This Week’s Films (23/12/13)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Bel Ami (2012)Bel Ami

Based on Guy de Maupassant’s classic novel, this tale of temptation and obsession chronicles Georges Duroy’s (Robert Pattinson) rise to power from his meager beginnings as a penniless ex soldier by using the city’s most influential and wealthy women. Set in turn of the century Paris, Duroy seduces Mme de Marelle (Christina Ricci) then marries a former comrade’s wife, Madeleine Forrestier (Uma Thurman). Fueled by his insatiable quest of lustful greed, Duroy conquers Madame Walter (Kristen Scott Thomas), only to learn that every conquest is marred by betrayal and true love eludes him.

Verdict: A great cast disappointingly underachieve in a film that summarises the events and liaisons rather than develop them further. 4/10

RedactedRedacted (2007) 

Inspired by true events REDACTED follows a group of soldiers who are stationed at a checkpoint in Iraq. Angel Salazar is an aspiring filmmaker who is intent on capturing his experience on videotape. His fellow soldiers seem to be surprisingly well-adjusted at first but it isn’t long before their true colours come through. When Reno decides to get drunk and harass an Iraqi family the situation devolves into rape and murder putting an incredible strain on Lawyer who wants to expose Reno but doesn’t want to rat out a fellow soldier.

Verdict: Gritty and often unpleasant, De Palma’s fictionalised documentary conveys many brutal truths about Iraq but some elements, especially the aftermath of the harrowing story at the centre of this piece lack development. 6/10

Stuck On You (2003) Stuck on You

“Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear make a terrific team” (Newsweek) in this delightfully demented comedy from the inseparable Farrelly Brothers (Shallow Hal, There’s Something About Mary). Conjoin the fun with Bob (Damon) and Walt (Kinnear) Tenor, two brothers who share a passion for life—and a liver. But their unique bond leads to wild complications when Walt decides to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and persuades his reluctant sibling to go along for the ride! Loaded with over-the-top humor and outrageous antics, Stuck On You will leave you beside yourself with laughter!

Verdict: Much better than I expected, Stuck On You benefits from the performances of Damon and Kinnear and has enough laughs to make it worth consideration. 7/10

Angel-AAngel-A (2005)

From the director of The Professional and The Fifth Element comes a stunning, sexy tribute to the healing power of love. When André, a down-on-his-luck gambler, dives into the icy Seine to end it all, he winds up instead rescuing Angela, a gorgeous, mysterious blonde. Filled with renewed passion for life, they set out to settle André’s scores as they wander the City of Lights. Along the way, André finds himself, but he still has some questions about his leggy, lovely companion -can she really be as heavenly as she seems? Filled with wit, warmth and eye-popping visuals,Angel-A shows just how high you can soar when passion takes flight.

Verdict: A beautifully filmed and unusual story of redemption and love, Angel-A does fade slightly towards the end but overall it’s a good effort from Luc Besson. 7/10

Incendiary (2008)Incendiary 

A woman has to deal with feelings of grief and guilt after her husband and son die in a terrorist attack. A young London mother (Michelle Williams) waves her husband and son goodbye as they head off to see a local football match. As soon as they’re gone, she entertains local news reporter Jasper Black (Ewan MacGregor), with whom she’s been having an affair. As the two begin making love, a news flash on the television informs them that a suicide bomber has attacked the stadium which her husband and child were attending. In a blind panic, the woman heads for the football ground, where she runs into her late husband’s boss, police officer Terence Butcher (Matthew Macfadyen). In the following weeks, as she attempts to put her life back in order, she’s introduced to, and befriends, a young boy (Sidney Johnston) whose father was involved in the attack.

Verdict: Begins well but despite an excellent performance from Michelle Williams the film throws in too many narrative threads with many feeling unresolved by the end. 5/10

OutrageOutrage (2010) 

The king of yakuza epics Takeshi Kitano (Brother, Zatoichi, Hana-Bi, Sonatine) returns with his most violent gangster film yet.  

Mr. Chairman, the head of the ruling Sannokai yakuza clan, suspects that his henchman Ikemoto has struck a forbidden alliance with rival gangster Murase. Ikemoto tries to quell his boss’ distrust by making a move against Murase, marking the start of a ruthless series of conflicts and betrayals.  Before long, several yakuza clans are out for blood in their constant battle for power and money.  The rival bosses fight to rise through the ranks by scheming and making short-lived allegiances.  In this corrupt world where there are no heroes, it’s a bad guy vs. bad guy in a spiralling outrage of gang warfare.

Verdict: Outrage offers a very violent but always intriguing duel between rival yakuza families. 7/10

Belle De Jour (1967)Belle de Jour 

The porcelain perfection of Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion) hides a cracked interior in the actress’s most iconic role: Séverine, a chilly Paris housewife by night, a bordello prostitute by day. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis Buñuel (Viridiana) is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression, which was one of Buñuel’s biggest hits.

Verdict: An interesting story of sexual repression and desire with a sprinkling of director Luis Bunuel’s penchant for surrealism. 7/10

Brick LaneBrick Lane (2007) 

A young Bangladeshi woman, Nazneem, arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu, she fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina, meanwhile, continues to live a carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Nazneen struggles to accept her lifestyle, and keeps her head down in spite of life’s blows, but she soon discovers that life cannot be avoided – and is forced to confront it the day that the hotheaded young Karim comes knocking at her door.

