Sunday, 29 July 2012

The week in brief (23 - 29 July)

Another fairly quiet week - what with the start of the Olympics, and finishing off the second season of Veronica Mars, I didn't have too much time to spend watching films. I did finally get round to seeing The Dark Knight Rises, however. I reckon pretty much everyone on the internet has had their say about TDKR, but for what it's worth, my two-penneth worth is coming right up.

This week's list of movies watched:

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 8/10
Robocop (1987): 7/10
1408 (2007): 8/10
Once Upon A Time in the West (1968): 7/10

So then, The Dark Knight Rises. This was a film I'd been looking forward to seeing for over a year, so to a certain extent, in giving the film an '8' (rather than a '9' or '10') out of 10, I have to admit that it didn't quite live up to all the hype surrounding it. Saying that, I don't want to give off the impression that I didn't enjoy the movie - there's a lot to love about TDKR. It's a fantastic spectacle, with the director's preference for real stunts over CGI paying dividends in some stunning action sequences. It's beautifully shot by Wally Pfister, in his last movie as director of photography for Chris Nolan, and you really get the sense of Gotham as a real, living, breathing American city. With one exception, I really enjoyed the work of the ensemble cast - particularly Joseph Gordon Levitt as intrepid cop John Blake and Anne Hathaway, who comes very close to matching Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic performance as Catwoman/ Selina Kyle. One other very pleasant surprise was something which had been talked up as a potential problem for the picture - the voice of supervillain Bane, which I had heard was pretty much impossible to understand. On watching TDKR, I didn't find that to be the case at all - instead, I came away hugely impressed with Tom Hardy's work. He's created a voice for Bane which is a creepy, arrogant, highly intelligent drawl which acts as an interesting contrast to the hulking physicality of the character's physical appearance. For this reason, I found that pretty much any scene featuring Bane was guaranteed to be interesting. Of course, the film is not without its faults. It's a little over long, with a sequence in the middle (which sees Batman banished to a Russian prison) which seems to go interminably. I felt that Marion Cotillard's performance as Miranda Tate (Bruce Wayne's love interest) was a little muted, with little chemistry between her and Christian Bale, and the plot doesn't feel as cohesive as the previous two films in the trilogy, with quite a few loose ends. Having said all that, if I was to rank the three Nolan Batman films against one another, I'd put TDKR about on a par with Batman Begins, but in my opinion, it's not quite as great as The Dark Knight.

Moving on to a quick round up of the other films I've seen this week, the best of the bunch was 1408, a recent horror movie adapted from a Stephen King short story. It's a pretty standard set up: we see a cynical writer of 'haunted hotels' travel guides (John Cusack) checking into a hotel room with a notoriously bloody past. No sooner than he can say 'there's no such thing as ghosts', he's attacked by an onslaught of bizarre apparitions, which represent both previous occupants of the room as well as figures from his own guilty subconscious.  While the film is never quite as terrifying as Room 237 in the Overlook Hotel, it's a very solid effort by director Mikael Hafstrom.

The final two movies of the week would fall under the 'good, but not great' category.  Robocop was, I believe, the first '18' certificate film I ever saw, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Watching it again today, the action sequences and special effects look a little dated, but the humourous and satirical touches from director Paul Verhoeven mean that it's still worth a look. Finally, in watching Once Upon A Time in the West I moved one step closer to my goal of having seen every film on the IMDB top 50. All that's left is a couple of Charlie Chaplin films (City Lights and Modern Times) and the Japanese animation, Spirited Away. I have to confess that I'm not a huge fan of epics, Westerns or epic Westerns, but on balance, I quite enjoyed Once Upon A Time in the West. Although it was a little slow for my tastes, there were a few memorable gunfights in amongst the lengthy, meditative shots of the arid Western landscape.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Ed Wood (1994)

"Edward D. Wood, Jr.: What are you drinking, Bela?
Bela Lugosi: Formaldehyde.
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Straight up or on the rocks?"

