There used to be a French school called L’Institut Jeanne d’Arc in Frederiksburg just west of Copenhagen.
On March 21st 1945 the British carried out a bombing raid on the Gestapo headquarters in the commandeered Shell building in Copenhagen, at the request of the Danish resistance. This in spite of the fact that Danish prisoners were held on the top floor as a human shield. One of the planes in the first wave hit a telegraph pole and two 500lb bombs carried by the aircraft were torn off and exploded, killing twelve civilians. It crashed into a garage near the French catholic school in Frederiksburg. The other airplanes in that wave successfully unloaded six bombs into the Shell building, killing 6 of the prisoners. Unfortunately the second and third waves were confused by the smoke and flames resulting from the crashed Mosquito airplane, and thought that was where their target must be. Apart from 3 aircraft, all the Mosquitos dropped their bombs on the French School.
In the school were 529 people. 482 children, 34 catholic nuns, 8 civil teachers and 5 parents or workers. 86 of the children and 16 adults, mostly nuns, were killed, and 67 children and 35 adults were wounded.
The Danish movie currently showing on Netflix, The Bombardment, is about this event. I’ve seen a lot of movies I’ve really enjoyed since I stopped reviewing, but until now had not been moved to recommend any. This one is absolutely worth your time. It isn’t about the pilots, who get about 10 mins of screen time if that, but about some of the civilians we meet prior to the event, who we see coping during it and the aftermath. And mostly, it’s about the kids. Wonderful acting from all involved. Hard not to fall in love with little Eva played by Ella Josphine Lund Nilsson or laugh with Rigmore played by Ester Birch, and feel compassion for Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen) who becomes mute after seeing a distressing event prior to the bombing. The adults are not too shabby either, with a sterling cast showing us distinctive characters that have an emotional impact as you follow their lives.
Of course it’s impossible to ignore the parallels to what’s happening to Ukraine, nothing really changes in our human endeavours to kill each other and the planet we live on.
If you have a lily on your liver or your heart is inclined to faint this is probably not the movie for you and Netflix still have several cheesy romcoms for your amusement, none of which I’ve seen. But for those of you made of stern stuff this is a must-see. Also FYI the version on Netflix is not dubbed, there are subtitles, but the trailer on Youtube is dubbed.
13 Hours – The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) Amazon Prime
On the whole, director Michael Bay is much maligned by proper film critics for his OTT productions, his objectifying of women, his use of offensive racial stereotypes as comedic relief; extreme patriotism, juvenile humor, excessive product placement and (horror) oversaturation of gold and teal colour grading. I can’t argue with that but also none of that applies to this 13 Hours movie. A true story, the movie covers the attack on an American compound in Benghazi and follows six members of the Annex Security Team who fought to defend it, after several waves of attacks by militants on September 11th 2012, the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America, and during a visit by the US Ambassador to Libya. James Badge Dale, John Krasinski and Maz Martini are the main stars but there’s plenty of back up by Toby Stevens, Dominic Fumusa et al. There’s a goodly amount of build up and scene setting, the back stories of the main characters are given some love, and the action is superbly filmed, as you’d expect from Bay. There is controversy attached as the film portrays the CIA chief in charge of the security team telling them to ‘stand down’ when the poop hits the fan, and eventually they just go to help anyway. That was disputed by the real (unnamed) CIA chief but corroborated by members of the team and others. Also the Libyans were not exactly happy with the portrayal of their people, yet the movie does show the help the team get from the 17th Feb Martyrs Group.
Fraggle Rating ~ Another Rorkes Drift moment in US recent history, it’s told and acted well and we liked this as much as The Outpost from my last review.
The Meg (2018) It’s on Prime for rent but we have the bluray.
Due to the ongoing problems Phil is having with his eyes, we’ve moved the sofa nearer to the TV screen, so he has had to recalibrate the 11 speakers in the room in order to have the optimum sound for where you sit to watch the movie. Why am I telling you this? because after all the fannying on he then has to sit and listen to one of his familiar movies that has a dolby ATMOS soundtrack. Unfortunately he’s loaned them to a work pal and hasn’t seen him for 4 months to get them back. So when it came to Phil’s choice for Thursday movie night, he pulled out The Meg, starring Jason Statham which has a great ATMOS soundtrack. Directed by John Turteltaub and with a supporting cast including the wonderfully named Li Bingbing, Rainne Wilson, Ruby Rose and Winston Chao this is a pretty far fetched story about a pre-historic ginormicus shark called a megaladon. Set on an underwater research facility, Mano One, funded by billionaire Jack Morris (Wilson) and run by Dr. Minway Zhang (Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing). Statham plays Jonas Taylor a rescue diver who retired after an unpleasant experience where he lost 2 men. Because his ex-wife Lori (Jessica MacNamee) is the pilot of the downed sub, he is persuaded to join the Mano One as one of their subs has been bashed about by the meg and is in need of rescue, which only he can do. After that it’s lots of rescues, a burgeoning romance between Jonas and Suyin, a cute kid, Suyin’s daughter (Sophia Cai as Meiying), hostility from the onboard Doctor Heller (Robert Taylor) who blames Jonas for the previous disaster, a sad death or two, and a happy ending.
Fraggle rating ~ Yes it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s fun, and a different kind of rôle for Statham who usually martial arts his way around the screen, he’s actually really good in this, but sadly there’s only one scene where he has his shirt off. Critics bashed it mostly, but who cares about them, it made a shed load of money because it’s a great popcorn movie, and I’ll definitely be watching it’s sequel which is in the works, and will be directed by Ben Wheatley.