Verdict: Despite some good performances, Brick Lane is unfortunately too slow and ponderous in places. 6/10

Le Mepris (1963) Le Mepris

An aspiring playwright, Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) finds himself caught between the creative director (Fritz Lang playing himself) and the crass producer Prokosch (Jack Palance) on a movie version of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. While the director wants to faithfully re-create Homer’s world, the producer waves his chequebook and wants more mermaids. When Paul finds himself swayed by the power of the producer’s money, he finds his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) begins to regard him with increasing contempt.

Verdict: A beautifully filmed depiction of both a deteriorating marriage and a reflection on Homer’s Odyssey as the archaic tale is adapted into a film. Well worth a look. 8/10

Azumi2Azumi 2: Death or Love (2005) 

Sequel to the Japanese period action film. For their next mission, Azumi (Aya Ueto) and Nagara (Yuma Ishigaki) head towards the Kudo Mountains with the help of a beautiful female ninja (Chiaki Kuriyama) to track down and kill Sanada (Toshiya Nagasawa). On the journey, Azumi meets a young thief, Ginkaku (Shun Oguri), who resembles her first love and friend Nachi, whom she was ordered to kill to prove her worth as an assassin. As Azumi and Ginkaku’s feelings towards each other grow, Ginkaku tries to persuade Azumi to quit her life as an assassin and lead a normal life with him. Nagara is advised by Kozue (Chiaki Kuriyama) to let Azumi go her own way, unaware that Kozue has motives of her own for wanting to split them up. As Azumi draws nearer to her target, she must defeat the armies that have been sent to kill her and learn the awful truth about Kozue.

Verdict: As good as the first film with some even better fight sequences than its predecessor. 6/10

The End of the Line (2009)The End of the Line

Humans have long regarded the world’s oceans as vast and inexhaustible. Now, we have learned otherwise.

Based on the critically acclaimed book by Charles Clover, THE END OF THE LINE charts the devastating ecological impact of overfishing by interweaving both local and global stories of sharply declining fish populations, including the imminent extinction of the bluefin tuna, and illuminates how our modern fishing capacities far outstrip the survival abilities of any ocean species. Scientists explain how this depletion has slipped under the public radar and outline the catastrophic future that awaits us an ocean without fish by 2048 if we do not adjust our fishing and consumption practices.

An alarming call to action that is already changing the world, the film narrates an escalating global crisis that can only be avoided by recovering and sustaining the incredible vitality of the sea. Beyond detailing the issues at hand, THE END OF THE LINE outlines the solutions, motivating supermarkets, restaurants and individuals to take the necessary steps to save the ocean. Now you can join them.

Verdict: A brief but fascinating warning about the dangers of overfishing across the globe. 8/10

IroncladIronclad (2011)  

A Medieval Magnificent Seven, Ironclad is a violent action thriller that tells the true story of a motley crew of tough, battle hardened warriors, who withstood several brutal and bloody months under siege, in a desperate bid to defend their country.

Verdict: Plenty of action but the characters are underwhelming and even the usually reliable Paul Giamatti seemed uncomfortable in his role. 5/10

S. Darko (2009) S. Darko

Straight-to-DVD sequel to the cult 2001 film ‘Donnie Darko’. Seven years after Donnie’s death, his little sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase) and her best friend Corey (Briana Evigan), now 18 years old, take off on a road trip to Los Angeles in a bid to hit the big time. When their car breaks down in the small desert town of Conejo Springs, a sequence of bizarre occurences is set in motion that undermines the girls’ friendship and threatens to herald the end of the world.

Verdict: Rather than create a new story, S.Darko revisits many elements of the first film but somehow gets it all wrong and leaves you wondering why a sequel to Richard Kelly’s masterpiece was ever considered. 2/10

Mr NobodyMr Nobody (2009)

In 2092, the oldest man in the world is 118 year old Nemo (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, American Psycho). He is on his death bed reflecting on the three main loves of his life to a reporter. There was his great but taboo love Anna (Diane Kruger, Unknown, Inglourious Basterds); Elise (Sarah Polley, Splice), whom a relationship was developed with out of circumstance; and Jean (Linh Dan Pham, Indochine), who he shared an impassionate life of luxury with. However, when these stories intersect and overlap, the reporter begins to question if any of these lives and stories are real or just a figment of his old imagination.

Verdict: Visually stunning with a great cast and some moving performances, Mr. Nobody suffers only with its run time of 2+ hours which can be demanding given its many twists and turns. 9/10

Adam & Paul (2004)Adam and Paul

Friends since they were small boys, Adam and Paul have withered into two hapless, desperate Dublin junkies, tied together by habit and necessity. A stylized, downbeat comedy, the film follows the pair through a single day, which like every other, is entirely devoted to the business of scrounging and robbing money for drugs. The difference today is that Adam and Paul, already rock bottom, have finally run out of luck, credit and friends.

Verdict: A day in the life of two Dublin drug addicts has some amusing moments and good performances from the two leads. 6/10

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

**FILM OF THE WEEK**

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

By far the most ambitious, unflinchingly graphic and stylistically influential western ever mounted, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an engrossing actioner shot through with a volatile mix of myth and realism. Clint Eastwood returns as the “Man With No Name,” this time teaming with two gunslingers (Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef) to pursue a cache of $200,000 and letting no one, not even warring factions in a civil war, stand in their way. From sun-drenched panoramas to bold, hard close-ups, exceptional camera work captures the beauty and cruelty of the barren landscape and the hardened characters who stride unwaveringly through it. Forging a vibrant and yet detached style of action that had not been seen before, and has never been matched since, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly shatters the western mold in true Clint Eastwood style.

Verdict: Though not as good as Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone’s epic western is still engaging and never dull throughout its 3 hours. 9/10

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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