Monday Movies

Phil’s retro movie this week, is the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, directed by Mimi Leder.

The plot goes like this :-

A rogue Russian Spetznaz unit led by Russian General Aleksandr Kodoroff, (Aleksandr Baluev) has hi-jacked a train of 10 nuclear warheads which were on the way to being decommissioned. They crash the train into an oncoming passenger train and have rigged up a warhead to detonate just after the crash, killing herds of people and delaying any investigation.

The explosion attracts the attention of the US Govt, and Dr.Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) a White House Nuclear expert is given the job to investigate. She believes Chechen terrorists are to blame. As she is explaining this in a briefing to military and intelligence personel, she is interrupted by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (George Clooney) a Special Forces soldier in the US Army, who suggests that the explosion was a diversion to hided the hi-jacking of the other warheads. He’s proved right when he has a conversation with his Rissian pal Colonel, Dimitri Vertikoff (Armin Muella-Stahl) his counterpart in the FSB (the unit that came after the KGB).

Devoe is seconded to help Kelly as her military liaison, which she’s not all that pleased about. But the pair must work together to find out what’s going on and why.

That’s it for spoilers sakes, even if it’s old, if you haven’t seen it it’s best to go in fresh.

I kept thinking oh this is a bit cliché throughout the movie, but of course it wasn’t cliché at all back in 1997 when it came out. At first I thought the pair would start out disliking each other and end up romancing all over the shop, but thankfully Mimi Leder didn’t go down that road. They work together very well to get to the end of the movie.

What did strike me is that Kelly is supposed to be Devoe’s boss, but really he takes charge and she follows his suggestion. I suppose it was too much to ask George Clooney to constantly be ordered around by a woman :D.

A well thought out action movie, with good performances from all involved, but just a tad dated by today’s standards.

A Fraggle rating of Good Enough.

On to my Saturday night movie. And I chose the Netflix commissioned movie The King (2019) set in the 15th century and designated an “epic historical romantic war drama”!! As regular readers know, of late we have been reviewing Scottish ‘history’ movies, where history has been adulterated unashamedly by the producers/directors/writers et al of The Outlaw King, Braveheart, and Rob Roy. They have outdone themselves in this case. The movie is firstly based on Shakespear’s ‘Henriad’ – several works about Kings but in this case Henry IV parts 1 & 2 and Henry V. Shakespear’s dramas themselves are ahistorical, he made up a shed load of history, non-existant characters and completely changed the characteristics of the main protagonists. The historians of the 16th Century took him to task, though I don’t suppose for one minute he was bothered! Not only have the filmakers in present day taken Shakespears inaccuracies and biases and incorporated them into this movie, they’ve also been inaccurate of the plays! A double whammy for today’s historians who must have been either weeping into their claret or laughing their tits off.

Directed by David Michôd, who co-wrote it with Joel Edgerton who is in it too, it stars Timotheé Chalamat as King Henry V of England. It covers his life prior to being King, then becoming King and his war with France, we’re talking the Siege of Harfleur, and the Battle of Agincourt. (Azincourt by Bernard Cromwell a great read BTW!) I’m not going to do spoilers, but will say I wish the revised history was the reality. It is an absolutely gorgeous film to watch. Although it’s set in the 15th century the themes it covers are still contemporary, coming of age, Daddy issues, abuse of power, Shakespear was good at disecting characters and Michôd has run well with that. The movie looks like I imagine medieval times to look like, and the costumes were very well done. Michôd employed Jane Petrie for the task, (she also did costumes for The Outlaw King) a well respected Emmy award winner for her work on The Crown costumes and very committed to getting things right.

Nick Jeffries, an actual armorer created authentic suits of arms, worn for dialogue scenes, which were also duplicated into flexible polyurethane for action sequences. The chainmail, albeit made from a lighter metal for film, is legit, too.

The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw (great name!) is wonderful. A lot of the scenes indoors looked like oil paintings, and he uses light beautifully. The Agincourt scenes were incredible, great camera work and a lot of mud.

Chalamat is only 24 years old, but already known for some excellent work, and he has no trouble carrying this movie and making Hal, as he’s nicknamed, believable. Edgerton plays Hal’s trusty friend and advisor Falstaff, another Shakespearean creation. Robert Pattison plays the Dauphin and what a performance. Here are all the stoic serious English and in comes Pattinson, a fancy French fop giggling and making jokes. His froothy French accent has been commented on but he based it on the people who dress him at Dior! Ben Mendelsohn is seedily great as the unkempt Henry IV. Lily Rose-Depp is an up and coming young actress and does well at playing Catherine of Valois, and I’m sure her accent is perfect being the daughter of Vanessa Paradis. Her Dad is Johnny Depp of course, let’s hope the bat-shit crazy gene wasn’t passed on.

All in all a spectacular movie, lovingly filmed, wonderfully acted. Forget the historical inaccuracies, forget Shakespear, this is NOT a documentary. Lose yourself in medieval England and France, and enjoy some superb craftmanship by all involved in the making of The King.

Fraggle rating :- Bloody Brilliant!

Monday Movies

Continuing our foray into Scottish (inaccurate) history movies, this week we chose to watch Rob Roy (1995) directed by Michael Caton Jones, and starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth and John Hurt.

It’s another oldie so spoilers abound!

The plot goes something like this:-

We start in 1713, and Robert Roy MacGregor (Neeson) is chief of the Clan MacGregor. In order to feed his people he works as a protector of cattle for the gentry, but is barely making it, so he decides to get a loan from the Marquess of Montrose (John Hurt) to buy some more cattle and trade them at a profit. Montrose has a relative staying with him, the aristocrat Archibald Cunningham, who is broke, effeminate, and a master swordsman (played by Tim Roth to perfection). Archie learns about the loan from Montrose’s assistant Killearn (Brian Cox doing seedy rather well) and they divise a plan to steal the money. Roy has been promised a credit note for the sum, and leaves his loyal man Alan MacDonald (Eric Stoltz) to wait for it from Killearn. Killearn gives him the £1000 in cash instead, and then Archie lays in wait for him on his journey back to Roy, ambushes, kills and drowns him and takes the money to split with Killearn.

Roy goes to see Montrose to request an extension whilst he finds MacDonald and retrieves the money, but Montrose has other ideas. He has a rival in John Campbell 2nd Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir) and wants Roy to falsely testify that Argyll is a Jacobite. Roy refuses so Montrose decides to imprison him and seize his land to repay the debt, but Roy escapes.

Montrose declares Roy an outlaw, and tells Archie to capture him and bring him back ‘broken but not dead’. Roy hightails it into the hills leaving his wife Mary (Lange) to look after the homestead. Archie and his redcoat militia head straight there, burn the house down, kill all the cattle, and Archie rapes Mary whilst Killearn looks on. I was yelling at the telly during this scene, it was devastating.

Roy’s younger brother Alasdair arrives just as Archie and his men leave after falling asleep whilst on watch, and Mary makes him promise not to tell Roy about the rape as she knows Archie did it to incense him and goad him into looking for him. When Roy comes back he tells his clan they will get revenge for the damage by hitting Montrose where it hurts- in the pocket, by stealing his cattle and rents.

