable amount of self-sacrifice. He keeps reiterating the happiness of the world they’ve created for each other; and his performance makes you believe it. But Grant also conveys the sadness and strain of the failed actor; one who loves to recite and has played in Hamlet but too hastily adds that not the leading part of course; the toll of looking after her needs; and the price he’s paid. Grant gets each laugh and also, perhaps for the first time, not only evokes Hugh Grant but also simultaneously embodies a complex character, one we believe in, where dreams of art and acclaim, what he provides for her, have faded; and he’s been left only with her and what she provides for him: riches and glamour; it’s part of the greatness of his performance that he makes us understand both how little and how much that is.
If Grant hasn’t been given his due, neither has Frears. After, landmark films for forty years (from My Beautiful Laundrette onwards) and after the extraordinary work of restrained emotion that was last year’s Philomena, doesn’t the man deserve more credit? Who else can maintain and sustain a tone in which delicacy of feeling, farce, drawing room comedy and melodrama, can co-exist so easily in a period setting?
The popularity of Scandinavian crime novels has meant that we’re getting a greater opportunity to see films and TV programmes from the region and I for one I’m grateful. Jackpot is a very gruesome, very dark and very funny adaptation of a Jo Nesbo story. The accent is on the humour rather than on the thriller elements. It doesn’t look like much and production values are very inferior. What it lacks in gloss and glitz, however, it makes up in laughs; and one doesn’t often get a chance to see movies from Norway. The ending is not quite surprising though the glee with which some in the audience greeted it makes it very much of its time or, more precisely, an indictment of its time.
It’s James McAvoy’s film. Angelina Jolie has only a small, supporting role, though she looks every inch the movie star throughout and you can’t help looking at anyone else when she’s on screen. What distinguishes this film is the visuals: mind-bending, space-bending curving distortions of geographical space and direction that I think are new in action; a kind of space-warping, slow-mo, high-speed demonstration that is just thrilling to watch. This technique is also evident in Timur Bekmamvetob’s other films such as Night Watch (Russia, 2004) and Day Watch (Russia, 2006) and might be what brought him to the attention of American producers. The rest of the story-telling in Wanted is crude, tending towards the grotesque and the emphatic, no subtlety whatsoever, a kind of filmmaking meant to be consumed in a distracted environment amongst lots of other, competing, media. Wanted doesn’t support too much attention but neither does it require it: the story is almost instantly forgettable. However, the action sequences are truly remarkable. Watching these dazzling sequences is what led me to the technically rougher but more textured, complex and better ‘Watch’ films. Good fun.
A masterpiece but one which may require a big screen to fully appreciate. The film begins with an anecdote about how, in trying to save a horse from a whipping, Nietzche fell and that fall may have spurred the serious mental illness that he would suffer from for the rest of his life. The anecdote ends with a question: what happened to the horse? And then the film begins and goes on to show us a peasant and his daughter with that horse, living through a storm in a barren land, day-by-day of poetic harshness: they get visited and threatened by gypsies (who also leave them a holy book), the horse refuses to work, the water runs out, they try to leave but the storm pushes them back. We see them eating an uncooked potato and certain to starve. It’s repetitive, slow, harsh, bleak, shot in black and white; the poverty grinds, albeit in classic, and classically beautiful, compositions that ennoble the attempt to keep on going on in the face of all evidence. János Derzsi as the father has one of the most beautiful and expressive faces, a leonine one, I’ve ever seen on screen. The harshness of life is everywhere and relentlessly present. No other film has so vividly and remorselessly highlighted to me how basic food, shelter and clothing mustn’t be taken for granted. The film is ennobling of its characters, shaming of its audience. Very beautiful.
A film that is beautiful and great. I’d heard how terrific Nicholson is in it; I don’t remember reading anything on Randy Quaid; and, to me, he’s Nicholson’s equal here. He’s got this great baby face on this very tall — and at this point in his life, lanky — body and he makes you feel like giving him a hug, though he’ll probably pick your pocket whilst you do so. He doesn’t necessarily need what he steals, but he can’t help himself. He’s like a greedy and gleeful baby who simply wants more of what he likes. Quaid possesses the rare quality of looking innocent and vulnerable whilst also seeming unquestionably heterosexual. The Last Detail is also more interesting visually than generally acknowledged; each shot is thought through and planned yet unobtrusively so; you have to look at it mindfully to see how well designed it is; and to appreciate how much its mise-en-scène brings to the story it is telling. Ashby appears briefly (he’s a surprisingly tall bloke) and Carol Kane, she of the high whiny voice, a 70s Betty Boop, is any filmgoer’s delight as the young hooker. A humanist film about the injustice of the law and about the importance of kindness in the face of systemic unfairness; a film that makes one sad and hopeful; a film to love.
Visually disappointing but narratively enthralling film about a Looper, an executioner who kills people from the future in the present. Time travel doesn’t exist in the present but it does in the future, thus people from the future get shipped back to the film’s present, the looper shoots them as they appear, disposes of the body and gets paid. No one is looking for the bodies in the present and nobody can find them in the future. But who is disposing of these bodies and why? That’s what the rest of the story tries to tell in this dystopian futuristic thriller in which one can detect elements of The Omen (Richard Donner, USA, 1976) and The Fury (Brian de Palman, USA, 1978). The story lacks tension and feels a bit long but it does fascinate. The drugs, the want, the sense of a failed state with no law and order, with hungry people rummaging the countryside and those prairies full of rotting fields are a subtle critique of America now and, like many contemporary films, Looper deals with current anxieties by depicting, denouncing and somewhat resolving the most hateful aspects of this new Depression we’re living in, albeit tangentially. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a subtle imitation of a young Bruce Willis, it’s mostly the nose, but with a few mannerisms thrown in; then he shows what a truly brilliant actor he is because he can let go of the disguise; it’s not straightforward imitation. Emily Blunt disappoints; sadly, because she’s so sympathetic one wants her to be good. Looper is intelligent and enjoyable sci-fi thriller that offers well-executed action and also leaves audiences with an interesting set of ideas to think about and discuss.