Sunday, 17 June 2012

The week in brief (11 - 17 June)

A fairly busy week, in which I watched the following films:

A Perfect Getaway (2009): 6/10
Dead Snow (Dod Sno) (2009): 4/10
Mona Lisa (1986): 8/10
What Lies Beneath (2000): 6/10
The Last Detail (1973): 8/10
Incendies (2010): 8/10
Cosmopolis (2012): 7/10
Blow Out (1981): 9/10

Three films have the distinction of being my joint 'picks of the week' this time around - they're all very good in their different ways, so I couldn't really separate them. First up, we have Mona Lisa, in which we find an ex-convict (Bob Hoskins) who has just served a lengthy prison sentence and on his re-emergence into society asks for a job from one of his former cronies (a sinister individual played by Michael Caine). He is given the task of driving a high class prostitute to and from her assignations at expensive West End hotels, but things get complicated when finds himself developing feelings for her... It's one of the best British pictures I've seen in quite some time, taking a look at a seedy, unpleasant side of London which rarely makes it onto film. Hoskins is excellent in the lead role, playing a man with rough edges but a good heart, but his performance is matched by that of Michael Caine, who plays his exact opposite - a man who has a polished surface but is quite monstrous underneath.

I was also very keen on The Last Detail, a film with a remarkable pedigree - it stars Jack Nicholson in his '70s prime, was directed by Hal Ashby (also responsible for Harold and Maude), and was was scripted by Robert Towne (who also wrote Chinatown). The plot sees Nicholson and Otis Young as a pair of sailors who are charged with taking a young recruit from their base in Norfolk, Virginia to a naval prison in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but get distracted en route. It's really funny, brilliantly scripted and just seems true to life, and Jack Nicholson is as charismatic as ever.  If you keep your eyes peeled, you can also catch a glimpse of a young (and very beautiful) Nancy Allen talking to Jack in a scene set at a party in New York. It's a shame that Hollywood doesn't make many pictures like this any more... (Speaking of Nancy Allen, I rewatched Blow Out this week  - I reckon it's the best film of Nancy (and Brian De Palma)'s career.)

My third recommendation for the week would be Incendies, a French Canadian movie which sees a pair of twins from Montreal head to the Middle East in a quest to uncover details about their mother's past. It's beautifully shot, heartbreakingly sad in places and masterfully plotted - the viewer is gradually given small pieces of the story (told in flashbacks) until the horrifying truth is revealed in the powerful climax. (This one was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011, but lost out to In A Better World.)

Only one real stinker this week, though to be honest, I wasn't expecting too much from Dead Snow from the outset. How good can a Norwegian film about zombie Nazis (or should that be Nazi Zombies - it's kind of like the Pirate Ghost/ Ghost Pirate question) really be? The answer is: 'not very' - while some of the gore effects work was pretty decent, the story didn't make a whole lot of sense and the film couldn't decide whether the zombies were the fast running undead of 28 Days Later or their more traditional lumbering counterparts. There was also far too much use of bad Norwegian pop music for my tastes. Not one I'm likely to return to in the future.

I only saw one new release this week, which was David Cronenbourg's latest effort, Cosmopolis. It's a rather inert, stagey film, which comprises a series of lengthy conversations between Eric Packer, a billionaire financial wizard (played by Robert Pattinson) and a number of his employees and hangers on. Nevertheless, there were certain sequences which were very impressive - particularly a segment in which Packer discusses economics with his 'Head of Theory' (Samantha Morton) in his limo, completely ignoring a full scale anarchist riot which is taking place in the streets outside. Pattinson, who appears in almost every shot of the film, is much better than I had expected - he plays an emotionally detached New York businessman almost as well as Christian Bale in American Psycho. On the whole, like Prometheus, it's a film I might need to see again before I can decide whether it was a success or a failure.

No list this week (again) - I'm still trying to put together a top ten comedies, which is taking rather longer than expected. As I'll be out of the country next Sunday, it might a week or two before that list sees the light of day.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Ghost World (2001)

"Enid: You know, we need to find a place where you can go to meet women who share your interests.
Seymour: Well maybe I don't want to meet someone who shares my interests. I hate my interests."

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