In the meantime, one of Montrose’s maids, Betty has fallen for Archie and got pregnant by him. He rejects her, Killearn sacks her, so she turns up at the MacGregors and tells Mary of hearing Archie and Killearn plot the robbery. A bit later on Betty hangs herself. Roy abducts and imprisons Killearn, wanting to make a case against Archie. Mary asks to have a few moments with him alone and she tells him he’ll be spared if he testifies against Archie. However, Killearn taunts her about the rape and also realises she’s pregnant so threatens to tell Roy that Archie is the father if Mary doesn’t let him go. Mary is mightily peed off by now and stabs Killearn in the neck (big cheer went up from the sofa at that point!) and Alasdair finishes him off and drowns him.

Again Montrose sends Archie off to capture Roy as he’s fed up with the cattle and rent thefts, so Archie goes on the rampage burning the clan’s homes. Roy doesn’t take the bait, but his hothead brother takes a potshot at Archie, sadly missing him but killing one of his militia. This gives away their hiding place so Roy and his men make a run for it into the hills. The redcoats shoot Alasdair and Roy carries him up the hill. Before he dies Alasdair tells Roy of the rape. Roy is then captured and dragged roughly to see Montrose. In front of Montrose Roy accuses Archie of murder, rape and robbery, which Archie doesn’t deny. Montrose doesn’t care about that though as he’s now got Roy’s land and wants to keep it, so orders him to be hanged from a nearby bridge. Roy grabs the rope, wraps it round Archie’s neck and jumps off the bridge with the rope (very James Bond if you’ve seen the latest trailer!) He escapes down the river as Montrose arders the rope to be cut to stop Archie being strangled to death, and Roy is pursued by redcoats. In a rather revolting scene he pulls the innards out of a dead cattley beasty thing and hides inside it.

Mary meanwhile goes off to visit Argyll, and tells him all of what’s been going on and exposing Montrose’s plan to frame him. Argyll grants the family asylum on his land. Roy arrives there, and whilst initially upset by Mary keeping the rape & pregnancy from him, he soon comes round and will accept the child as his own. Argyll arranges a dual between Roy and Archie, though having seen Archie’s skill with a sword doesn’t hold out much hope for Roy.

Argyll makes a wager with Montrose, that if Roy wins, his debt will be written off, and if he dies, Argyll will cover the debt.

Now comes the best bit of the movie for me. The dual is held in Montrose’s hall. Big, lumbering Roy with a heavy broadsword, and neat, lithe Archie with a rapier. They vow to ‘give no quarter’ i.e a fight to the death. Possibly the best dual I’ve ever seen. There’s no background music, just the sound of the ringing of the swords. Archy struts around and then leaps into a burst of action with feline grace and injures Roy, and does this again and again, whilst Roy gets worn down. Eventually he falls to his knees, seemingly defeated, and Archy rests the blade against his throat. As Archie looks to Montrose for permission to finish Roy off, Roy grabs the point of Archie’s blade with his left hand, his own blade with his right hand, stands up and slices him open from shoulder to waist just about. (More cheers from the sofa!). Roy is free of debt, with his honour intact, and goes home to Mary.

A visually stunning movie, filmed entirely in Scotland, the cinematograpy by Karl Walter Lindenlaub is so well done. Apparently the rain and the midges were a problem during the shooting, but that’s Scotland for you!

Although the movie goes from 1713 to 1722, it doesn’t include the Jacobite uprising of 1719, which real Rob Roy took part in, and Archibald Cunningham is a fictional character, so the dual and rape didn’t really happen, but it made for a compelling movie. The loan from Montrose and patronage of Argyll was true, as was the burning down of the home he had with Mary and his outlawship.

Mixed reaction from critics, my favourite guy Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote “This is a splendid, rousing historical adventure, an example of what can happen when the best direction, acting, writing and technical credits are brought to bear on what might look like shopworn material.” He also said the film’s outline could have led to “yet another tired” historical epic, but he found that the director was able to produce “intense character studies”. He thought Tim Roth’s performance was “crucial” to the film’s success and thought that the climactic sword fight at the end was “one of the great action sequences in movie history”.

Some wee woman called Rita Kempley of The Washington Post compared the movie negatively to both Death Wish and First Blood (REALLY????) she didn’t like the violence and wrote “Frankly, Rob Roy is about as bright as one of his cows. He doesn’t even recognize that his obsession with honor will lead to the destruction of his clan.” 

I wholeheartedly agree with Ebert though, it’s the relationships between the characters that make a movie, and these were well done. For me, Jessica Lange and Tim Roth stole the show, Lange was luminous, feisty and stoic and convyed so much with her eyes, a wonderful performance. Roth was perfect, and the only person out of the whole movie to be nominated for an Oscar (for best supporting actor) which he didn’t get, but also nominated for a BAFTA, which he did get. Phil thought John Hurt was brilliant (when is he ever not?). Neeson was good, for sure, but this movie belongs to the supports.

I’d give it 5 stars, but apparently stars are for fridge/freezers 🤣🤣 so I’ll leave it at bloody brilliant! 😀

Wednesday Western 01/09/2020

Yep a new feature, as Phil and I are embarking on trips down our memory lanes and incorporating Westerns Wot We liked into our movie watching. Won’t be every Wednesday, but now and again one will pop up here.

Our first offering is from Phil, who bought this as a DVD a good few moons ago, 2nd hand on a market stall somewhere, thought he’d seen it and then when watching it decided he’d never seen it 🙄.

Open Range (2003) was produced and directed by Kevin Costner, and he starred in it with the inimitable Robert Duvall as the main anchor of the film.

SPOILERS as it’s old.

Duvall plays “Boss” Spearman, an open range cattleman. He has three hired hands, Charlie (Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (a young Diego Luna). They are driving a cattle herd across country and stop to make camp. Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville to get some supplies but doesn’t return. Boss and Charlie go looking for him and discover he’s been thrown in jail for being in a saloon fight and injuring some men. Turns out the men work for Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) an Irish immigrant land baron, who does not like Range men having access to the grazing pastures around the town. Mose is badly beaten up and has been put in the jail by the nasty marshall Poole, ( a smirky, sneery James Russo who does a good job of making you want to punch his nose).

Boss and Charlie get Mose out of jail, but he is really badly hurt so they take him to the Doctor’s house, where Doc Barlow (Dean McDermott) and his sister Sue, (Annette Bening) patch Mose up. Charlie is attracted to Sue but thinks she is Doc’s missis so schtumms up.

When they get back to their camp, Button tells them that horsemen have been scouting it so Charlie and Boss head out to see them off, but whilst they do well at sneaking up on their camp and disarming them, some more of Baxter’s men have gone to Boss’s camp, resulting in Mose’s death and serious injury to Button. Charlie and Boss decide enough is enough and revenge must be taken, but forst they take Button to the Doc’s place. He is away at Baxters, treating the injuries of the men Charlie and Boss disarmed, so it’s left to Sue to patch up Button. Charlie by now knows Sue isn’t the Doc’s wife, so declares his feelinigs for her and she gives him a lucky locket.

Boss and Charlie go up against Baxter and his men, High noon style, and Boss shoots Butler, the chap who killed Mose and hurt Button and then a big gun battle goes off. Although they’re outnumbered, the towns people do not like Baxter, and come out to help them. It’s an amazing set piece, worth rewinding a couple of times!

All Baxters men end up dead, with BAxter wounded and holed up in the jail, where Marshall Poole has previously been chloroformed and locked in a celll with his deputy. Boss shoots open the jail door and mortally wounds Baxter.

A happy ending for Charlie and Sue, who decide toget married and Boss decides to settle down in Harmonville and take over the running the saloon.

