SCREENWASH – October 2016 – REVIEWS BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – OCTOBER 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

Amidst the films I watched at the London Film Festival in October I also watched some very decent TV shows and other movies too. Here they with the usual marks out of eleven!

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

AS I LAY DYING (2013) – DVD

James Franco’s directorial debut is an interesting and authentic adaptation of William Faulkner’s much lauded novel. It follows a family and their toiled journey to bury the dead matriarch during 1930s depression-hit America. Great performances all-round are ruined by too much split-screen shenanigans.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance and a deft script from the Coen Brothers are all faultless here in a beautifully shot spy thriller. Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, a top insurance salesman in 1957, who is called in to broker a spy exchange deal. Set during the politically charged cold war climate, this is an enthralling film which while subtle in delivery remains very satisfying due to great performances notably from Hanks and Rylance. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

DADDY’S HOME (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are rival “Dads” in a conventional, yet sparky, comedy! It plays off their physical and comedic charms and great one-liners, crazy stunts and offbeat supporting roles which make it worth a rental. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

FILL THE VOID (2012) – DVD

This is a beautifully shot and acted cultural and character study of a Haredi Orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv.  The central story portrays Shira, an 18 year-old innocent, who is thrown into emotional flux when a ‘difficult’ marriage proposal is put her way. I was intrigued by the cultural differences presented and found the subtle drama an illuminating joy. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016) – CINEMA

Emily Blunt brilliantly portrays an alcoholic who may or may not have been the last person to see a missing woman. The story develops much suspense as we doubt her character and while the plot lurches toward melodrama at the end, the film works as a fine character study of substance and marital abuse. Some subtle thrills and decent performances with Blunt satisfactorily gluing this novel adaptation together.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)


GRANDMA (2015) – SKY CINEMA

Lily Tomlin is a wonderfully funny actress and in Grandma she plays an acerbic academic who assists her pregnant granddaughter when the father leaves her in the lurch. This is a gem of a character comedy and Tomlin excels as the matriarch who takes no prisoners in her no-nonsense-out-spoken-ways.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

GRIMSBY (2016) – SKY CINEMA

Mark Strong is one our finest actors and to see him inside an Elephant’s vagina is a sight to behold!  Sacha Baron Cohen plays Nobby – a Northern-ten-kid-benefits-cheat-tracksuited-Liam-Gallagher-lookalike – who gets reunited with his super-spy brother with gross and hilarious consequences. I’d had a few beers and laughed like a drain throughout; so do watch if you like bass gross-out comedies! (Mark: 7 out of 11)

HOMELAND (2012) – SEASON 2 – NETFLIX

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are once again on top form as the suspected terrorist spy and bi-polar CIA operative who cross swords during a terrorist plot on US soil. The writing, acting and direction are of the highest quality as the story jags from one white-knuckle set-piece to another without drawing breath. This is television drama of the highest order; like Hitchcock directed a cerebral version of 24 and then some.  (Mark: 9 out of 11)

LOVE & MERCY (2014) – SKY CINEMA

Paul Dano plays young Brian Wilson and John Cusack plays the older version in a look at different timelines of the Beach Boys genius’ life.  Wilson gave us so much music to enjoy, yet tragically he was struck down with debilitating mental illness. Older Wilson was left open to exploitation by “Doctor” Eugene Landy, who is portrayed with evil spit by Paul Giamatti. Dano as younger Wilson is just perfect; and this is an excellent music biopic and character study! (Mark: 8 out of 11)

MR ROBOT (2015) – SEASON 1 – UNIVERSAL

Moody, mysterious, enigmatic and bafflement were very much the stylistic bents of this excellent hacker drama. It concerns the expert cyber-spaceman Eliot Alderson (icily brilliant Rami Malek) and his attempts to reconcile himself with his father’s death while battling nefarious firm EvilCorp!  This is very well written and sparks fly when Malek and Christian Slater are on screen, but the big reveal you can see a mile off. Overall, it was too slow-paced and despite the quality I won’t go back for season 2. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

SON OF A GUN (2015) – SKY CINEMA

A pretty decent crime thriller stars Ewan McGregor as a badass bank robber who “mentors” young offender Brenton Thwaites. The ever-sparkling Alicia Vikander shines too as a young gangster’s moll trying to escape a life of violence. We’ve seen it all before but it has some good chases and fights so worth a watch on a hungover-Saturday night. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

SONS OF ANARCHY (2008 – 2009) – SEASON 1 & 2 – NETFLIX

Full of over-the-top gang fights, gun deals, porn stars, cock and roll soundtrack and muscular drama, it features sexy women, tough-as-nails men and dirty cops in a fast-paced, brutal and darkly funny show. While the biker anti-heroes include fine character actors: Ron Perlman, Maggie Siff, Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates and Katey Sagal are on the wrong side of the law they are somehow on the righteous path compared to the enemies they face. Kurt Sutter’s quasi-Western is a tattoed-leather-biker-testosteronic-amoral-crime-fest guilty pleasure and very entertaining. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

WESTWORLD (1973) – NOW TV

Michael Crichton’s classic robots-gone-wrong formula was a state-of-the-art sci-fi classic of its’ day. Highlights are Yul Brynner’s terminator-cowboy going mental and the concept of an adult theme park which allows you to re-enact your every fantasy. The new rebooted HBO show is currently bemusing us with its tricky plotting and devious character work, however, this lean, mean fighting machine of a film remains a brilliant watch.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

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