Monday, 23 July 2012

The week in brief (16 - 22 July)

I still haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises as yet (I'm planning to go on Wednesday, so am currently having to walk around with both hands over my ears and a blindfold on so that I can avoid spoilers), but I did watch the following movies this week:

The Silence (Das letzte Schweigen) (2010): 7/10
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): 9/10
Scrooged (1988): 7/10

The clear choice for film of the week has to go to The Bridge on the River Kwai, which is a remarkable picture. Set in a prison camp in Western Thailand during the Second World War, the movie tells the story of the construction of a railway bridge to Burma by a number of British POWs, and an attempt by a small group of commandos to destroy that bridge. I was expecting something quite stuffy and old fashioned, a tale of stiff upper lips and derring-do, celebrating the never say die attitude of the British military - but the film was, in fact, quite the opposite of those things. The ostensible hero of the piece, Lieutenant Nicholson (played by Alec Guinness), initially seems courageous in his stubborn refusal to back down in the face of pressure from his bullying Japanese opposite number. However, when he wins this battle of wills and takes over construction of the bridge, he ends up in a position where he is aiding and abetting the Japanese war effort - only realising the error of his ways when it's far too late. Rather than being a film which revels in the triumphs of war, it's a potent anti-war movie - one which shows the confusion and madness of conflict. It's also beautifully shot in technicolour, and features an explosive and exciting climax that keeps you gripped until the final frame. It's just a shame that I didn't see the film sooner - it's been shown on BBC2 pretty much every Sunday afternoon for the past 15 years, so I can't say I didn't have the opportunity...

The other two films I saw this week were also pretty good. The Silence is a German crime picture which concerns the investigation into the abduction of a child in rural Bavaria, an abduction which has chilling echoes of a murder which took place in the same village some 23 years earlier. As we're presented with the identity of the killers from the very start of the picture, it isn't much of a whodunnit, but rather an interesting examination of the effects of guilt on the perpetrators of a horrendous crime. With an impressive sound track and a number of strong performances, it's worth a look for fans of continental crime series like Wallander and The Killing.

Finally, we have Scrooged, a comedy from the '80s which has Bill Murray as a modern day Ebeneezer Scrooge figure. Rather than acting as a money lender, Scrooge in this case is a sleazy TV executive, prepared to let old ladies die of fright if it leads to increased ratings. The film starts off with a hilarious send up of the commercialisation of Christmas, and Bill Murray is as great as ever, particularly in the early going where he gets to be as crass and obnoxious as he likes. Unfortunately, the second half of the film,is a bit of a mess, with plenty of gags, but few that actually land - so on the whole it's a bit of a mixed bag.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

"Colonel Saito: Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!"

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The week in brief (9 - 15 July)

This week's list of films watched:

Midnight in Paris (2011): 8/10
Take Shelter (2011): 7/10
Tyrannosaur (2011): 8/10
In Darkness (2011): 7/10
Dead Presidents (1995): 7/10

The list is perhaps a little shorter than usual, but I've been a bit preoccupied with watching Arrested Development and Veronica Mars recently. Apparently, there's a new series of AD coming out next year, as a lead up to the much hyped feature length movie. I'm so excited I could scream, but I'll try to contain myself for the time being. Hopefully the new episodes will be just like the (awesome) first two seasons of the show, rather than (funny but patchy) third season.

Right, then, a quick discussion of the movies I've seen over the last seven days. In the 'very good' category, we have Midnight In Paris and Tyrannosaur. Pretty much any half decent film that Woody Allen releases these days is hailed by the critics as a 'return to form', but in the case of Midnight In Paris, those critics weren't exaggerating. Owen Wilson makes for an effective Woody-surrogate as an idealistic young screenwriter on holiday in Paris, who finds himself transported each night to the roaring twenties, a time he views as being a Golden Age for Western civilisation. Although the scenes set in the present day are a little heavy handed at times, whenever Wilson returns to the past (and meets with luminaries such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and F Scott Fitzgerald) the film is an absolute blast. While Midnight in Paris is a light and frothy concoction, Tyrannosaur is something far darker and more disturbing. Directed by the brilliant Paddy Considine, it's a realistic and unflinching examination of male violence and domestic abuse set in a unnamed, grim Northern town. Leads Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman are both incredibly good in their respective roles. However, rather like We Need To Talk About Kevin and Lilya 4 Ever, it's one of those films which, due to its unpleasant subject matter, will be tough to return to in the future.