This was such a thoughtful piece of work by Costner. He gave his characters back stories, and obviously knew the history of open range cattlemen and what that was all about. In his younger years he’d been a fan of western novels, particularly those of Lauran Paine, and the movie is based on Paine’s 1990 novel The Open Range Men. He’s always envisaged Duvall for t he role and said he probably wouldn’t have made the movie if he’s turned it down.

We really enjoyed it, yes the final gun battle was amazing, but it was the quiet moments, of which there are far more, and the interactions between the characters that were compelling. Robert Duvall, what can I say, just a delight to watch. Costner gives his character a back story of being a soldier in a ‘special squad’ during the civil war, quietly tormented by guilt over his past killings of enemy soldiers as well as civilians. He is hard, and ruthless, b ut his humanity and caring for the men he works with and his developing crush on Sue rounds him out. Anette Benning combines a steel backbone with a caring heart perfectly. The rest of the cast are equal to these A listers.

Critics liked it :- Robert Egbert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it “an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western”. (not sure what was imperfect, maybe not enough shootemups?)

Rotten Tomatoes “Greatly benefiting from the tremendous chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Open Range is a sturdy modern Western with classic roots.

Monday Movies~ 31~08~2020 late entry!

Couldn’t include this with the scheduled post, as we didn’t finish the movie until late last night, having watched it over two nights due to Phil’s shifts.

My Saturday night choice, is also a retro cult classic.

The Fifth Element (1997) is a science fiction movie, written and directed by Luc Besson. Starring Bruce Willis as cab driver Korben Dallas, Milla Jojovitch as Leeloo, Gary Oldman as Zorg, and Ian Holm as Father Cornelius.

The plot goes like this..

Back in 1914 aliens called the Mondoshawans come to earth to remove a weapon held in a temple in Egypt, that is capable of extinguishing a great Big Evil which comes about every 5000 years. They have to remove the weapon, which consistes of 4 elemental stones and a 5th element in a sarcophagus, as war is about to happen and it’s not safe. In doing so they cause the death of a scientist who is trying to decipher the wall markings in the temple, and his trusty assistant, Professor Pacoli (John Bluthal) and Billy (Luke Perry). The Mondo’s promise the priest who attends the temple that they will return the weapon before the next visitation of the Big Evil.

We move forward to 2263 and the Big Evil is on it’s way. The Mono’s are also on the way to return the weapon, but get ambushed by a bunch of Mangalores, ugly sons of guns on the pay of Zorg, (Gary Oldman doing a cracking job of over-the-top villany, ~ this is not a serious movie 🙂 ) who is enthralled to the Big Evil. They are destroyed and the only thing remaining is a severed hand covered in metal armour, which is taken to New York and given to the military’s science department, headed by Mactilburgh, (Christopher Fairbank – a long way from Newcastle & Auf Weidersehen Pet!). They stick the hand in a biotech coffiny type thing and 2 minutes later hey presto! a humanoid woman is reconstituted, with minimal clothing, and this is Leeloo. She escapes and in the chase sequence that follows, jumps off a high building and lands on and in Korben’s flying taxicab.

Dallas delivers her to Father Cornelius, after a few flying car chases along the way, and Cornelius and his assistant David (Charlie Creed-Mills) recognise her as the Fifth element. She tells Cornelius the stones were not on the ship with her, and at the same time the Mono’s inform Earths Govt, led by President Lindberg (Tommy Lister Jr.) what’s going on. Zorg gets mad that his Mangalores haven’t got the stones, and kills off a few of them in a hissy fit.

It turns out the stones have been entrusted to diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco) a very blue alien opera singer, about to do a concert on planet Fhloston, and it’s arranged for Korben to win a luxury holiday there to meet up and retrieve the stones, with Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) being an ostentatious flamboyent talk-show host who ends up dragged into the quest to save the world.

That’s it for spoilers, but needless to say everyone and his dog are after the stones, including Leeloo and Zorg, and the world does get saved. 🙂

This is a romp and a hoot of a movie, and we already had an old copy of the DVD. Recently it’s been released on a remastered 4K ultra HD Bluray, with Dolby atmos sound, which we are geared up for, so I had to have it. It is quite astonishing visually, and the soundtrack the best we have heard in Atmos. But it’s a treat in any format, Bruce Willis does his hero thing with sardonic aplomb, Jojovitch exudes steely vulnerability with pathos, and their love story is part of our journey with them. Gary Oldman is bonkersly evil, Chris Tucker does annoying in the funniest way possible. Ian Holm and Creed-Mills are worthy sidekicks.

Fun facts: Luc Besson was married to Maïwenn Le Besco at the beginning of the production and left her for Jojovich whomst later became his next Missis. (That didn’t last either, surprise).

It was mostly filmed in Pinewood studios, with the Royal Opera House for the concert scenes and Mauritania standing in for the Egypt scenes.

The special effects were created with scale models, live action and digital imagery, not just CGI. Apartment blocks and skyscrapers were constructed in 1/24th scale, so were 20 feet high in some cases, and took a team of 80 people to build them all.

Jean-Paul Gaultier designed all the 900 costumes for the extras in the Fhloston scenes and checked them all each morning. His designs were said to challenge sexuality and gender norms.

A divisive movie, it won awards at the Oscars, the BAFTA’s and Cannes amongst others, but also in the same categories for the Golden Raspberry and Stinker awards. The critics were equally polarised. Todd McCarthy of Variety: “A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular, The Fifth Element consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don’t comfortably coalesce”.

Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun Times: gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it “One of the great goofy movies”, and concluding, “I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery. though he thought it a bit long.

We absolutely loved it, I could hear Phil laughing out loud which doesn’t happen often in movies I choose, and it kept us enthralled from beginning to end. Wonderful world building, committed acting (you could tell the cast had a blast) great explosions and daft gunfights and the remastering is the best we’ve seen and heard. I can’t find a reason not to give it

Monday Movies ~ 31st August 2020

As we did Robert Bruce last weekend in Outlaw King, Phil was inspired to revisit Braveheart, which he loves, for his retro movie this week.

Braveheart (1995) was co-produced and directed by Mel Gibson, and he stars in the movie as William Wallace, a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence in the late 13th century.

Spoilers included!

We’re back in Scotland, in 1280, and King Edward I (known as ‘Longshanks’ usually but Eddy 1 on this blog 🙂 ) has invaded Scotland. Willy Wallace is a young lad and his father and brother ride off to fight against the English and get killed, whereafter Willy is adopted by his Uncle Argyle and taken on a pilgramage through Europe where he becomes well educated and multi-lingual. (We don’t go with them.) Eddy 1 is played by Patrick McGoohan and he brings an insidious evil to the character. Uncle Argyle is played by Brian Cox, though is only in the movie for a couple of scenes.

We move on to 1297 and Eddy 1 grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland including ‘Prima Nocte’ which means the feudal Lord can have sexual relations with subordinate women, in particular, on their wedding nights. Willy is back in Scotland now, and falls in love with Murron MacClannough, ( Catherine McCormack ) so marries her in secret so she can’t be nabbed under the Prima Nocte thing. Unfortunately she falls foul of English soldiers who try to rape her, and tries again when she escapes the first time. But they catch her, and publicly execute her. This really upsets Willy, and he gets his clan and they slaughter the English garrison in their home town, and send another one in Lanark back to England.

