SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – MAY 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT
I didn’t watch that many movies in May as I have been theming my viewing to British TV productions, so it was quality rather than quantity this month and with a big Antipodean feel.
As usual Marks out of Eleven follow the little review.
***MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD***
BLACK SEA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE
Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, David Threlfall, Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley and a motley crew of Russians go down into the deep, dark recesses of the black ocean in search of Nazi gold. This effective B-movie is essentially The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) set underwater. The cast are excellent plus there are some thrilling and suspenseful scenes as greed and nationalist rivalry poisons the water amidst a series of disasters which strike the crew. This is perfect viewing for a damp Tuesday evening while eating pizza and drinking a beer. (Mark: 7/11)
CLOUDS OF SIL MARIA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE
This is the kind of intellectual-artsy-actor-fest that middle-class viewers and critics wank themselves lyrical about in the broadsheet press and online. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the triptych of performances from Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moritz and the filmmaker Olivier Assayas tackles some interesting themes about identity, modern culture, death, aging, and the nature of performance. However, it’s pretty one-paced and has a head-scratching Bunuelian turn at the end of the second act which made no sense; I imagine that was the point. I didn’t even care enough to be perplexed as it just washed over me on the main with neither enough drama or comedy to get my teeth into. Some beautiful vistas and scenery though. (Mark: 6.5/11)
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) – CINEMA
Apart from the moron-head who decided to eat crisps really loudly in the seat near me during the opening 10 minutes, I really enjoyed this wonderfully shot romantic drama from impressive filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel it stars Carey Mulligan as the fiercely independent Bathsheba who goes against the social tide of the time and attempts to run a successful farm despite the backward sexual politics.
This is a romantic period drama that even blokes can enjoy as the subject matter eschews the fluffery of Jane Austen for the harsher side of rural life. It’s Thomas Hardy-light with a brisk 120 minutes run through the narrative as Bathsheba is courted by three men of varying social standing and characterisation. Performances are top notch, notably from Michael Sheen as the pained William Boldwood and ever-sparkling Carey Mulligan. Matthias Schoenaerts, a striking Belgian actor, is also outstanding as the sturdy Gabriel Oak. (Mark: 8/11)
GALLIPOLI (1981) – BFI – CINEMA
I grew up watching this film; usually on a Sunday evening on BBC2 and when I saw it was screening at the BFI I jumped at the chance to watch it. It is a heart-wrenching World War One story concerning the Western Australian men who left their families to fight against the Turkish army during the brutal conflict. It follows two lads portrayed by Mark Lee and cusp-of-stardom Mel Gibson who at first are rival sprinters and then brothers-in-arms as they venture overseas to fight.
The screenplay is sinewy and powerful yet with much humour, as it builds their friendship from the outback to the trenches culminating in a truly tragic final reel. Peter Weir announced further his credentials as a filmmaker of high quality and the cinematography by Russell Boyd is a wonder. I also loved the use of music here which employs both modern synthesized pieces from Jean-Michel Jarre and marries it to more classical compositions by Strauss and Giazotto/Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor. This is up there with my favourite Anti-War films of all time; majestic cinema at its peak. (Mark: 11/11)
MAD MAX (1979)/MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981) – NOW TV
I watched these kinda back-to-back with my teenage son and despite their age and low budgets both films stand up to further viewings. In fact, George Miller’s seminal violent-explosive-car-chase-revenge-punk-urban-westerns are best watched as a double bill.
In the first film Max is a hardened road cop who wants out so he can be with his young family. The roads have become a deadly place full of psychotic punks and sociopathic maniacs who rail against society without cause or reason. When Max is left a shell-of-a-man he goes after the gangs which done him wrong with rage-in-his-eyes and hell in his soul. This is an awesome film with more imagination, energy and pace than most bigger-budget blockbusters.
With Max’s character established so well the second film Miller throws an Apocalyptic curveball into the mix as we find future Max — a lone road warrior (aside from his Dog) — fighting even crazier road punks over ever-decreasing amounts of petrol. Mel Gibson really shines as the amoral leather-bound-petrol-head who gets dragged into the outback carmegeddon between a group of settlers and baddies led by the helmeted Lord Humungus. This film rocks big-time and is one of the greatest action-come-road movies ever and one which confirmed Gibson as a major movie star of the 80s! (Double-bill Mark: 10/11)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – CINEMA
Tom Hardy takes on the iconic Max Rockatansky role in this revved-up-mega-budget-future-shooting-guitar-flame-throwing-blood-draining-crash-smash-and-burn epic. Haunted by past failure Max drives round the wasteland trying to survive. Suddenly he’s whisked away to be a mobile blood-bank at The Citadel and used to keep the cancerous War Boys alive with his pure blood. Enter Charlize Theron’s kick-ass Furiosa who is on a mission of her own to protect those she cares for from nefarious Immortan Joe; the Citadel Overlord!
There isn’t really any plot to speak of on the Fury Road but what you get is an incredible visual feast with carnage galore and some incredible stunts in a barren yet beautiful desert setting. Hardy and Theron share great chemistry within the action and Miller executes some mesmerising moments of dialogue-free pure cinema. One may argue that it is style-over-substance but the style IS the substance. The concepts on show such as the flame-throwing guitar; moving blood-banks; mud-people on stilts; assorted pimped-up cars and souped-up weapons are what impresses. As such George Miller proves himself a visionary filmmaker who owns the post-apocalypse on screen making it a terrifying and stunning experience.
MR TURNER (2014) – BLU RAY
I love Mike Leigh films. Most of them anyway. His unique slice-of-life style is quietly confident and steady and even if not much is happening one is often awestruck by colour, mood, composition, character and performance in his work. Indeed, Timothy Spall is on terrifically grouchy form as celebrated painter J. M. W. Turner and the supporting cast is equally brilliant.
I was mesmerized by the film’s composition and the glacial pace worked in the films’ favour as Leigh paints (sorry) an honest picture of Turner’s later years, artistic process and his relationships. I was surprised that the old dog was quite a philanderer but then again I didn’t know much about Turner if I’m honest. This is like walking round a beautiful-looking moving gallery and just breathing in the genius of Turner, Spall and Leigh. (Mark: 8/11)
NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) – BLU RAY
For my full review see here: https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/?s=nightcrawler
But to recap: this is a sensational pitch black character piece that allies a powerful script with violent social satire; all glued together by an Oscar-worthy lead performance from the ever-excellent actor Jake Gyllenthaal. Indeed, he should have got AT LEAST a nomination for his performance as news-media-ladder-crawler sociopathic Lou Bloom. On re-watch this film is just as powerful and I was in awe of the incredible script, great acting, cutting direction and black humour throughout. Highly recommended. (Mark: 10/11)
OUIJA (2014) – BLU RAY
This film is a terrible movie; probably the worst I’ve seen all year. It follows a vague Final Destination structure as a series of college kids are wiped out by a demonic force that has “escaped” a Ouija Board. There are no redeeming qualities whatsoever and the most interesting fact I can tell you is that the original Ouija Board was in fact a game. No, I didn’t know that either. Yeah, and the rights to the board game were owned by Parker Brothers and now Hasbro. It was only in 1930s/40s onwards America that it was used by occultists and spiritualists. Who knows: perhaps people will one day be contacting the ‘other side’ using Transformers? You never know on this crazy planet! (Mark 1/11)