The Ice Road (2019) Netflix
If you see Liam Neeson headlining a movie you can be pretty sure there will be a fair amount of action, and The Ice Road is no exception, though more of a spectacle type of action than Neeson fighting his way through a plot. Well he is 69 yrs old, we can give him a break. Directed by Jonathon Hensley it is a bog standard story of corporate greed versus the little guy worker bees, but set in a diamond mine in Manitoba, which are accessed via ice roads. Neeson, plays Mike, a trucker and has a brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an Iraq war veteran soldier and excellent mechanic who suffers from PTSD & aphasia. They are fired from the hauling company they work for when Mike decks a bloke for calling Gurty a retard. When what appears to be a methane explosion happens at the diamond Mine, Ice Road truckers are needed to deliver well heads from Winnipeg up to the mine to free some trapped miners. Unfortunately it’s the just about the end of the season where the ice is safe enough to travel on and most of the truckers have gone home. Jim Goldenrod, another ice road trucker,(Lawrence Fishburn) agrees to run a rescue mission, and employs Mike & Gurty, he also gets another driver out of jail, Tantoo, a Native American girl (Amber Midthunder) whose brother is trapped in the mine along with the 25 others. They team up and set off with 3 wellheads in 3 different trucks, and an accompanying insurance risk assessment dude, Varnay (Benjamin Walker). They’ve got 30 hours before the miners run out of air. It becomes a very eventful journey, and I’ll say no more than that because that would spoil it for you.
Fraggle Rating ~ Not well liked by the critics, but Phil and I enjoyed it. I used to see the odd episodes on TV of the real Ice Road Truckers and it always fascinated me, so the movie gave me the same sort of feels, but with added drama. The script was a bit hokey in places admittedly and the baddie a bit unlikely, but the trucks are great and it was filmed on actual ice roads in Manitoba so the scenery was authentic. Not much in the way of backstories, and the action scenes are not ground~breaking, but on the whole it’s a serviceable action film for a Saturday night in.
The Foreigner (2017) Netflix
I’d always thought of Jackie Chan as a comedic martial arts guy from the couple of movies I’ve seen in the past, but the trailer for this movie didn’t look martial arty and had a plot dealing with a (hopefully fictional) new branch of the IRA, the ‘Authentic IRA’. Directed by Martin Campbell, it stars Chan playing Ngoc Minh Quan, a Nung Chinese man who runs a restaurant in London, but is also a former Vietnam War special forces operator. His daughter is killed by a bomb at the beginning of the movie, and the plot revolves around Quan finding out who killed her. Pierce Brosnan plays Liam Hennesey, a Sinn Féin politician in the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland who was also in the Provisional IRA in his former years. I am stopping there as I don’t want to do spoilers, it’s worth going in without knowing too much. I will say there is a fair bit of martial art stuff from Chan, and a bit of McGuyver thrown in, but no comedy. I was letting Neeson off his action chops being 69, but Chan is 67 and he is still kicking ass, though hurting after it too. Chan definitely does not lack the gravitas to pull off the rôle of a broken hearted father, which surprised us, he is very good in this. Phil and I were complementing Pierce Brosnan on his authentic sounding Irish accent, then I found out he was born in Drogheda, County Louth in Ireland! 🙄 The supporting cast give good performances, Orla Brady as Hennesey’s Missis, Michael McElhatton as Hennesey’s head of security, (loved him as Roose Bolton in GOT) Ray Frearon escapes his mechanic’s job in Coronation Street to become Commander Richard Bromley, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Fraggle rating: top notch! A twisty, bracing, political action thriller!!
My first on the list is The Evacuation (2015) also known as Come What May and En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît; a French war movie. In May 1940 the Germans invade Belgium and France. In the village of Lebucquière, the prefecture recommends that the whole village packs up and leaves to avoid being overrun by the Germans, and head for the south coast. Paul, (Olivier Gourmet) the headman of the village is in charge and leads the group, and tries to maintain order, whilst his wife Mado (Mathilde Seigner) plays music and tries to entertain the group of villagers. Prior to them leaving a German anti-nazi activist Hans (August Diehl) finds short-lived sanctuary in the village with his young son Max (Joshio Marlan). But Hans gets arrested when the kid accidentally speaks in German and someone reports them. Max is taken under the wing of Suzanne,(Alice Issaz) a young teacher, and she scouts the route the villagers are taking. Hans escapes accompanied by a Scottish officer, Percy, (Matthew Rhys) whose entire unit died under German bullets, and tries to be reunited with his son.
The actors do a great job, there’s lovely cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, and a great score by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Christian Cabon who loosely based it on his mother’s evacuation experiences. Yes there’s CGI planes & battles, some eye-popping plot co-incidences and some soapy dialogue here and there, but there’s also a duck, and a big feel good factor ending.
Fraggle rating: Well I enjoyed it immensley, it has to be said it’s not as harrowing as perhaps it should have been based on the reality of the displacement of 8 million French people, and as one critic put it –If you ever wanted to see a wartime movie that feels directed by a kinder, gentler Michael Bay “Come What May” is right up your alley. It plays like a more cultured—and very French—version of “Pearl Harbour”. But I’m OK with that! It’s on Amazon prime under The Evacuation title.
Our next movie is Hunter Killer (2018) directed by Donovan Marsh and starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman and Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn), and the late Micheal Nyqvist in one of his final rôles. This is an action thriller involving American and Russian submarines, and has a dastardly Russian Admiral doing a Coup d’etat and capturing the Russian President and trying to start a war by torpedoing one of his own subs as well as an American one, the USS Tampa. Navy Seals under the command of Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) are given the task of rescuing the Russian president whilst Commander Joe Glass,(Butler) commanding officer of USS Arkansas investigates the Tampa incident. Nyqvist plays Captain 2nd Rank Sergei Andropov, commanding officer of the damaged RFS Konek, Gary Oldman plays the warmongering Admiral Charles Donnegan, Common is in charge of the naval command centre as Rear Admiral John Fisk, and Linda Cardellini is Jayne Norquist an NSA security analyst.
Fraggle rating:- Butler and Oldman, both have made some great movies, and both some duds, and this one falls in between. Nothing new in this plot really, it’s a serviceable addition to the genre, but as I found it whilst looking for Hunt For Red October, I’d advise you to watch that one instead. Again on Amazon Prime.