Eddy 1 orders his son Eddy 2- played in wonderfully foppish manner by Peter Hanley – to stop Willy by any means necessary. Meanwhile Willy is on the rampage! With his best pal Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) by his side, Willy rebels against the English, and lots more Scottish guys come and join him. Willy leads his army into battle and wins the Battle of Stirling then gets as far as York where he destroys the city, kills Eddy 1’s nephew and sends him his severed head.

Wallace goes and sees Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyun) to enlist his help and he says yes, but Bruce’s Leprosy riddled Dad ( a barely recognisable Ian Holm) wants him to submit to the English as he wants his son to be King of Scotland. Meanwhile Eddy 1 sends Eddy 2’s missis Princess Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau) to negotiate with Willy. Really this is a distraction so another English Invasion force can land in Scotland. Izzy of course becomes enamoured of Willy and ends up sending her maid to him to inform him of the new invasion force. Wallace asks all the lords and Bobby Bruce to come and assist him in fighting them off, and in 1298 Eddy 1 leads the invasion force, and we then get to the Battle of Falkirk. Eddy 1 has bribed a couple of the Scottish lords Mornay and Lochlan , to leave Willy, and then as the Scots lose and the battle is over, Willy finds that Bobby Bruce has been fighting alongside the King! Bobby is unhappy at what he’s done, and tells his Dad he’ll never fight on the wrong side again.

Willy gets his revenge on Mornay and Lochlan and they die rather badly. Willy then commences a guerilla war, aided by Izzy with whomst he has an affair . In 1305 Bobby arranges a get together with Willy in Edinburgh, but unbeknownst to Bobby, his Dad has arranged the capture of Willy, and he’s hauled off to London. Bobby disowns his Dad, and Isabella whispers in the ear of the dying Eddy 1 that she’s pregnant by Willy, and his bloodline will be wiped out.

Poor Willy is brought before magistrates, refuses to submit to the king, and ends up being hung drawn and quartered. It’s a harrowing end for him.

Finally, in 1314 Bobby now the King of Scotland, and his army are at Bannockburn, in front of a ceremonial line of English troops, where they are supposed to be accepting formally, English rule. But instead, Bobby turns round, invokes Willy’s name, and leads his men to victory and freedom from English rule. (That didn’t last, sadly, and they are still stuck with us, but they keep trying to get away, so maybe one day!)

So that’s the story. Of course it’s not totally historically correct, and why would it be? It’s based on a poem “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace” by a 15th century Scottish poet ‘Blind Harry’, and the script writer Randall Wallace (no relation!) used it to write the story. Isabella in real life was only 3 when the Battle of Falkirk happened and hadn’t met Willy let alone had a canoodle. Randall Wallace in defending his script has said, “Is Blind Harry true? I don’t know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that’s what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart.” So history doesn’t much matter when that happens I guess 🙂 . And really it didn’t, this movie won a shed load of Oscars, Mel won for Best Picture, Best Director, Randall Wallace best screenplay, John Toll for best cinematography – it was a glorious looking movie, and the landscape of Scotland looked fab, the mud and the dirt was real. And the music was quite hauntingly beautiful, even if you don’t like the movie, the soundtrack is worth getting on CD, (oops no-one does that now, I mean stream it or whatever!) composed and conducted by James Horner, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Critic responses mostly good :- Rotten Tomatoes, “Distractingly violent and historically dodgy, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.”

Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel – “in addition to staging battle scenes well, Gibson also manages to recreate the filth and mood of 700 years ago.

I’d agree with both.

Monday Movies ~ 24/08/2020

Just the one movie this week, and as it was my birthday on Saturday and we were staying in The Scottish Borders, I chose Outlaw King (2018) from Netflix. Billed as a historical (!) action drama it was directed by David MacKenzie, and stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce. Of course as it’s an American movie the historical part leaves a fair bit to be desired, but that’s nothing new, and doesn’t really detract from the movie itself.

This one has spoilers as the real history is well known (at least in Scotland!).

The movie starts in 1304, when the Scottish nobles, Bruce, John Comyn (Callan Mulvay) et al surrender to Edward 1st (Steven Delayne) with the promise that their lands would be returned to them if they pay homage to the King. This they do. There then is a fight between Bob Bruce and Edward’s son (later to be Edward 2nd) (Billy Howle) which is called off, and then the King marries off his goddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh) to Bob. James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) turns up to petition the King to restore his lands, but Eddy is not happy about James’ Dad Lord Douglas being a traitor so dismisses him. The King and his crew leave Scotland, putting it’s management under Bib and Comyn, with the Earl of Pembroke – Aymer de Valance (Sam Spruell) supervising them.

Two years later, after William Wallace has been chopped up to pieces and bits of him publicly displayed across the nation, Bob witnesses the rioting this causes. On top of that the people are really naffed off at how much the English are collecting in taxes from them, so Bob decides another revolt is in order. His father has died by this time but his brothers all agree with him, and Bob goes to see John Comyn to enlist his support, but he doesn’t want to revolt and threatens to tell King Eddy, so Bob kills him, in a church no less. None of the other clans want to break their oaths to Eddy either, but the Church of Scotland decide to support him if he will take the Crown of Scotland at Scone. Which he does. On his way there James Douglas waylays him and pledges to join the revolt with him.

When Eddy 1 hears about it he outlaws Bob, and sends his son to hunt him down and crush the revolt under the dragon banner. The dragon banner represents the abandonment of chivalry and taking no quarter, which in laymans terms basically means ‘no prisoners, kill them all’! The ambitious de Valance decides to move against Bob before Eddy 2 gets there. Bob doesn”t want to cause any bloodshed so challenges Valance to single combat, which is accepted but Valance insists on delaying it for a day as it is Sunday.

Anyone with half a brain can guess what happens next. Valance and his men attack Bob’s camp in the middle of the night. Bob sends his missis and daughter Marjorie away to his brother Nigel, and stays to fight a losing battle during which the majority of the Scottish army are massacred. Bob escapes with 50 men and sets off for the Scottish Island of Islay. Along the way he is met by John MacDougall, a cousin of Comyn, who isn’t happy about the murder of Comyn, but lets Bob’s men pass. Later on the MacDougalls attack Bob and his men, just as they’re about to set sail, and Bob’s brother Alexander is killed in the mêlée. (You’d a thought he’d learned his lesson after the Valance fiasco.)

Anyways what’s left of his army gets away to Islay. In the meantime Eddy 2 has arrived, burning and pillaging along the way and finds Nigel, Elizabeth and Marjorie at Kildrummy Castle and takes them prisoner. He has Nigel hanged and drawn and Liz and Madge sent to England. Madge is sent to a strict nunnery for religious indoctrination, and Liz is put in a cage and hung off the wall. On Islay Bob hears the news and decides to take back the castle by stealth, and the success of that leads him to start his guerilla warfare, taking castles back from the English.

When Douglas Castle falls to Bob, Eddy 1 decides to go after him himself. However, Eddy 1 snuffs it not long after reaching Scotland and Eddy 2 takes over control of the forces. Bob decides to stand and fight, inspite of being outnumbered 6 to 1, and Clan Mackinnon arrives to help him. The battle is to be at Loudon Hill, and as the English forces are mainly cavalry, Bob devises defences to address that. He has hidden spear filled ditches and is surrounded by boggy marshland, so the horses get skewered on the spears and bogged down in the marsh with the Scots finishing off the riders. Valance orders a retreat when the battle has obviously gone tits up for the English, but Bob and Eddy 2 have a duel. Bob wins, but he lets Eddy 2 go free, (has to really, even the Americans can’t alter history that much!). And that’s the end. An epilogue shows Elizabeth being released to Bob in a prisoner exchange, no mention of Marjorie though.

