Skip to main content

Reviews Archive - C


FEATURING:

Casino Royale
Charlie Wilson's War
Chungking Express
Clear and Present Danger
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Collector's Edition
Cloverfield
Clue
Collateral
Colossus: The Forbin Project
Control
Convict 99

Casino Royale
(2006)

Viewed following a Bourne marathon, this comes across as being as cheesy as any post-Moore entry in the Bond canon. Which isn't to say it's not very good. But repeat viewings betray the lack of chemistry between Craig and Eva Green, which is crucial to both this and the next film (in terms of Bond’s motivation). 

Bringing back Judi Dench was a mistake, since it allows leaden "in the pyschiatrist's chair" dialogue. There's also some clunking product placement ("Rolex?" "Amiga"). The title sequence is absolutely beautiful.

****



Centurion
(2010)

Something of a return to form for Neil Marshall after the atrocity that is Doomsday, although he should really stop writing his own scripts (some of the dialogue is beyond ripe) and maybe consider that sometimes splatter isn't everything. 300 vets Michael Fassbender and Dominic West put in fine performances.

***


Charlie Wilson's War
(2007)

Tom Hanks and Phiip Seymour Hoffman are enjoying themselves immensely but the result never feels as deliriously barbed or satirical as it should, given the ripe subject matter (funding Afghanistan in the early '80s to overthrow the Russian occupation). 

Still, the material is never less than engrossing despite the presence of Julia Roberts. The cute chick from the Roswell TV series turns up as one of Wilson's floozy secretaries.

***1/2


Chungking Express
(1994)

I'd forgotten how much I love this film. Split into two halves, each follows a different lovelorn cop frequenting the same noodle bar. 

The first part sees depressed Takeshi Kaneshiro eating 30 tins of pineapple chunks then chatting up drug dealer Brigitte Lin. It's very agreeable, but it's the second half that truly shines, as adorably loopy pixie Faye Wong breaks into bemused cop Tony Leung's apartment while he is away and tidies it up, to the accompaniment of California Dreamin' and Wong's own version of The Cranberries' Dreams.

*****

Clear and Present Danger
(1994)

We’re well into Harrison Ford's "constipated acting" phase by this point (which started circa Presumed Innocent). It was never a good sign that he was so desperate for a franchise that he took Alec Baldwin's table leavings, but he is served up a decent confrontation scene ("How dare you, sir!"). 

Willem Dafoe completely steals the movie. Because that’s what Willem Dafoe does.

***

Close Encounters of The Third Kind: The Collector's Edition
(1977)

The version with the good bits from the 1981 re-release (ship in the desert) but not the crap ones (inside the mothership). 

It's telling that Spielberg says on the doc that he wouldn't have Neary go off with the aliens and leave his family if he was making the film today; this was back when Spielberg just wanted to make good movies, rather than shoehorning sentiment into every crevice. The photography is stunning, and the special effects stand up, if anything, even better today as the approach taken is so very non-CGI.

*****

Cloverfield  
(2008)

J  J Abrams and director Matt Reeves dial up every cliché in the book in order to place their central characters in peril, but they are undeniably successful in creating a sense of immediacy and panic, even if the film runs itself into the ground in the last 10 minutes. 

The piece is a whole lot more effective in summoning up an atmosphere of apocalyptic dread than any of the recent end of the world flicks.

****


Clue
(1985)

Communism was just a red herring.

****

Collateral
(2004)

Michael Mann does wonders with a decent but unspectacular script, drawing a strong villainous performance from Tom Cruise at the same time. 

The film's conceit (hit man forces cabbie to drive him from hit to hit) works well for most of the duration although the final reel descends into your standard action/chase sequence (but exceptionally well-put together). Always good to see Mark Ruffalo, but his dogged cop is a bit of a thankless part.

****

Colossus: The Forbin Project
(1970)

Early '70s mad computer feature. If the set-up requires a certain suspension of logic, the actual play-out is nastily effective and credit is due for resisting any kind of easy solutions.

***

Control
(2007)

Inevitably extremely depressing, but brilliantly directed by Anton Corbijn (the black & white photography is gorgeous, as you'd expect) and superbly performed.

****

Convict 99
(1938)

Highly enjoyable comedy. Will Hay’s Benjamin Twist mistakenly ends up behind bars, then assumes the role of prison governor and hands the prisoners luxuries. Moore Marriott steals the show as an ever-tunnelling-for-freedom in-mate.

***

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

"Predalien" The Alien-Predator-verse ranked
Fox got in there with the shared universe thing long before the current trend. Fortunately for us, once they had their taste of it, they concluded it wasn’t for them. But still, the Predator and Alien franchises are now forever interconnected, and it better justifies a ranking if you have more than six entries on it. So please, enjoy this rundown of the “Predalien”-verse. SPOILERS ensue…
11. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
An almost wilfully wrongheaded desecration of both series’ legacies that attempts to make up for AVP’s relative prurience by being as transgressive as possible. Chestbursters explode from small children! Predaliens impregnate pregnant mothers! Maternity wards of babies are munched (off-screen admittedly)! It’s as bad taste as possible, and that’s without the aesthetic disconnect of the Predalien itself, the stupidest idea the series has seen (and that includes the newborn), one that was approved/encouraged by ra…

Well, it seems our Mr Steed is not such an efficient watchdog after all.

The Avengers 2.7: The Decapod
A title suggesting some variety of monstrous aquatic threat for Steed and Julie Stevens’ Venus Smith. Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The Decapod refers to a Mongo-esque masked wrestler, one who doesn’t even announce “I will destroy you!” at the top of his lungs. Still, there’s always Philip “Solon” Madoc looking very shifty to pass the time.

Madoc is Stepan, a Republic of the Balkans embassy official and the brother-in-law of President Yakob Borb (Paul Stassino). There’s no love lost between him and his ladies’ man bro, and dark deeds are taking place with the embassy confines, but who is responsible proves elusive. Steed is called in, or rather calls Venus in as a replacement, when Borb’s private secretary is murdered by Mongo. Steed isn’t buying that she slipped and broke her neck in the shower; “I shouldn’t like a similar accident to happen to you” he informs the President.

The trail leads to wrestling bouts at the public baths, where the Butcher…