Next up we have Liam Neeson in Honest Thief (2020). Directed by Mark Williams, Neeson plays Tom Dolan, an ex-marine who has been robbing banks without getting caught for 9 years but turns over a new leaf when he meets and falls in love with Annie Wilkins,(Kate Walsh) a psychology graduate student working at a storage unit facility. He wants to give himself up to the FBI, pay the money back, do a short jail sentence and then get on with his life. Enter two corrupt FBI agents Agent John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Agent Ramon Hall ( Anthony Ramos), who for want of a better phrase f**k him over with the money and hurt his lady. Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan play good FBI Agents Sam Baker and Sean Meyers respectively. No spoilers but I bet you can guess the rest of what happens.
Fraggle Rating :- It’s nothing new really for Neeson who is making a mint out of playing old tough-guy goody/baddie ex marines finding and killing people etc, but he gives a committed performance, as do the others, and at just 90 minutes you could do a lot worse. Amazon prime.
Onwards ever onwards then. Page Eight (2011). A British thriller for a change, and done in a very British manner, which is to say, no action, we’re talking cerebral thrills here. Produced for the currently beleaguered BBC, and was written and directed by David Hare with an excellent cast in tow. Bill Nighy, the quintessential Englishman plays long serving MI5 officer Johnny Worricker caught up in a tangled thread of misinformation and lies induced by the British Prime Minister, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes). Michael Gambon plays Johnny’s Director General who is also his good friend Benedict Baron, whilst Rachel Weiss does a good job of being Syrian activist Nancy Pierpan The cast are impeccable with Marthe Kellar, Holly Aird, Saskia Reeves and Judy Davies all bringing their A game. No spoilers at all for this, you need to go in cold.
Fraggle Rating:- This is a little gem of a political intrigue movie that you need to keep your wits about you to follow but is worth the time. Billy Nighy is just superb, the plot believable and the ending doesn’t disappoint. This one is on Netflix.
Last but not least we have The Man in the Hat (2020). Another British Film, ostensibly a ‘comedy’ but really it’s more ‘light-hearted’ than outright funny, it made me smile a few times but I also was WTH? a few times too. It stars Ciarán Hinds in the titular rôle, and is set in the beautiful South of France. It is the directorial debut of composer Stephen Warbeck and has a kind of plot, though ‘plot’ may be too strong a word. It starts out with The Man (Hinds) driving through the French countryside in a Fiat 500 (old style) with a photo of a woman in the passenger seat. Whilst having dinner al fresco one evening he sees 5 men get out of a Citroën CV and throw what looks like a wrapped up body into the harbour opposite. They see him looking and start walking towards him so he scarpers, and the rest of the movie is about his journey. Kind of like a road trip/chase movie through France, but a very slow one. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is French with subtitles and a lot of what happens doesn’t make much sense, but I think that’s kind of the point. Stephen Dillane plays The Damp Man, Sasha Hailes is The Woman, and there’s a few cameo’s dotted about of people I don’t recognise.
This is what Warbeck says about it “The Man in the Hat represents an everyday man character who reflects that we all experience lives full of peculiarities and unexplained encounters. But as the film progresses, this sense of unfamiliarity evaporates and becomes a ray of positive light. “He is a very solitary character,” Mr Warbeck explains. “During the film we know something tragic or sad is happening in his life but little by little with contact he is warming up and rediscovers warmth in relationships with other humans.”In a way, The Man in the Hat is like a little island who reaches out and starts to contact other people.” And Ciarán Hinds I think sums it up best : “This won’t take too much of your time. And you don’t need to be blown out of your seats; you can just be a human being and watch this little journey and feel things. It has its own heartbeat, unlike anything else”
Fraggle Rating:- I enjoyed the scenery and for me the car was the star. I didn’t mind the whimsical nature of it all and just enjoyed the scenery and music and acting, but Phil would have preferred a proper plot I think as he kept saying he had no idea what was going on. Back to Prime for this one.
Phil’s choice this week is another based-on-a-true-story movie, this time an oil rig disaster, Deepwater Horizon (2016). Directed by Peter Berg, it’s produced and stars Mark Wahlberg and also Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodrigues and Kate Hudson.
The Deepwater Horizon event happened in 2010 as the rig is getting ready to drill off the Louisiana coast. When Chief Electronics Technician Michael “Mike” Williams (Wahlberg) and Offshore Installation Manager James “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Russell) land on the rig after 3 weeks shore leave, they find out, and are not happy about workers assigned to test the integrity of recently completed cement work being sent home before they carried out a cement integrity test, on the orders of BP rig supervisors Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland). They’re trying to save money and the drilling start is already 43 days overdue. Jimmy rips Vidrine a new one, and demands integrity tests to be carried out before he’ll allow the drilling to go ahead. What he doesn’t know is that the cement is breaking up, and the integrity pressure tests makes matters worse. Eventually, the whole lot fails and sets a chain of events in motion that leads to the rig blowing up spectacularly, and the sad loss of 11 of the crew on the rig.
This was a really well done movie. It could have been exploitative but Berg’s direction is spot on, showing the panic and gruesome ordeals the crew have to go through as well as picking out the heroism and sacrifice of some of them. Wahlberg has come in for a fair bit of criticism in his career but he plays this straight and does a cracking job. The script gives him and his colleagues working men’s banter and it all feels really natural. Kate Hudson as Mike’s wife Felicia has a smaller part, a fair bit of it Skyping on the computer screen Mike has in his workroom, but is integral to giving the audience an emotional attachment. They wise~crack and tease each other mercilessly but the love shines through. Kurt Russell is as cool as always, and does the steely eyed bossman Mr.Jimmy proud. There’s an amazing scene when he’s blown out of the shower and flung around his quarters when the blowout happens, and the make-up department must’ve had a field day with his face to show his injuries. Malkovich as the snidey cost cutting Vidrine makes you want to punch his lights out, but he does have a strange accent I couldn’t place. The camera work was stupendous and cinematographer Enrique Chediak pulled out all the stops to film all the chain reaction pieces and then the final explosions.