I didn't see anything which I would regard as bad this week, but the rest of the movies I saw were good but flawed. Both Take Shelter and In Darkness were interesting but overlong pictures which could have done with some judicious editing to remove a bit of flab from their middle sections. Dead Presidents (which was directed by Albert and Allen Hughes when they were both in their early twenties) is an unusual mix of a nostalgic look back at the '70s and heist picture, and also offers an interesting African American perspective on the events of the Vietnam war.  However, the ending to the film felt rushed, with the protagonist Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) driven to crime, then forced to face his punishment all within the space of about 20 minutes.

No trips to the cinema this week, but pretty soon I'll be able to see my most anticipated film of the year: The Dark Knight Rises. Until the 20th of July, I'll just have to content myself with watching the I'm Batman supercut...

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Midnight in Paris (2011)

"Ernest Hemingway: You ever hunted?
Adriana: No.
Ernest Hemingway: You?
Gil: Only for bargains."

Friday, 13 July 2012

Listorama! My Top Eleven Comedies

OK, here it is - a countdown of my favourite comedies of all time. I've been talking about doing this list for a while, but it proved much more difficult than expected to put it together. For one thing, films you might categorise as being 'comedies' often cross over into other genres - such as comedy-drama, comedy-horror, romantic comedy and so on and so forth.

As the length of my long list was getting unwieldy, I've had to exclude many fine films which may have comedic elements, but which aren't really straight up comedies. Having said that, comedies come in all different shapes and sizes - sometimes you want something that's more cerebral and witty - at other times, you just want some crude, lowest common denominator laughs. I've tried to cater to both types of film in my list, but ultimately the list is just based on how funny I found the movies in question. Obviously, this is my 100% subjective opinion, so you may well disagree, but I hope you enjoy the list anyway.

As ever, there were plenty of movies which just failed to make the grade, for one reason and another - these include Adaptation, Ed Wood, The Forty Year Old Virgin, Napoleon Dynamite, There's Something About Mary, Kind Hearts & Coronets, The Muppets, Dr Strangelove, Say Anything and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Right then, that's enough of a preamble. Here's the list. (As you may have noticed, this list goes to 11. You can see this either as a homage to Spinal Tap or a tribute to the always amusing 11 Points blog. Alternatively, it's possible that I got halfway through this list and realised that I'd forgotten to include Rushmore...)

11.  The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Synopsis: Two teenage boys in 1980s Brooklyn try to come to terms with the divorce of their parents. The older of the two (played by Jesse Eisenberg) sides with their snobbish, intellectual father, while the younger favours his mother, who's been carrying on with a philistine tennis pro. Tennis is played, and library books are ruined.

Best lines:

"Walt Berkman: It's Welles' masterpiece, really. Many people think it's Citizen Kane, but Magnificent Ambersons, if it hadn't been ruined by the studio, would've been his crowning achievement. As it is, it's still brilliant. It's the old story, genius not being recognised by the industry.
Lance: It sounds great. Who's in it?
Walt Berkman: Orson Welles? I don't know, I haven't seen it yet. I've seen stills."

"Bernard: Joan, let me ask you something. All that work I did at the end of our marriage, making dinners, cleaning up, being more attentive. It never was going to make a difference, was it? You were leaving no matter what...
Joan: You never made a dinner.
Bernard: I made burgers that time you had pneumonia."

10. Election (1999)

Synopsis: Matthew Broderick returns to high school as a disenchanted high school teacher who attempts to rig a high school election in an effort to get revenge on an obnoxious overachiever. Alexander Payne's biting wit takes down everybody in its path, whether they're teachers, students or otherwise.

Best lines:

"Jim McAllister: Paul, what's your favourite fruit?
Paul Metzler: Pears.
Jim McAllister: Pears, good. OK, let's say...
Paul Metzler: Oh, no wait! Apples.
Jim McAllister: Apples. Fine. Let's say all you ever knew were apples. Apples, apples, and more apples. You might think apples were pretty good, even if you got a rotten one every once in a while. But then one day... there's an orange. And now you can make a decision, do you want an apple or do you want an orange? That's democracy.
Paul Metzler: I also like bananas."