In spite of the messing about with the timescales, and artichokes on the table when they didn’t arrive until the 16th century 🙂 this is a really well filmed and well acted piece of cinema. Most of it is filmed in Scotland, which is a nice change from Ireland or Croatia being used for every place in movies these days. The battle scenes are visceral, especially the Loudon Hill battle. Costumes are realistic though missing the yellow dyes the Scots preferred in their fighting kit. The slow growing relationship between Bruce and Elizabeth is well done, Florence Pugh shines in this. MacKenzie paces the story well, not chopping about too much so there is a nice flow from scene to scene. Chris Pine seemed an unusual choice at first glance, a very nice looking American guy and an action hero in many of his movies, but he’s dirtied up in this and ably producing his acting chops.

Mixed reviews from the critics, and I agree with this one from Rotten Tomatoes ~ “Muddy and bloody to a fault, Outlaw King doesn’t skimp on the medieval battle scenes, but tends to lose track of the fact-based legend at the heart of its story.”

Well worth a watch if you can think of it as fiction!

Monday Movies ~ 17/08/2020

We’ve just finished the most excellent series on Netflix ~ Godless, can highly recommend it, movie quality, good story, fabulous cinematography and scenery, and top notch acting by all concerned.

It gave Phil the idea for this week’s Thursday Retro movie. Unforgiven (1992) produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, and written by David Webb Peoples, a strange name really but he also wrote Blade Runner, and 12 Monkey’s, so we can forgive him for that.

It stars, of course, Clint Eastwood with Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Richard Harris. You would think that nothing could go wrong with those names attached, and you’d be right! This is such a wonderful piece of work.

The plot will include spoilers as it is well old now, surely you’ve all seen it? If not, you really have missed out.

We start out at a brothel in Big Whisky, Wyoming, where a lady is being attacked by a two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Boy Bunting, because she giggled when she saw the size of Mike’s insertion equipment. He slashes her face with a knife several times. The sherriff (Hackman) won’t punish the bad cowboys but has them give the brothel owner Skinny (Anthony James) a bunch of horses instead, which mightily naffs off the ladies who work there, led by Strawberry Alice, (Francis Fisher) so they get together and pool their savings to offer a reward for anyone who kills the cowboys.

Then we go to Will Munny’s (Clint) hovel in Hodgeman County, Kansas, where his wife is buried after succumbing to Smallpox, and his 2 children are helping round up his herd of piggies. A young chap on a horse comes a-ridin’-on-up and it turns out he’s known as the Schofield Kid (Jaims Woolvett) on account of killing 5 men (a lie) and he wants Will to become his partner to shoot the aforementioned 2 cowboys for whomst there is now a $1000 reward.

Will used to be a very bad man, being all notorious and murdering and drinking, but married the sadly deceased Clara, who turned his life around so that he stopped being all notorious and was a good boy. He doesn’t really want to go off with the idiot Schofield Kid, he’s older now, and can’t shoot for shit, but he’s dirt poor and half of that $1000 wriggles into his brain, and although the Kid has left, Will changes his mind and sets off to join him, leaving his 2 little kids to look after themselves (which I freaked at but that’s just how it was!). Along the way, he rides over to his old pal and partner in crime Ned Logan (Freeman) and convinces him to go with him. They catch up with the Kid who isn’t that keen on having a third member, but it also becomes apparent the Kid has very short eyesight.

In the meantime, back at the ranch Big Whisky brothel, Richard Harris turns up as “English Bob” a British born gunfighter, travelling with his biographer W. W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) is Rubinek for real I wonder, I’m hearing it as Rubberneck in my head? No matter, onwards. Not long after Bob arrives, the Sherriff arrives, disarms Bob and kicks the living daylights out of him as a warning to other would be reward hunters, (the ladies are even more naffed off now). Exit Bob.

Our intrepid trio arrive in Big Whisky on a dark and stormy knight, and whilst Ned and the Kid avail themselves of prostitutical delights, Will sits in the saloon as he has a fever and isn’t well. The Sherriff arrives, and beats Will up as the other two escape through a back window. The three meet up at a barn outside town where, with the help of the ladies, Will recovers. They ambush the cowboys, and manage to shoot Bunting, but Ned loses his nerve when trying to finish him off, and decides he can’t do this, and heads home. Will and the Kid go to Quick Mike’s place and the Kid shoots him while he’s on the toilet, but then has a breakdown as he’s never killed anyone before. When one of the ladies arrives to give them the reward, she tells them that Ned was captured by the Sherriff and tortured to death. Will sends the Kid off home with the reward and instructions to give a 1/3 to Ned’s Missis and 1/3 to his kids, then he goes off for a showdown with the Sherriff. When he gets there Ned’s body is in a coffin outside the saloon with a notice on him warning would be assassins, and the Sherrif has a posse gathered to go and catch the Kid and Will, but there’s no need for all that, as Will walks in and shoots them all, then finally gets to go home.

It did really well with the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTA, Eastwood and Hackman won best actor and supporting actor awards as well as Director and Best Picture awards for Eastwood, it did very well at the box office, and the critics mostly liked it too. Richard Corliss in Time Magazine wrote that the movie was  “Eastwood’s meditation on age, repute, courage, heroism—on all those burdens he has been carrying with such grace for decades”. In 2004, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

We really enjoyed watching these guys do their thing. Can anyone sneer and smile simultaneously as well as Gene Hackman? The interaction between Eastwood, Morgan and Woolvett is a joy to watch, and there’s enough comic happenings to prevent the movie being all killing and revenge. The scenery of course was gorgeous, with Alberta in Canada standing in for the Wild West and Jack Green Eastwood’s Director of Photography, and cowboys riding across the plains against wonderful backdrops of mountains and sunsets.

For my Saturday night movie, I chose Netflix’s latest release, ‘Project Power’ (2020). Directed by Ariel Schuman and Henry Joost, and starring Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback. It is billed as a superhero movie, but that’s a misleading load of b****ocks, there are no cape crusaders, Captain this’s or that’s, Iron People, and no-one saving the universe from Alien invasions. What we get is a sci-fi crime drama/thriller.

I’ll try not to do spoilers as it’s so new, but Gordon-Levitt plays a cop, Fishback a rap talking drug dealer, and Foxx an ex-marine who was experimented on by a private defense company and genetically modified with bits of DNA from animals, to give him superpowers. He then has a daughter who is born with latent superpowers and is kidnapped by the defence company to have her DNA used to create pills that give the user a 5 minute blast of whatever latent superpower is inside them. The drugs are given to dealers to sell, of which Robin (Fishback) is one. She’s trying to pay for medicine for her poorly Mum and keep their household afloat. Gordon-Levitt buys pills from her to protect himself whilst fighting crime, and is told by his superior that Art (Foxx) is the main supplier and needs to be captured. Art is looking for the real main supplier so he can rescue his daughter.

So that’s the main gist of it, and the movie moves at a fast pace. Now and again someone pops a pill and has a 5 minute blast of a CGI power, but nothing we haven’t seen before in Matrix or X~men/Avengers and a fight ensues, or a spectacular foot chase. The three main characters are fun to watch, especially Fishback who holds her own against the seasoned experience of Foxx and Gordon-Levitt, and it’s set in New Orleans which is good to look at.