The blowout and subsequent explosions are crafted well with no obvious CGI though there must have been some. I do know they made a ginormous set 85% scale recreation of the rig inside a giant two-and-a-half million gallon water tank to make it feel realistic. Of course they did Hollywood it up a bit, in the movie Mike rescues Andrea Fleytas (Rodrigues) the rig’s Dynamic Position Operator, and they jump off the top of the rig into the sea to escape the burning deck (upon which no boy stood 🤪🥴) when in real life just Mike jumped, Andrea had fallen out of a descending life raft into the sea. But Mike Williams was a big part of getting the movie done right and on the set as a consultant. Whatever liberties they did take, the survivors and families were happy with the result, and Berg emphasised that he was focussing on the men who were just doing their jobs. The bad decisions made by the BP men are not glossed over, and at the end of the movie we are informed that Vidrine and Kaluza were the only two people prosecuted for their actions and were charged with eleven cases of manslaughter. In reading newspaper articles about movie versus reality, the movie makes a good guys bad guys situation between Transocean – the company that lease the rig to BP, and BP itself, but in real life there were faults on both sides, it wasn’t so black and white. You also see clips of the testimony of the real Mike Williams and at the very end a notice saying “the blowout lasted for 87 days, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.” I think at the time more was made of the dreadful oil pollution and loss of fishermens livelihoods etc than the actual people who were on the rig, and this film redresses the balance a bit and gives testament to the heroics of the men who saved their fellow workers.
Fraggle Rating: A must see.
Our second movie is also based on a true story, and is Netflix’s The Dig (2021). Directed by Simon Stone, it tells the story of the 1939 excavation of buriel mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the incredible anglo-saxon treasure trove of grave goods, as well as a buried ship. It is an amazing story and as a Time Team addict I’d been looking forward to this, though did wonder if it would be boring for Phil.
The wonderful Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty, a widowed landowner in Suffolk who hires Basil Brown Ralph Fiennes, to excavate some hilly mounds on her land. Basil takes the job after a bit of salary wrangling. He accidentally gets buried in one whilst digging when a trench collapses on him, and is dug out by Edith and her servants and survives. He starts another mound and finds iron rivets from a ship, which means the site would have been for someone of great importance, your average Joe doesn’t get a ship’s buriel on land! In the meantime, whilst Basil is getting his rivet checked out, Edith is off to London for a hospital appointment, and it turns out her heart is severely damaged from having rheumatic fever as a child, and she’s not long for this world. She keeps it quiet, but looks progressively ill throughout the movie. A prominent local archaeologist James Reid Moir (Paul Ready) wants to get in on the dig and Edith sends him packing, but when news of the discovery gets out, Charles Philips, (Ken Stott) a Cambridge archeologist turns up and requisitions the dig by order of the Office of Works as the dig is now of National Importance. Philips brings in a team including Peggy Piggot (Lily James) who in spite of being taken on because she is small and light, finds the first anglo-saxon treasures, and Basil finds a Roman gold coin. Philips wants to send the treasure to the British Museum, but in effect Edith owns it all, and she decides to keep it safe at her home, bearing in mind the war is just beginning, and London is likely to be bombed. In the end she does decide to gift it to the museum with the provisor that Basil gets the credit for the find.
That’s about all you need to know plot wise. It sounds dull but it really wasn’t at all, Phil thought it was brilliant so that’s my yardstick. The beauty of this movie is the how Stone moves the story forwards at a gentle pace yet keeps your attention. Mulligan and Fiennes give their characters a connection, a love of place, the past and the future and a mutual respect. A tiny hint of a romance that could have been if circumstances were different, and passes. Basil’s wife May is his stalwart supporter and though a small part Monica Dolan makes a good impact on the movie. Basil is gruff, taciturn and proud, but suffused with the need to dig into the earth and find the past, Edith is sharp, intelligent and had been thwarted from attending University by her father, and Mulligan shows her deteriorating health with dignity. Edith has a son Robert (Archie Barnes) who’s a sparky little lad who takes a shine to Basil which is reciprocated. There’s a side romance that didn’t really need to happen, Peggy and Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) have a one night stand as Peggy’s husband Stuart (Ben Chapman) is having what I assume is a bromance with one of the other diggers, but it doesn’t last long as Rory has to join the RAF the next morning. It didn’t happen in real life at all. But that’s my only gripe really, it’s beautifully filmed, and England looks gorgeous through Mike Ely’s cinematography. Lovely soundtrack by Stefan Gregory that underpins but never overwhelms the movie.
I did wonder why they never show the amazing treasures found in the grave, only a glimpse here and there. But the more I thought about it this movie wasn’t about the treasure, it was about the people who made it happen and their desire for history and knowledge.
Fraggle Rating: Bloody Brilliant.
Further reading: I’ve followed a Professor of Archaeology’s blog for a long time, Professor Howard has a brilliant blog and often relates TV programmes such as Walking Dead, The Last Kingdom, Vikings and others to mortuary practices in real life archaeology. He wrote about this movie here, and did a much more indepth review of it with a lot of thought provoking comment. Worth a read if you’re a nerd like me. 🙂
If you’d like to see the actual treasures they found, the National Geographic has some good photo’s and a brilliant one of the ship, HERE.