"Tammy Metzler:  Being suspended is like getting a paid vacation. Why do they think it's a punishment? It's like your dog pees on the carpet and you give him a treat. Then you get in trouble for skipping school, it's so stupid! Hendricks told me, "One more time" and I'd be expelled. Sounded good to me."

9. Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)

Synopsis: Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) tries to get to the bottom of a fiendish plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, but is distracted by the charms of Priscilla Presley. Drebin follows the trail to a California Angels baseball game, where he delivers a stirring rendition of the national anthem. O.J. Simpson can't stop injuring himself.

Best Lines:

"Frank: I'd known her for years. We used to go to all the police functions together. Ah, how I loved her, but she had her music. I think she had her music. She'd hang out with the Chicago Male Chorus and Symphony. I don't recall her playing an instrument or being able to carry a tune. Yet she was on the road 300 days of the year. In fact, I bought her a harp for Christmas. She asked me what it was."

"Mrs. Nordberg: Oh, my poor Nordberg! He was such a good man, Frank. He never wanted to hurt anyone. Who would do such a thing?
Frank: It's hard to tell. A gang of thugs, a blackmailer, an angry husband, a gay lover..."

8. Withnail & I (1987)

Synopsis: Unemployed actors Withnail and Marwood take a trip away from their squalid London flat to spend some time in the country. Their hopes of a relaxing weekend away are dashed by the arrival of Withnail's insatiable Uncle Monty, who has taken rather a shine to Marwood...

Best lines:

"Monty: I can never touch meat until it's cooked. As a youth I used to weep in butcher's shops."

"Danny: I don't advise a haircut, man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hairs are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos, and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bald-headed men are uptight."

 7. South Park: Better, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Synopsis: Outcry over a vulgar Canadian film leads to a war between the USA and their neighbours to the north. Kenny goes to Hell, where he meets Satan himself and his partner in crime, Saddam Hussein. Some of the funniest musical numbers ever written are performed.

Best lines:

"Doctor: Son, we have some bad news. We accidentally replaced your heart with a baked potato. You have about three seconds to live."

"Sheila Broflovski: Remember what the MPAA says: horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as people don't say any naughty words! That's what this war is all about!"


6. Airplane! (1980)

Synopsis: A former hotshot air force pilot turned washed up alcoholic is forced to take the helm of a stricken airliner. An auto-pilot is inflated. Jelly wobbles. Zucker Abrahams and Zucker cram more gags into an hour and a half than anyone else has managed before, or since.

Best lines: 

"Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."

" Steve McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffin' glue."

5. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Synopsis: Meet the greatest news team in San Diego: firstly, their leader, Ron Burgundy - he's kind of a big deal. He has many leather bound books, and his apartment smells of rich mahogany. Next we have Brian Fantana, the stylish one of the group. He's given nicknames to his testes: James Westfall and Doctor Kenneth Noisewater. Third on the list, Champ Kind, the king of sports news. He's all about having fun - drinking a few cocktails, maybe starting a fire in someones kitchen. Finally, there's Brick Tamland, punctual weatherman with an IQ of 48. Will the arrival of ace reporter Veronica Corningstone break up the group?

Best Lines:

"Brian Fantana:  She gets a special cologne. It's called Sex Panther, by Odeon. It's illegal in nine countries... Yep, it's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good."

"Ron Burgundy: It's so damn hot... milk was a bad choice!"

4. Rushmore (1998)

Synopsis: Bespectacled hobbies enthusiast Max Fischer is one of the worst students at the prestigious Rushmore Academy, letting his love for clubs and societies overshadow his academic work. He finds himself falling in love with a beautiful English first grade teacher, but has to fight for her affections with a disenchanted millionaire, played by Bill Murray. Along the way he puts on a few explosive plays...

Best lines:

"Herman Blume: (addressing the students at Rushmore Academy): You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you."

