Sunday, 16 December 2012

The week in brief (10 - 16 December)

So then, we're getting closer to the end of the year and to Kirk's Movie of the Year list (an event so keenly anticipated that the runners of both the Oscars and the Golden Globes have been in touch, asking for an early version of the list so that they can choose their nominations accordingly. Note: this may not have happened.) Over the last seven days, I kept things ticking over by watching the following films:

Red Lights (2012): 6/10
Margin Call (2011): 7/10
Thelma & Louise (1991): 6/10
The Manchurian Candidate (1962): 8/10.

As there's only a few movies to cover this week, I'll try and do a little write up of each of them... Starting, as usual, with my pick of the week, John Frankenheimer's original version of The Manchurian Candidate. Starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury, the movie tells the story of an American soldier fighting in the Korean War who is captured by a cabal of Soviet and Chinese secret service types, then turned into an unwitting assassin. (This reminded me a little of what happened to Priscilla Presley's character in the Naked Gun... "Must... kill... the Queen..."). Anyway, although the remake, starring Denzel Washington, is a pretty decent movie in it's own right, I'd definitely advise you to check out the original first - it works as both a highly entertaining thriller and an interesting look into America's fear of communism during the Cold War. It seems particularly noteworthy that the most pernicious Communist agent is the wife of a Senator known for orchestrating anti-communist witch hunts against his political enemies. I kind of got the feeling that the screenwriter wasn't too fond of Senator Joe McCarthy...

Moving on to a movie which looks into America's more recent troubles, Margin Call, a film which would make an excellent companion piece to the highly revealing recent documentary, Inside Job. Set during one tumultuous day at a prominent New York Investment bank, it looks at the recent financial crisis from the perspective of the reckless individuals whose actions were the catalyst for the beginning of the turmoil. If I was to be overly critical, I'd have to say that as a story set almost entirely in one location, it does feel a little stagey at times. However, the strong cast (including Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany and Stanley Tucci) do a fine job in establishing a broad range of different personalities within the bank and their respective reactions to the unfolding nightmare. I'd single out Kevin Spacey for particular praise - though he's not had a great run of success of late, there are few actors better suited to playing reptilian corporate fat cats. What's particularly interesting is that in this instance, his world weary middle manager demonstrates the most developed conscience of any of the major players.

Finally, a couple of movies which I wasn't so keen on. First up, we have Thelma & Louise. It's a film I hadn't seen before, but in many ways, watching classic episodes of The Simpsons as many times as I have kind of ruined it for me - I'd seen the climatic scene parodied so many times that there were no surprises in the way events panned out. To be honest, I'm probably not the ideal viewer for this one, anyway. To really appreciate the film, you probably need to be watching it whilst lying in a bathtub at Rancho Relaxo, drinking a bottle of Tequila and scoffing down an ice cream sundae. And remember - you can't spell "Relaxo" without "Relax"...

Secondly, I was also a little disappointed with the recent horror flick Red Lights, from Rodrigo Cortes (who was also behind the slightly superior Buried). It's a movie which rather squanders a generally impressive line up of actors (Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Sigourney Weaver...)  It all starts off pretty strongly, with Murphy and Weaver playing a pair of academics who work in debunking fraudulent spiritualists across the US - but once De Niro (playing a sinister, blind psychic) becomes more prominent, the whole thing starts to fall apart, leading to a highly implausible conclusion. It's also pretty obvious that though the movie is set in New York, the majority of the action was shot in Europe - perhaps as a result of the location of the shoot, there are a high number of British actors in supporting roles, some of whom were having real trouble keeping their American accents straight. All in all, it has it's moments and is certainly not a terrible movie, but probably not something which you should go out of your way to see.

Kirk's Quote of the Week

Gremlins (1984)

"Chinese Boy: Look mister, there are some rules that you've got to follow.
Billy Peltzer: Yeah, what kind of rules?
Chinese Boy: First of all, keep him out of the light. He hates bright light, especially sunlight, it'll kill him. Second, don't give him any water, not even to drink. But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight..."

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