Our first movie this week, is the last of the Civil War movies, at least for now, and this week we did Gettysburg (1993) as the follow on from Gods and Generals a couple of weeks ago. Written and directed by Robert F Maxwell and based on the book The Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, this movie was a lot better I have to say. No silly women or dying kids, and no-one praying every two minutes. Martin Sheen plays Robert E Lee this time, and has a bigger part than Duvall did in G&G’s. I think Duvall would have been a better choice for this one as well, but it doesn’t really matter, this is a history lesson of a movie and it’s done very well by all concerned. Jeff Daniels again plays Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, Tom Berenger plays General James Longstreet, reluctant to send men to their deaths unecessarily. Stephen Lang is back this time as the gung-ho Major General George Pickett, a big change from his god-bothering Stonewall Jackson in G&G’s and Sam Shepherd has a short appearance as Brigadier General Buford. All in all the acting was better, and the battle scenes were just phenomenal. It’s said that the barrage laid down by the confederates on the 3rd day of the battle was the largest ever in history, I reckon it must have been the largest in movie making history too. They must have gathered up all the old canon in the USA to do the scenes. Some of the action was allowed to be filmed on the actual Gettysburg Battlefield, including the scenes at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top and thousands of Civil War re-enactors volunteered their time to get to Gettysburg and take part in the battle. The organisation and choreography of those scenes is staggering. They must have had a blast! The cinematography by Kees Van Oostrum is amazing, and the soundtrack by Randy Edelman adds much to the atmosphere throughout the movie. Again we did this over 2 nights as the extended version is 4 hrs long, but I got through it a lot easier than Gods and Generals, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My only quibble is the false facial hair! Berenger sported a beard and sideburns that Larry the Lion would be proud of and Jeff Daniels had a fair old Wally Walrus moustach going on 🤣
Fraggle Rating ~ Top notch history lesson.
On to the next movie and this is Netflix’s Outside the Wire (2021) directed by Mikael Häfström and starring Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris. It’s labelled sci-fi as it’s set in 2036 and involves robots a bit. I’ll try not to do spoilers as it’s so new. Eastern Europe is having a bit of a war and some Ukranian fanatics are trying to bring the Ukraine back into Russia, à la Soviet Union. The Ukranians are called Krasnys, led by Victor Koval (Pilou Asbæk) and are backed by Russia. There is a resistance force of led by Sofiya (Emily Beecham) who runs an orphanage. The US Army is deployed as a peacekeeping force, and consists of regular soldiers as well as ‘gumps’ robotic soldiers. A team of them is ambushed by the Krasnys, and Lt.Thomas Harp, (Idris) a drone operator back in the US disobeys orders and fires a Hellfire missile in a drone strike against a suspected enemy launcher, killing two of the Marines but saving the remaining 38. As punishment he’s deployed to Camp Nathaniel in the same area as he’s never been in combat. He is assigned to Captain Leo, who reveals himself to be a cyborg, a highly advanced and experimental android soldier, with the capacity for feeling pain, and emotions. Leo is going to take Harp outside the confines of the camp to deliver vaccines to a refugee camp, but really he is looking for Kovak who is trying to get control of cold war nuclear silo’s.
I had thought that this would be another reverse buddy movie, where 2 guys don’t like each other but end up besties, but that didn’t happen. There are a few twists along the way which is why I don’t want to do spoilers. It’s a well made movie, and tries to make itself more than just action, by having the two main characters wrestling with some big questions about the future of modern warfare. Anthony Mackie is coming out from under The Avengers cabal, and does well enough here as an eccentric wanna-be human, though his script is a little off in places. His physicality from being the Falcon Avenger stands him in very good stead. Damson Idris takes his character from an up-his-own-arse arrogant knob to a chastened more decent human being and they play off each other very well.
Fraggle Rating: Thoughtful action movie, worth a watch.
We managed to squeeze in a third movie this week. What Happened To Monday (2017) is another action sci-fi, this time directed by Tommy Wirkola and starring Noomi Rapace, Glen Close and Willem Dafoe. It’s a somewhat bonkers plot, with more than a couple of holes in it, but great fun to watch. Noomi plays 7 identical sisters in a future where people are only allowed one child, because the world is well over populated and running out of food and resources. Siblings get sent ostensibly for cryofreezing until such time as the population thins out when they can be woken up again. Glen Close plays the politician and leader who thought of this solution. Dafoe is the grandfather who raises the girls and gives each of them the names of weekdays, Monday to Sunday. Each child is allowed out on the same day as her name, and when she returns must share all the info (which is recorded on a special bracelet) so the next girl is equipped to take over for her turn outside. They all share the same DNA and persona of one girl named Karen Settman so when they are scanned at security points it doesn’t matter which one of them it is. The movie covers a bit of the sisters childhood, and then we get to see the 7 Noomi’s living in their apartment, running a company which Grandad helped them set up. They all have different hairdo’s and colours and different personalities and after the initial set up, one day Monday goes out to work at the company and doesn’t come back home. The other 6 have to find out what’s going on. That’s it for spoilers. Noomi does so well at action and yet again ends up in some rather outlandish fights, having to do 7 of them at once must have been fun! Glen Close doesn’t have a huge part but she’s competant when she’s on screen, this isn’t Oscar fodder by any stretch. Marwan Kenzari adds the love interest Adrian Knowles, a security guard Monday has been seeing and keeping quiet about. The futuristic tech is cool, mirrors that flag up your skin’s dehydration levels or blemishes, and bracelets that hold all your details (like a cross between Apple watch and a fitbit). WIlliam Dafoe disappears a third of the way into the movie and we never find out why or what happened to him, and you do wonder how he managed to keep 7 babies fed and nappied without anyone noticing but that’s a couple of holes you can easily skip over.
Our second movie from last week is Netflix’s The Midnight Sky (2020). Based on a book (which I haven’t read so can’t compare) Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It is directed by and stars George Clooney.
Set in 2049 Clooney plays a scientist, Augustine Lofthouse, who has worked for most of his life in finding habitable planets so that humanity can expand, and there are various missions either planned or already out in space looking for these planets. Unfortunately something cataclysmic has happened on our world and bit by bit massive radiation is spreading through Earths atmosphere, and no-one is surviving it. Lofthouse stays behind in the Arctic, which will be the last place for the radiation to reach, whilst his colleagues are evacuated to go and be with their families. We never find out how the apocalypse started, but there is a hint that it’s our fault.
Lofhouse finds out that the spaceship Æther is the only outstanding mission in space and is on it’s way home, after finding one of Lofthouse’s planets suitable for human beings, and he is trying to contact them to tell them what’s happened and not to come back. However, his radio antenna is too weak to reach the ship. There is a more powerful antenna higher up in the arctic and he has to try and get to it to save the Æther.