"Max Fischer: I like your nurse's uniform, guy. 
Dr. Peter Flynn: These are O.R. scrubs. 
Max Fischer: Oh, are they?"

3. Heathers (1988)

Synopsis: A clique of three beautiful but evil girls named Heather rule the roost at an Ohio high school, along with their disgruntled friend, Veronica Sawyer. When Veronica meets the dangerous and charismatic JD (Christian Slater), the pair decide to take the Heathers down. From this fairly standard set up, we get probably the sharpest, funniest, darkest, most twisted High School movie ever made.

Best lines:

"Principal: Now I've seen a lot of bullshit. Angel dust. Switchblades. Sexually perverse photography exhibits involving tennis rackets. But this suicide thing... guess that's more on Pauline's wavelength. Well, we're gonna just write off today. And on Friday she can hold her little "Love-In" or... whatever. Whatever."

"Heather Chandler: I brought you to a Remington party and what's my thanks? It's on a hallway carpet. I got paid in puke. 
Veronica: Lick it up, baby. Lick it up."

2. Groundhog Day (1993)

Synopsis:  A world weary weatherman (Bill Murray) is doomed to repeat the same day in the same small town forever, unless he can find some way to break the cycle. Along the way, he falls in love with a beautiful colleague, punches an annoying insurance salesman, learns to ice sculpt, dresses up like John Wayne and listens to 'I've Got You Babe' about 12,000 times...

Best lines: 

"Phil: It's the same thing your whole life: 'Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don't mix beer and wine, ever.' Oh yeah: 'Don't drive on the railroad track.'
Gus: Well, Phil, that's one I happen to agree with."

"Phil: This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."

 1. This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Synopsis: Director Marty DiBergi takes us on a documentary or - if you will - 'rockumentary', on the road in America with one of England's loudest bands. See the excitement as the band get lost on the way to the stage! Taste hors-d'oeurves served up by mimes! Hear some of the greatest rock parody songs ever, including Big Bottom, Sex Farm and Stone Henge! Touch a cucumber wrapped in tinfoil!  Smell the glove!

Best lines: 

"Derek Smalls: We're very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they're like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water."

" David St. Hubbins: I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn't believe anything."

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The week in brief (2 - 8 July)

This week's big(ish) list o' movies:

The Outsiders (1983): 5/10
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): 7/10
Sea of Love (1989): 7/10
Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936): 8/10
Rebecca (1940): 7/10
The Adjustment Bureau (2011): 5/10

So, a bit of a mixed bag once again. The pick of the bunch are a couple of 'oldies but goodies': first of all, Frank Capra's original version of Mr Deeds Goes To Town. Mr Deeds is a classic comedy which sees Gary Cooper as the small town poet who inherits a fortune, then finds himself at the centre of a media circus when he tries to give the money away. Rather like the other Capra films I've seen (Mr Smith Goes to Washington and It's A Wonderful Life), it's a story where innocence and honesty triumph over cynicism and greed. Despite being made 70 odd years ago, it's still very funny, with a fine screenplay, and brilliant comic turns from Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.  Secondly, I also rather enjoyed Albert Hitchcock's first American movie, Rebecca - it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1940, and is an intriguing mystery set at a isolated Cornish estate. The stand out performance for me comes from Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers, probably the creepiest housekeeper in cinema history.

There were also a couple of films which I didn't really enjoy this week. The Outsiders is a bit of a strange one - a tale of street gangs in 1950s Oklahoma which squanders a remarkable cast (including the likes of Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez and Diane Lane) with a pretty limp, unconvincing story. The direction was just too showy, making everything seem completely artificial and taking me away from the action. I know Francis Ford Coppola is regarded as being one of the great American directors, but there's a fair bit of dross on his resume alongside genuine classics like The Godfather (Parts I and II), Apocalypse Now and The Conversation. Another minor disappointment: The Adjustment Bureau. Despite solid performances from Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, the movie just didn't work for me. The idea of a sinister cabal of besuited men controlling the world is quite an intriguing one, but the execution of that idea was muddled and confusing.

