Sunday 6 June 2010

Film roundup

I'm not going to bother with lengthy film reviews on this blog (if you want great film reviews let me plug my mate Ben's blog which is excellent). However, as much for my own records as much as anything, I'll throw a list of micro-reviews on from time to time. Here are a few films I've watched recently:

Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010) *****
Believe it or not, this film isn't particularly dark, or even particularly satirical. But it's definitely a Chris Morris film.  It's basically a farce - the humour is borderline slapstick at times - but with some daft ideas and trippy moments. And it's about terrorists. Killer lines include "The Jews invented spark plugs so they could control global traffic, blud.". Don't worry about it being offensive; it's not. It's just funny.

Spartan (David Mamet, 2004) ****
I'm a huge David Mamet fan. From Oleanna (one of my all time favourite plays - even thinking about it gets me enraged, such is the power of the script) to Glengarry Glen Ross, virtually everything written by Mamet is tighter than a gnat's arse. The dialogue, or course, is charged with testosterone in typical Mamet style and with few wasted lines, although, unusually, one or two Hollywood teethgrinders slip through the net. However, lines like"Honey, you got all the slack in the world until I leave this room. Then I'm gonna zero you out" make up for it. Val Kilmer is hard as nails, with a good supporting cast, although little is made of William H Macy's character, which is a minor disappointment. Overall, however, it's a tough thriller which is very well put together, despite its rather conventional storyline, and well worth a watch.

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008) ****
I had been expecting some weird "somehow-brilliant-schmaltz-fest". Far from it: think City of God rather than Dreamgirls. Danny Boyle strikes gold again as Slumdog shows up the best and the worst of both India and human nature. "Feelgood" yes, but mainly because you feel good that you haven't wasted your money on some overhyped film. Strong.

Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2005) *****
This was my third experience of a Mike Leigh film which I went into with some trepidation: whilst I enjoyed Secrets & Lies, Happy-go-lucky was one of the biggest cinematic turds I've ever sat through in my life. This was a "make-or-break" for me. As it happens, I needn't have worried - it's a superb film. Unusually for films which revolve around a Terrible Secret, where the tension is relieved once the Secret gets out, Vera Drake only really kicks into action once Vera's backstreet-abortionist sideline is revealed. Tensions between family and friends are unbearable at times thereafter thanks to brilliant directions and acting, and the transformation of Vera (Imelda Staunton) from local Pillar to pariah is extraordinary - the portrayal of a woman's demise is exceptional.

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