That’s about it for spoilers. This was a quiet yet compelling movie, with a fair few crises for the characters to go through. The Arctic scenes were filmed in Iceland and a blizzard scene was filmed in 50-mile-per-hour winds with temperatures at 40 below zero and I give Clooney top marks for not using CGI and being authentic. The space scenes were done in the studio (obviously- even Clooney doesn’t have a spaceship!) and by necessity used CGI for the Spaceship but it was done really well. One particular scene has an injured crew member in the airlock and.. oh! no spoilers but it is amazing to watch.
The acting was great, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir play the crew of the Æther with conflicting feelings regarding their options once they know about Earth, and a special mention to Caoilinn Springall a little girl who has a just about non-speaking part but can emote with her eyes with the best of them. Clooney plays his character old and tired and ill, he needs regular dialysis, and he does look harrowed and knackered. It’s a poignant performance from him and he does it well.
I really liked this movie, for it’s cinematography, it’s acting and the questions it throws up about humanity. It has a grim premise, but not without a little hope. There is a slightly cheesy twist at the end of the story which I did see coming, but it didn’t spoil things, just made me glad for the story that I was right.
Phil was on a late shift for the Thursday retro movie, so left to my own devices I went looking on Disney+ which I got given for 6 months when I upgraded my phone. Nothing much on there I have to admit, but I came across a little movie called Timmy Failure ~ Mistakes Were Made (2020) and decided to give it a go.
Timmy (Winslow Fegley) is an 11 year old kid living in Portland, Oregon with his single mother Patty, (Ophelia Lovibond) and runs his own detective agency in the back room of their house. After his father walked out on them, Timmy gained an imaginary friend Total, who happens to be a polar bear. The Detective agency is then known as Total Failure Inc. He has a best friend, Rollo (Kei ) a classmate who has a crush on him Molly Moskins, (Chloe Coleman) and his mother starts dating a meter maid (in the UK known as a parking attendant) Crispin Flavius (Karl Bornheimer). I had a blast watching this, Winslow Fegley carried the movie and was quite adorable. The CGI polar bear is really well done, and the movie is directed with great sympathy for the imagination of childhood. I’m not going to do spoilers at all but will leave the trailer here, it gives the general gist. If you have Disney+ it’s possibly the best thing on it 🙂
Fraggle Rating. Bloody Brilliant.
Our Saturday night movie this week is from Netflix. Close (2019) is an action thriller, written and directed by Vicky Jewson, and starring Noomi Rapace as Sam Carlson, a bodyguard, or ‘close protection officer’ if you like. We start the movie in South Sudan, where Sam is guarding a couple of members of the press. They get ambushed and Sam saves them. This is nothing to do with the rest of the movie but sets the scene and tone for what comes next.
Sam is hired to bodyguard a young heiress, Zoe Tanner (Sophie Nélisse) a troubled girl, who has just inherited her father’s mining business, much to the dismay of her stepmother Rima Hassine (Indira Varma) as she has been running the business, whereas Zoe has just been dicking about. You’ve probably guessed by now that we’re in a kidnap scenario, and you’re right. So nothing really new in terms of plot, there are plenty of similar themed movies in the world. What is different about this one is that it is mainly female lead. From the director to the main actors, the sisters are doing it for themselves, and making a pretty good fist of it. Don’t expect glamour à la Charlize Atomic Bombshell, Noomi makes Sam a gritty heroine, cold, unemotional, and exceedingly good in the kick-ass department. Although Nélisse is given the poor little rich girl rôle, she is smart, speaks arabic, and has to grow up fast in the predicament she finds herself in. That will do for spoilers, though I must mention one scene where Sam has to fight a would-be-kidnapper and does it with her hands tied behind her back, this is not choreographed chicanery à la John Wick, but hard, scary fight-for-your-life stuff and Ms.Rapace has amazing physicality to do this kind of stuff. Filmed in London, Marrakesh and Casablanca with Malte Rosenfeld in charge of cinematography, the scenery is authentic and beautiful in places.
Thoroughly enjoyed this, the plot is a bit hokey now and then, and a bit clichéd at times, but Jewson keeps everything moving at a decent pace and doesn’t over-egg the pudding with the fight scenes. The movie is 1 hr and 34 minutes long, or short by todays standards, and Rapace elevates the trope by giving us a believable action heroine that’s worth spending that hour and a half in her company.
Phil’s choice for the Thursday retro movie this week is Soldier (1998), a sci-fi action movie, directed by Paul Anderson and written by David Webb Peoples. David Webb Peoples? that’s a weird name but he’s a good writer having also done the mighty Blade Runner, and our recently reviewed Unforgiven. It stars Kurt Russell as Sergeant Todd, who has been trained since birth to be a super-soldier, highly disciplined and dedicated to the military. He and the rest of his squad were picked as babies in 1996 and trained rigorously to be impassive, unemotional, fearless and ruthless killers, at the beck and call of the Army.
It is now 2036 and the squad are now 40 years old, with Todd being the best soldier of the 1996 intake, and a battle hardened veteran. Then along comes Colonel Mekum (Jason Issacs) with a new squad of soldiers, this time genetically modified to be better than the old ones, and with a higher level of aggression. Captain Church (Gary Busey) wants to test the new ones against the old ones, and of course the new ones out perform the old. One of the new ones, Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee) easily defeats 2 of the older soldiers while high up on a climbing chain rope thingy but Sgt Todd manages to gouge out one of his eyes before Caine knocks him off to join the other dead oldies on the floor. Of course he’s not really dead as he landed on one of his men so was just unconscious for a bit. Mekum orders the 3 to be sent on a waste-transport ship to Arcadia 234, a wasteland of a planet where interplanetary junk is dumped, and Mekum also declares the old squad obsolete, and reassigns them to menial tasks.
