Monday, 4 June 2012

That was the week that was (28 May - 3 June)

Only a couple of films watched this week, so I reckon I should give them a proper TWTWTW write up. Just like the old days...

Win Win (2011)

This is the kind of film which I find particularly difficult to write about. By that I mean that it was pretty decent, on the whole, but there was nothing particularly distinctive or memorable about it. It's the story of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a forty something lawyer with a wife and young daughter, who moonlights as a wrestling coach for the local high school in his spare time. Into his life comes the young grandson of one of his elderly clients, a sullen teenager with a tremendous gift for wrestling. Flaherty takes him into his home and encourages to get involved with the team, but pretty soon, the boy's ex-junkie mother arrives on the scene, which spells trouble for everyone... Now, as I mentioned above, it's a solid film, which succeeds in making wrestling (a sport which I had always regarded as a bit of a joke) seem exciting. Giamatti turns in a fine performance as always, and Amy Ryan (who I remember best for playing Beady Russell in The Wire), is also on good form as Mike's wife, Jackie. Bobby Cannavale is less successful in the role of Mike's best friend - he seems manic and frantic at all times, wildly mugging for the camera, and is generally a bit of an irritant. As a comedy drama, it's partly successful; the dramatic side of the story is quite engaging, but as a comedy, not so much - it raised a few chuckles every now and then, but wasn't exactly laugh out loud funny. Still, for Giamatti's performance alone, I'm going to be generous and award this one a '7'.

Rating: 7/10

Mean Streets (1973)

For this week's list (coming up in the next couple of days), I'm going to be doing my top ten Martin Scorsese pictures. As homework for that assignment, I thought I'd revisit one of his earliest films - and his first collaboration with Robert De Niro, Mean Streets. To be honest, the first time I saw this picture I didn't think too much of it, but that had more to do with the very low quality of the VHS tape I was watching, which rendered the majority of the dialogue inaudible. This time around, I was much more receptive to the film's merits (and due to watching a DVD, was actually able to understand what the characters were saying). The plot follows a number of low level gangsters living in New York's Little Italy in the early '70s. Foremost among this rogue's gallery we have Charlie (Harvey Keitel), who has been brought into this life by his mafioso uncle, and feels a tremendous sense of guilt about it all. The other key character is Johnny Boy (De Niro), a reckless, wild eyed gambler who owes money all over town, and seems hell bent on self destruction. Though the film looks into the themes of male violence, criminality and Catholic guilt that Scorsese would return to again and again in his career, it feels a little raw compared to a movie like Goodfellas. Nevertheless, there are a couple of magnificently directed scenes which are early indicators of Scorsese's genius. The first is a wonderfully chaotic scene, following Charlie on a drunken bender at his favourite bar, all set to the tune of Rubber Biscuit by The Chips. The other tracks a similarly inebriated Johnny Boy, as he staggers through the streets of Little Italy, desperate to avoid a meeting with one of the many loan sharks to whom he owes money. Though it's a fine film, I'm not quite sure how high it's going to come in my upcoming top ten - I guess you'll just have to watch this space to find out...

Rating: 8/10

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Heathers (1988)

"Veronica Sawyer: Betty Finn was a true friend, and I sold her out for a bunch of Swatch dogs and Diet Coke heads."

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