Average results from the critics, I’ll go to the consensus view from Rotten Tomatoes for this- “Although it wastes some of the potential of its premise, Project Power is a slick, fun action thriller – and features a star-making turn from Dominique Fishback. And I’d have to agree. Today I’ve been thinking about it in order to write the review, and there really are a lot of plot holes and unanswered questions, it felt like it was the middle of a movie trilogy. Still, a very cool ‘disengage brain’ movie with lots of action, surprisingly good acting, and nice to see Gordon Levitt back in the saddle.

Monday Movies ~ 10/08/2020

Only one movie this week as Phil’s shifts have ruined my Saturday night, so Phil’s Thursday retro-movie wins. This week he dug deep in the DVD cupboard and came out with U-571 (2000) the alternative title should have been ‘how the Americans won the war again by completely trashing history and pissing off the Brits and the Germans’. 🙂

Directed by Johnathan Mostow who also had a hand in writing the script along with David Ayer and Sam Montgomery. It has an all star cast, Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, and (strangely) Jon Bon Jovi.

So to the plot. Spoilers in this one 🙂

We are in the Battle of the Atlantic again and start out with a German U-boat, the 571 of the title. It sinks a merchant ship from an allied convoy and then gets pulverised with depth charges from a British destroyer. Spectacular filming of the underwater scenes abound, am sure it’s all models and filmic jiggery-pokery but they did it really well. Anyhoo, the sub is severely damaged and floating in the water waiting for another U boat to come and help them.

The Americans have intercepted the radio transmission from the 571 asking German Command to send help, and decide to send their own submarine the S-33, dressed up with German markings to go and meet the damaged sub, then take it over and capture it’s Enigma coding machine. McConaughey plays Andy Tyler, the first officer who is a bit peeved because he has been turned down for command of his own sub due to his Captain, Lieutenant Commander Dahlgren (Paxton) who thinks he’s not ready yet.

So off they go, and in the middle of a storm they send a landing party off to 571, (the Captain of which has recently shot a boat full of survivors from the destroyer they sank). The landing party consists of Tyler, Lieutenant Michael Hirsch the intelligence chap in charge of the mission, (Jake Weber)  Lieutenant Pete Emmett (Bon Jovi), Chief Gunner’s Mate Henry Klough (Keitel) and Major Matthew Coonan (David Keith) who is kind of a secret operative I think, that wasn’t clear really, anyway he was in civvies, and a few seamen.

They accomplish the mission, and take over the 571, sending the captured crewmen over to the S-33. They set explosives and are just about to leave for the 33 with the Enigma machine, when the second German U boat turns up and torpedos the 33, another spectacular piece of filming! The Captain is blown into the water but refuses to be rescued as he tells Tyler to dive and get out of the way of the new U boat. Tyler takes command of the 571 and after submerging he engages the supply U boat and blasts it to smithereens.

They repair the 571 enough to enable it to sail and Tyler decides to head for Lands End in Cornwall, but wouldn’t you know it a German destroyer turns up and starts sending over some crew to help them out (they don’t know the Americans have taken it over) so Tyler has his gunner shoot out the destroyers radio tower so they can’t report what’s going on. The destroyer then attacks, Tyler dives and there’s more spectacular depth charge action.

Tyler sends up some oil, a dead body and bits and bobs to try and make the destroyer Captain think they’ve succeeded in finishing off the 571, but the Captain isn’t having it, more depth charges occur and the 571 is sinking to -600 feet. They have to have an uncontrolled ascendence and are frantically trying to repressurise the last of their torpedo tubes, with a crewman sacrificing himself to do so, and so they use the last torpedo and sink the destroyer. Yay.

The 571 is now totalled and sinking, so the crew that are left get in a lifeboat, having saved the enigma machine and are picked up by a US Catalina Flying boat.

What a hoot! The interior shots in the submarines are excellent, very much like Das Boot which we’ve watched recently, and the underwater stuff is equally good. I don’t know what McConaughey was at, he had his gob and eyes wide open for most of the film, being all OTT intense the whole way through, and Jake Weber was similarly afflicted. Keitel was his cool self and Bon Jovi was adequate. BJ’s character was decapitated by flying debris initially, giving the movie an ‘R’ rating in the US, (squeamish lot 😀 ) so was re-shot to get a PG13, and he just got knocked overboard instead, and didn’t go down in a Blaze of Glory 🤪🤣 but I don’t remember seeing that happen, too much else going on.

The soundtrack was very impressive, as Phil kept mentioning it (it’s his ‘thing’) and the cinematography excellent (Oliver Wood). I was happy to see Matthew Settle playing Ensign Keith Larson, as I have a crush on him from his time playing Spiers in Band of Brothers, sadly he only had a small part in this movie.

My oh my did it cause ructions on release. The Germans were really pee’d off that it showed the U boat sailors shooting survivors as in real life they actually didn’t, and in fact U-boat crewmen are far more often known to have assisted survivors with food, directions and occasionally medical aid.

But it was the Brits who really got naffed off. It wasn’t a historical event at all, as British sailors from HMS Bulldog captured the first naval Enigma machine from U110 in the North Atlantic in May 1941, months before the United States entered the war and three years before the US Navy captured U505 and their Enigma machine. The Allies captured Enigma-related codebooks and machines about fifteen times during the War; all but two of these by British forces. The outrage ended up in prime Ministers Questions when labour M.P Brian Jenkins claimed that the film was an “affront to the memories of the British sailors who lost their lives on this action.” In 2006 the screenwriter David Ayer admitted that U-571 had distorted history, and said that he would not do it again. He was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 and said he “did not feel good” about suggesting that Americans, rather than the British, had captured the naval Enigma cipher: “It was a distortion…a mercenary decision…to create this parallel history in order to drive the film for an American audience. Both my grandparents were officers in the Second World War, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.” The Americans had more than enough heroics of their own to make movies out of, they didn’t really need to steal ours.

Other bits to snigger at- German destroyers were never in the Atlantic and remained in European waters, in the movie the German destroyer lets off more than eighty depth charges when in reality they only carried around thirty. The destroyer ‘pings’ the 571 which couldn’t happen in reality as the German destroyers didn’t have active sonar. Oh I must stop, there’s so much wrong it’s laughable.

But, and it’s a big BUT, the movie is really enjoyable for all that, great pacing and attention to detail (at least in the interior sub scenes) fab explosions, wonderful cinematography and soundtrack, and lots of good old American derring-do, which I must confess, I am very partial to 🙂 .

It did very well at the box office, and critics liked it, at least in the US 🙂 and it was nominated for 2 awards at the Oscars, for sound editing and sound mixing, it won the editing award, so Phil pegged it on the nose 🙂

Monday Movies – 03/08/2020

This week we’ve only done one movie, as Phil wanted to use his movie night to continue watching Gangs of London, a series on Sky Atlantic he’s really enjoying. So it was up to me to pick a good one for Saturday night, and I went for something a bit different than usual for me.

Knives Out (2019) written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a who-dunnit with an all star cast. Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas.

Plummer plays a famous and very wealthy mystery novelist Harlan Thromby, De Armas is his nurse, and the rest of the luminaries just mentioned are his family, except for Craig who plays Benoit Blanc, a private detective. The main plot point is that Harland is found dead, his throat cut, on the night of his 85th birthday party, which all his family attended. The police, (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) believe it’s suicide, but someone, we don’t know who, has mysteriously hired Blanc to investigate Harlan’s demise.