On Arcadia Todd finds a group of people who had crash landed there on the way to another planet, and as they were all believed to be dead, there’s been no rescue mission to save them, so they’ve made a colony out of dumped garbage and lived there for 3 years. Todd is taken in by Mace (Sean Pertwee) and his wife Sandra (a luminous Connie Nielson) who have a mute son Nathan ( played by twins Jared & Taylor Thorne) who Todd bonds with. Todd has problems adapting to civvy life, and has feelings he doesn’t understand for Sandra, and unfortunately a few incidents i.e Todd is surprised and tries to kill the surpriser, or acts inappropriately to the colony, result in them asking him to leave.
In the meantime, Mekum has decided that Arcadia will be an excellent training ground for his new super-soldiers, and being as it’s supposedly uninhabited, anyone they do come across can be seen as hostiles and eliminated.
That’s it for spoilers, I’ve set the scene and you can guess the rest, or watch the movie. We really enjoyed this one much more than expected for an older sci-fi movie. Kurt Russell was amazing, and you can see what a challenge this part was for an actor. He was in 85% of the scenes, but only spoke 104 words throughout the whole movie, but the emotional turmoil, the aggression, the sadness all came through in his eyes, he knocked this one out of the park. The scenery was so well done, lots of junk and dystopian scenery and the cinematographer David Tattersall must have had a blast. The critics were so-so about it back then, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly :- “any cliché you can dream up for a futuristic action movie, any familiar big-budget epic you can think to rip off, Soldier has gotten there first.” Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader :- called Russell’s performance ‘persuasive‘ and said “this appealing formulaic action adventure displays a lot of conviction in its not-too-flashy action scenes and a little levity in the gradual socialization of Russell’s character.” Am agreeing with that Lisa!
Trivia Factoid:- David Peoples, as mentioned, wrote the script for Blade Runner, and Soldier is supposed to be a spin off sidequel as it’s in the same fictional universe. Russell’s character is shown to have fought in the battles of the Shoulder of Orion and Tannhäuser Gate, which Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) refers to in his dying speech to Decker. There is also a Spinner (flying cars used in Blade Runner) amongst the detritus on the planet, and several references to elements found in Philip K Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, which Blade Runner is based on.
Fraggle Rating :- Better than expected, with Kurt Russell Bloody Brilliant.
My choice for Saturday night was the latest Netflix offering, Enola Holmes (2020). Based on the first of a series of books by Nancy Springer, it focuses on the teenage sister of Sherlock Holmes, who is already a famous detective.
Directed by Harry Bradbeer and produced by Millie Bobby Brown who also stars as Enola. Set in Victorian England, Enola has grown up with only her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) for companionship. Eudoria teaches her daughter, chess, ju-jitsu, chemistry and has her read every book in the library of their home, Ferndell Hall, and to play word games with cyphers. On Enola’s 16th birthday, she wakes up to find her mother has disappeared, leaving her only a cryptic message in a birthday gift. Her brothers Sherlock, (Henry Caville) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) – who owns the hall and is Enola’s legal guardian turn up, and whilst Sherlock is sympathetic to Enola, Mycroft insists she should be sent off to boarding school. That’s the ending of spoilers (just about) but the movie involves Enola escaping to London to search for her mother, along the way meeting another escapee, the young Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who joins her in travelling to London.
This was such a fun movie and Millie Bobby Brown aced the part of Enola. England looked beautiful and some of our stately homes were used to great effect, Ferndell Hall’s exterior was Benthall Hall in Shropshire where the gardeners allowed the garden to get really overgrown and let the production team drape overgrown vines all over it, the interior was filmed in a medieval manor house, West Horsley Place in Surry where Michael Carlin the production designer said they were given free rein in the house, spending weeks bringing the Holmes matriarch’s world to life. Hatfield House was used for Lord Tewkesbury’s ancestral home Basilweather House, where we meet The Dowager, Tewkesbury’s Brexiteer grandmother played wonderfully by Frances De La Tour.
Greenwich Naval College is used for Enola’s introduction to London where the production crew built shop facades on a huge set in Greenwich to achieve the vibe of a bustling city. Standing in for the gritty East End, is a series of outbuildings in Luton Hoo, and the scene of an excellent fight between Enola and Linthorn (Burn Gorman) a bowler hatted henchman trying to kill the Viscount, but I won’t say who he belongs to as it would be a spoiler.
The movie is set amidst the womens suffrage movement of 1884. The fight for women’s right to vote causes division in the country as those who are rooted in tradition clash with new thinkers, and this is pertinant to the plot.
Another one to really enjoy, the photography and cinematography a complete joy to behold. The costume department did themselves proud too. Fans of Sherlock Holmes, Downton Abbey, The Crown etc will love it! The music score didn’t get in the way of the story and everyone acted well and looked like they were having a blast.
The critics mostly loved it, John Defore of The Hollywood Reporter :- “It successfully imagines a place for its heroine in Holmes’ world, then convinces young viewers that Enola needn’t be constrained by that world’s borders.” and Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post :- “Enola Holmes offers brisk and exuberant escape from the heaviness of modern times, with its leading actress lending her own appealing touches to the journey. When the game is afoot, she’s more than capable, not just of keeping up, but winning the day.” Though Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle wrote “A bright young actress, a movie-star actor and a potentially interesting concept gets smothered in 128 minutes of colorful, empty nonsense.” Phil and I thoroughly enjoyed this particular piece of empty nonsense and will look forward to the sequel(s) of which there’s bound to be, as there are 6 books written!
Trivia factoid. :- The Conan Doyle Estate filed a lawsuit against Netflix over the film, claiming it violates copyright by depicting Sherlock Holmes as having emotions, an aspect of the character which they argue does not fall under the public domain as he was only described as having emotions in stories published between 1923 to 1927, and the copyright for the stories published in that period still belong to the estate. 🙄 🙄 🙄. get a grip people of the CDE!!
Fraggle Rating :- Great fun, Millie Bobby Brown is Bloody Brilliant.