Finally, I should mention that I caught the new Spider-Man movie at the cinema. I've always been a big fan of old Spidey - he was my favourite superhero when I was growing up, and I thoroughly enjoyed Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man pictures. As for the new one - well, I'd say it's a qualified success. Andrew Garfield makes for a suitably neurotic webslinger, and the scenes establishing the character's origins are about as good as I could have hoped for. However, I was disappointed with the villain of the piece, the Lizard - a CGI creation without any presence or personality - and the ending, with the spider - lizard face off, was a bit too predictable.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

The Big Lebowski (1998)

"The Dude: Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.
Malibu Police Chief: Mr. Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski. Now we got a nice, quiet little beach community here, and I aim to keep it nice and quiet. So let me make something plain. I don't like you sucking around, bothering our citizens, Lebowski. I don't like your jerk-off name. I don't like your jerk-off face. I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off. Do I make myself clear?
The Dude: I'm sorry, I wasn't listening."

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The fortnight in brief (18 June - 1 July)

Well, I'm back. Due to one reason and another, I actually got the chance to see quite a few films over the last couple of weeks after all. The line up this time around was as follows:

Like Crazy (2011): 7/10
Into The Abyss (2011): 8/10
Crash (1996): 5/10
Bridesmaids (2011): 8/10
Akira (1988): 7/10
The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011): 7/10
An Education (2009): 8/10
The Woman in the Fifth (2011): 6/10
Harvey (1950): 8/10
The Innkeepers (2011): 8/10
Killer Joe (2011): 7/10
The Debt (2010): 7/10
Real Genius (1985): 7/10
When Harry Met Sally... (1989): 7/10
The French Connection (1971): 8/10
The Matrix (1999): 8/10

So, plenty of films which were 'good to very good', but nothing which I'd regard as being absolutely outstanding. The pick of the bunch would include Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig's very funny female take on gross-out comedy, An Education - featuring stand out performances from Carey Mulligan and Alfred Molina - and The French Connection, which is still a fantastic movie 40 years after it was released, and includes one of the greatest car chases in cinema history.

Also very strong were two more recent films, Into The Abyss and The Innkeepers. Interestingly (to me anyway) I believe both of them were out in the cinema less than a month ago, but due to a shortening in the time it takes for a movie to come out on DVD, I was able to watch them at home this week. Into The Abyss is the latest from the eccentric German filmmaker Werner Herzog, and takes a sobering look at the lives of death row inmates in Texas. The Innkeepers is Ti West's follow up to his (also excellent) 2009 horror movie, The House of the Devil. Although perhaps not quite as tense as its predecessor, The Innkeepers really worked for me -West is adept at creating believable characters you really care about, meaning that the climax to the film has that much more of an impact.

Just a couple of disappointments this week: firstly, David Cronenbourg's infamous Crash, the Cannes Special Jury Prize winning sex and car crashes flick. On its release in 1996, the film got a host of tabloid newspapers hot under the collar, with a predictable number of 'ban this sick filth' type headlines. I can't say that I was particularly shocked or scandalised by what I saw - it was just rather boring, with a catatonic lead performance from James Spader and a plot which doesn't seem to go anywhere. Only Elias Koteas' wild eyed turn as the exceptionally creepy leader of the cult of car crash fetishists raises the movie up from complete mediocrity. Not Cronenbourg's finest hour. Secondly, we have the Woman in the Fifth, a thriller starring Ethan Hawke as a moody American writer who stumbles across some strange goings on in Paris. The build up is very intriguing, but it all falls apart with a very flat and unconvincing ending.

There's been a bit of a lull in terms of the quality of new releases at the cinema, but I did make one trip to the pictures, to watch William Friedkin's Killer Joe. It's kind of like Fargo, but set in Texas and without the biting wit of the Coen brothers' picture. Nevertheless, it does feature a remarkable and unexpected lead performance from Matthew McConaughey as the thoroughly immoral lead character. Next week, the new Spider-man movie is released, which I'm really quite excited about. It's sitting pretty on a 73 score on Metacritic, so it looks promising.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Real Genius (1985)

"Recruiter: You are Chris Knight, aren't you?
Chris Knight: I hope so. I'm wearing his underwear."