Really you don’t need much more than that to keep things spoiler free. If you’ve ever read/seen Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot, Jessica Whatserface (Murder She Wrote) then you have a fair idea of the structure. It is of course, a pastiche of the genre, and the cast obviously enjoyed their roles in the movie.

The critics loved it, David Rooney- of the Hollywood Reporter described the film as an “ingeniously plotted, tremendously entertaining and deviously irreverent crowd-pleaser” and “a treat from start to finish,” praising the film’s script, the throwbacks to the murder mysteries of the 1970s, and the actors’ performances

And lots of others said similar. Underlining the movie is commentary on the race relations in America which didn’t go unnoticed. Ram Bergman, the co-producer of Knives Out and Johnson’s longtime collaborator, says that the sociopolitical elements of the film were essential from its infancy. 

Phil and I are not ‘whodunnit’ people, never been into Murder on the Orient Express and suchlike, so although we appreciated the acting, and the scene setting, it didn’t really float our boats, but for anyone who is, I should think this is an excellent addition to the genre. Johnson keeps the pace going so the movie never flags, but we felt at 2 hrs 10 mins it was about 20 minutes too long, and needed a little trimming towards the end. It isn’t easy to spot the killer to start with and there’s a few twists and red herrings along the way, though I guessed before the denouement who it was. Like all whodunnits the detective gathers everyone together in the room and explains his findings eventually pointing to the murderer, and that’s where it fell down a bit for me, it went on too long, and his OTT Southern American accent (according to Craig based on some historian guy called Shelby Foote) did make for hard going sometimes.

I’m going to give it 4 stars anyway as it was so well filmed and acted, but not one I’d bother seeing again.

Monday Movies 27/07/2020

Well Phil stole my thunder for his Thursday retro/grim movie, and chose an action sci-fi movie which is neither retro or grim and really my thing, but hey ho, we’re married, give and take and all that 😊 .

Ready Player One (2018) directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tye Sheridan, who at the tender age of 23 has already carved out a career for himself in the movies. Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance are two of the more recognisable names (to me) starring in it as well.

The story, based on a novel by Ernest Cline, who also had a hand in the screenplay, is set in 2045, when the world is so devoid of much and desolate, the majority of the population use OASIS, a virtual reality software invented by James Halliday (Rylance) with his business partner Ogden Morrow (Pegg). OASIS lets people do anything they want, from surfing to travelling etc,etc. When Halliday dies he leaves behind a golden easter egg, which if found, gives the finder total control of OASIS. There are 3 keys to unlock a gate that leads to the egg, and three challenges to do in order to win a key. Sheridan plays Wade Watts, an orphan steeped in playing the game and wanting to win so he can get out of the poor living situation he is in.

Of course there are baddies, rival software company IOI who want to take over OASIS and monopolise the internet, headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendlesohn). Wade has a small group of friends in OASIS who come together to try and win the game, and that’s it for spoilers.

A lot of the movie is set in the virtual world, with all the main characters having avatars, some are quite surprising as they are revealed. The world building is quite visually stunning and Spielberg remarked that “this is the most difficult movie I’ve done since Saving Private Ryan. He collaborated with George Lucas’s visual effects company to get it done, and it is class.

The ‘real’ world scenes are mostly filmed in Birmingham (England, not Alabama 🙂 ) though I’m not sure even Brummies would recognise it!

The soundtrack is really on point, with lots of references both musical and otherwise to popular culture from the 70’s through to the 2010’s, an excellent scene in the movie is when our heroes end up in a replica of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. People have counted  well over a hundred references to films, television shows, music, toys,video games and comics from these times and it’s fun spotting them whilst watching.

It’s a full on movie, but does go on a bit in the final third, lots to see and keep track of. There’s too much going on for in-depth characterisation but it’s a great ride and good fun.

Critics mostly like it and I agree with Owen Gleiberman of variety, who said it’s a :- “coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy”, and found the sequence based on The Shining to be “irresistible”. However, he also criticized Spielberg’s dichotomization of fantasy and reality, as well as the film having “more activity than it does layers“.

My choice for Saturday night was a bit more mundane, 21 Bridges (2019) directed by Brian Kirk and starring Chadwick Boseman as NYPD Detective Andre Davis. He is known for hunting down and shooting cop killers, but is not comfortable with that assessment as as far as he is concerned, the criminals he killed fired on him first and so he shot them in self defence. The story really starts in New Jersey, when two ex-military chaps, Michael Trujillo and Ray Jackson (Stephan James & Taylor Kitsch) take a job to steal some cocaine holed up in a winery. This all goes tits up when they first find a whole heap more cocaine than they were expecting, and the arrival of 4 police officers. Consequently Ray shoots and kills all four cops and the winery manager. They grab mucho packs of the cocaine to sell and then drive off, but more cop cars arrive and there’s a fab car crash and loads of gunfire when Ray finishes them off too.

The two go on the run into Manhatten and Davis is given the task of tracking them down, whereby he shuts down all the bridges, and tunnels, and any airspace, so the baddies can’t leave. The ubiquitous J.K Simmons plays Captain McKenna who’s precinct the dead cops came from, and he’s pleased that Davis as a cop-killer-killer will be leading the hunt. Sienna Miller plays Frankie Burns, a narcotics detective who partners up with Davis in the chase. Anti-spoiler stoppage!

It’s a decent movie, with a good cast doing a fair job. The director paces it well, and the cinematography by Paul Cameron is top notch. There are a couple of twists which I saw coming, but it’s really not that original a story, so not surprising really.

Critics were so-so with the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes :- “21 Bridges covers its beat competently enough, but given its impressive cast, this cop thriller should be more arresting than it is.

I’d agree with that.

Monday Movies 20/07/2020

Phil had run out of movies to choose this week, so had a look on Netflix and decided to do Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Robert De Nero and Clive Owen. You’da thought that would be a good romp wouldn’t you, but dear reader in the first 10 minutes we decided it was abysmal and stopped watching.

So we turned back to the menu and instead Phil chose A History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. Viggo plays Tom Stall who runs a diner in Milbrook Indiana. He has a great marriage with Edie (Bello) and 2 kids, Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Heyes). One night a couple of mobsters try to rob the diner, and just as one of them is about to ‘do’ the waitress, Tom kills them as if he’s born to it. He becomes a local hero, and his face is plastered all over the news.

Of course he’s a good killer as really Tom is Joey Cusack, a professional hitman from Philadelphia who gave up that life to have a normal one instead. Unfortunately the mob see him on the news, and Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty turns up at the diner with some henchmen to bring Joey back to Philadelphia. Tom/Joey had had dealings with Carl in the past ending up with Carl losing an eye. Tom just keeps on denying that he’s Joey so Carl stalks the family over the next few days to try and get him to go to Philadelphia with him. Intimidation and kidnapping are not beyond him. That’s it for spoilers, as it’s worth watching without knowing the plot.

Cronenberg does a good job ratcheting up the tension while also showing us how the situation is affecting Tom’s relationships with his wife and son, as they find out the truth. Viggo Mortenson of course is a great actor, and he plays Tom understated but with everything showing in the eyes. Bello is the perfect foil as his wife, sexy and sassy but fierce and loyal, even under the duress she goes through. The kids do a good job, especially Ashton Holmes as Jack, who is going through teenage bullying at school. Ed Harris, well he’s good at being menacing and William Hurt’s part as Joey’s brother Ritchie, now in charge of the Philly mob is short but spot on. All in all A History of Violence has more character development than actual violence, and we thought it a great movie, as did all the critics.