Not a movie today, but a TV series and equally as good. We recently watched Godless (2017) a one off series on Netflix consisting of 7 brilliant episodes and no second series, so a nice one to just enjoy with a beginning a middle and an end.
The plot: (No spoilers as this one is too new 🙂 )
We are in New Mexico in the 1880’s and the notorious outlaw Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels in great form) has a gang of ne’er do wells, who rob trains and other places and are not above shooting anyone who gets in their way. One of the members of the gang is a handsome chap called Roy Goode (Jack O’Connel) who has been like a son to Jeff. But Roy is sick of being a bad’un, betrays Frank and goes on the run, ending up at the ranch of Alice Fletcher ( Michelle Dockery), a beautiful hardass widow who lives on the outskirts of the town of La Belle with her son and mother-in-law, both Native Americans . La Belle is mostly inhabited by the widows of mining men who were all killed when the mine collapsed.
Frank is determined to catch Roy at all costs and happy to kill anyone who stands in his way. The widows end up banding together to protect Roy.
That’s it for spoilers, it’s too good to go in knowing the rest of the plot. The cast for this series are just great. Apart from Daniels, Sam Waterstone takes the part of Marshall John Cook, hunting Frank and with Scoot McNairy playing the Sherrif of La Belle, Bill McNue, who is losing his eyesight and is scorned by the ladies of La Belle for his drunken behaviour. Merritt Weaver is just brilliant as Mary Agnes, the Sherrif’s sister, a feisty woman who is great with a gun and dresses in her dead husbands clothing.
It was so refreshing to see a Western with a lot of great major roles for strong lady characters, and Scott Frank who both wrote and directed it did a class job.
It got a lot of positive reviews and rightly so, with The Washington Post and Vanity Fair putting it in their top 10 best-of-the-year lists.
Cinematographically speaking Steven Meizler was in charge, and filmed it in New Mexico, perfect Western country.
We enjoyed this so were hoping there would be a second series, but Scott Frank says he has no other story to follow on, and in retrospect that’s a good thing, always leave them wanting more.
Highly recommended with a rating of Bloody Brilliant.
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!
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.
Both our movies this week have stellar casts, so we’ll start with Phil’s Retro Thursday movie which stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Sam Shepherd, Halle Berry, and Don Cheadle, and was directed by Dominic Sena. Swordfish (2001) is a crime thriller, and we were rewinding to see the opening sequence again within 5 minutes of the start! An explosion in slow-motion with the camera sweeping around so you get to see people, cars and bits of building flying in great detail. For all that this isn’t really a shoot’em up action movie, and there is very little blood and guts in it. The plot revolves around Jackman’s character, Stanley Jobson, a paroled computer/cyber hacker who isn’t allowed to use the internet, and also has a restraining order put on him by his wife, preventing him from seeing his little girl. The fabulously named Andrea Donna De Matteo plays the wife, Melissa with seedy relish as she is an alcoholic part-time porn star. Halle Berry as Ginger Knowles recruits Stanley to work for Gabriel Shear (Travolta) and produce a computer virus, ‘hydra’, to hack into a government slush fund and steal $9 1/2 billion out of which Jackman will be paid $10 million which will sort his problems out and enable him to afford a lawyer to help get his daughter back. Don Cheadle is an FBI agent who is on to Stanley but uses him to get to Gabriel, who turns out to be an operative for Senator Reisman, (Shepherd) who oversees Black Cell, a clandestine organisation set up by J.Edgar Hoover to eliminate terrorists who threaten the USA. As always, no spoilers so I’ll leave it there. Well, we enjoyed it, even after 20 years the explosion scenes were well done, and the plot had a few twists in it but was easy to follow. The actors were not stretched here, but Jackman and Berry were nice to look at, apparently Berry got a $500,000 sweetener on top of her $2 million salary for getting her tits oot for the lads in a completely gratuitous scene, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do I suppose. Travolta deservedly won a Golden Raspberry award for worst actor 🤣 but it didn’t matter. The critics panned it, but it still did well at the box office. Best bits- the opening explosion, and the TVR car chase.
My Saturday Night Fun movie was Run All Night (2015), on Netflix now, which I wouldn’t have chosen if I hadn’t read Keith’s review of it. Again the cast held promise, Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, and Joel Kinnaman are the main stars and it was directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, who is making a habit of directing Neeson in action movies. And Run All Night is definitely a full on action movie. Taking place in New York over one night, the plot revolves around Neeson’s character Jimmy Conlon having to save his son Mike (Kinnaman) from being killed by the mob headed up by Shawn Maguire (Harris). You could be forgiven now for thinking ‘oh no another ‘Taken” ‘ but you’d be wrong, as Jimmy is a down and out ex-mob assassin, who once worked for Maguire, and his nickname ‘The Gravedigger’ indicates his success in that sphere. Mike has disowned him after a turbulent childhood and became a chauffeur and retired professional boxer who mentors at-risk kids at the local gym. Maguire’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is an upstart entrepreneur in the underworld and murders an Albanian drug dealer and his bodyguards, whomst Mike had taken to Danny’s place. Mike witnesses Danny killing one of the henchmen who had escaped and was on his way back to Mike’s limo. Unfortunately Danny knows Mike saw him, and in spite of his Dad’s instructions to the contrary, goes off to get rid of Mike. That’s the stoppage point for spoilers. For all that it is an action movie, the director intersperses the action with emotional scenes between Jimmy and Mike, and both Neeson and Kinnaman do these really well, so that you care about the outcome for both of them. Because Maguire and Jimmy have a long history together, there is a lot involved in their relationship as well and that too is addressed, Ed Harris spot on as the steely eyed vengeful Maguire. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a non-corrupt cop (there are a few corrupt ones working for Maguire) who wants to put Jimmy behind bars from the homicides he’s got away with. So, much more to this than the ‘action’ genre it’s labelled with. The soundtrack is cool, and Collett-Sera directs his stars between action and acting with a smooth touch.