My choice for Saturday night was the latest Netflix offering, The Old Guard (2020) directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. It’s based on a comic book and the screenplay was written by it’s author, Greg Rucka, and the main star is Charlize Theron.

The movie is about 5 immortal people, who have amazing healing capacity, so if they are injured or killed, they heal rapidly or pop back into life. They are centuries old, and Charlize plays the groups boss, Andromache of Scythia known as (“Andy”) and is the oldest amongst them. The others are chaps, two who met during the crusades and became lovers, Joe / Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior played by Marwam Kenzari, and Nicky / Niccolò di Genova, a former Crusader played by Luca Marinelli. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Booker / Sebastian Le Livre, once a French soldier who fought under Napoleon.

The 5th member is a brand new immortal, a marine soldier, Nile Freeman, who has her neck cut open and comes back to life much to the distaste of her fellow marines, played by KiKi Layne. Chiwetel Ejiofor is James Copley, a former CIA agent who hires them for a job and has investigated their lives and the consequences of helping out the people they have saved in the past. Of course there is a baddy who wants to capture them and experiment on them, that’s nothing new but what is really? The baddy is played by Harry Melling in the now formulaic tradition of American movies always having an Englishman for the bad guy! That’s it as no spoilers!

This movie is like Highlander meets John Wick on steroids, and is full on action. Theron is definitely making a living being an action star these days and she is really, really good at it. This is Blythewood’s first action movie, usually making character driven ones and that really helps as she makes sure the characters have back stories and pathos, and are not just gung-ho warriors. With the Nile character we see her go through hell trying to come to terms with what is happening to her, Layne makes you feel it. The fight scenes are amazing, so well choreographed and filmed hand held so you are in the thick of it with the action. We enjoyed it, and as there are 3 installments in the comic books, I imagine we’ll be seeing the sequels when/if they happen!

The critics have mostly given it a thumbs up, my fave by Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a “B+” and said: “Steeped in hand-to-hand action… but with enough ballistic firepower to kit out a small civil war, every action sequence is more than awe-inspiring; they’re necessary to the film itself. Superhero battles that are eye popping and narratively motivated? Oh, yeah

Monday Movies ~ 13th July 2020

I was surprised by Phil’s choice of retro movie on Thursday as he isn’t a sci-fi fan generally. Starship Troopers (1997) directed by Paul Verhoeven. Based onn a 1959 book by Robert. A. Heinlein, though whilst the book kinda promoted militarism, fascism, and military rule, PV turned the movie into a satire on those lines. Apparently he couldn’t get through the book for the right wing views it had and had his screenwriter Edward Nieumeier just tell him what it was about.

The movie stars the chisel jawed Casper Van Diem as Johnny Rico, who is in love with classmate Carmen Ibanez played by the vacuously pretty Denise Richards. Carmen wants to be a starship pilot in the Federal Service, and has the intelligence and grades to be accepted for training. Johnny doesn’t have the grades for that, but signs up for the Mobile Infantry. Also signing up to the federation are Johnny’s psychic best mate Carl (Neil Patrick Harris now too old to be Doogie Howser M.D!) and the rather exotically gorgeous Isabelle Flores (Dina Meyer) known as Dizzy who is in love with Johnny, but he only has eyes for Carmen.

We’re in the 23rd century so things are a little different now. Whilst colonising other planets, humans have upset some bad-ass huge bugs called Arachnids, and they are really scary, relentless savage killing machines. On earth their are levels of citizenship, and doing Military service gets you a rung up the ladder. Johnny’s parents disapprove of him enlisting, but he ignores them and does it anyway. First they go through training, Carmen goes off to flight school, Carl to Intelligence, and Johnny to the infantry school led by the hard-ass Sergeant Zim. Johnny makes friends with Ace Levy (Gary Busey) and Dizzy gets herself transferred to Johnny’s unit to be near him. Not long after they start training, Carmen sends Johnny a Dear John video and dumps him as she wants a career rather than just doing service. She is serving under Johnny’s high school athletics rival Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon) another chiseled jawline, but tattier than Casper.

They get through the training, albeit with a few hiccups along the way, and then are part of an invasion of the bugs home planet Klendathu. It’s a complete disaster, with mucho carnage. On returning to earth Ace,Dizzy and Johnny get assigned to the ‘Roughnecks’ led by Lt.Jean Rasczak played by Michael Ironside and that’s where we’ll leave it for spoiler sakes.

There’s a lot more to the movie than the incredible bugs and the carnage they do. The special effects hold up very well considering how far CGI has come 23 years on, nothing looked hokey at all. The space scenes were cool and the killer bugs huge and scary. PV’s direction & the cinematography echoed 1950’s movies, with PV being influenced by ‘creature features’ from back then, and the military uniforms gave a nod to the Nazi ones of WW2. Lots of philosophy and satire doled out within the script. Verhoeven says his satirical use of irony and hyperbole is “playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society… of course, the movie is about ‘Let’s all go to war and let’s all die“.It didn’t do so well with the critics when it was first released but rallied as time went on.

On release we get “a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.” from Jeff Vice, but in a 2017 retrospective from Callum Marsh of The Atlantic writing that it is a”…satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism…[that] critiques the military-industrial complex the jingoism of American foreign policy, and a culture that privileges reactionary violence over sensitivity and reason.”

We thought it an absolute hoot!

On to Saturday night, and as Phil did the fun movie, I went for the more serious Greyhound (2020) directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks (sorry Pete) who also wrote the screenplay. The movie is only on Apple TV at the minute but will probably be available elsewhere when they’ve got their money’s worth out of it.

Tom Hanks plays Commander Ernest Krause, commanding officer of the USS Keeling on his first war time assignment escorting a large convoy of merchant ships across the atlantic ocean to Liverpool to deliver supplies to help GB in the war effort. Set in late 1942 when U-boats were rampant trying to destroy the convoys. He only has 2 British and one Canadian destroyer to assist him, and though they get arial support at either end of the journey, there’s a huge bit in the middle where it’s too far for planes to fly before they have to turn back for fuel. It’s in this area where the U-boats are lurking, and known as a wolf pack. Seriously though, wolves don’t swim, you’d think they’d be a shark pack or similar. Anyway, I digress.

The movie is all about what happens when Krausse comes up against the pack. Hanks is his usual self and he’s on screen constantly. Other characters of note are Stephen Graham as Charlie Cole the XO, and Rob Morgan as George Cleveland, the head chef constantly trying to feed Krause but everytime he makes him something the general alarm goes off. I’m surprised Hanks didn’t faint from hunger! Elizabeth Shue has a very small part as Evelyn, Krause’s ladyfriend. The cinematography is just brilliant. Of course there has to be CGI involved but it’s not easy to spot, as Schneider went out with the Canadian navy to film the rough seas, and a lot of filming was done on a genuine destroyer of the era usually used as a museum, anyway it was indeed visually stunning. The acting, well as my pal Pete says, Tom Hanks is always Tom Hanks, there’s no getting away from that but he does what he does well here. Schneider keeps the tension racked up when the U-boats attack and we were cheering in relief when one got blown up 🙂 .

Really enjoyed this, and as we are currently watching the TV series Das Boot which is set in the same time frame only from the German U-boats point of view, it was good to see the other side.