The Captive – 7/10.

Standard

the-captive

Grim faces all round as Ryan Reynolds keeps a top on throughout.

I don’t normally do a proper synopsis but I think it is important here for context. The Captive centers around the tragic kidnapping of a little girl who then becomes a kind of poster girl for other child abusers. Child abuse is probably the most emotive and controversial subject matter there is and The Captive does a great job in keeping its emotions in check without resorting to sensationalism (Prisoners) or just down right cynical exploitation (Hard Candy). Aside from the subject matter The Captive is a frustrating film. Running out of chronological order renders the first half an hour utterly baffling and doesn’t add a great deal to the story. A couple of well placed flash backs could have done the same job. The plot in itself is captivating but some of the character behaviors are laughably unrealistic. Ryan Reynolds has kind of gone off track since Green Lantern and if that was his Daredevil it is safe to say The Captive will not be his Argo. That is not to say that he isn’t very strong though. This will surprise casual Reynolds fans but this isn’t actually a great departure from a lot of his other work. In between making terrible, career ruining choices about big projects Reynolds has a few quirky abnormality’s on his CV and this is an interesting addition. Elsewhere Rosario Dawson is understated and very effective but Scott Speedman stinks the place out with a robotic turn as a cliche tough guy cop. A lot to like but The Captive feels like a missed opportunity.

Zero Effect – 6/10.

Standard

are061710

Private investigators investigate things privately.

I have never liked films about private investigators. They all seem derivative and unoriginal to me. I don’t think the genre has moved on much since Sherlock Holmes. Even Chinatown didn’t do a great deal for me. Zero Effect is no different. Brilliant but troubled PI solves puzzles using unorthodox techniques while his long suffering sidekick tries to keep him on track. Recent HBO show Bored to Death tried to reverse this trend by having an ineffectual comedy detective but the overall film noir feel of that show ensured it still succumbed to genre trappings. All of this is a shame because the three main players here are all really good. Ryan O Neal is great and believable, grounding the film and adding a bit of drama to an otherwise light hearted flick. Ben Stiller always does better in less ‘zany’ roles and he is restrained and solid. The star of the show though is Bill Pullman. Despite playing a cliche character he adds an enigmatic air of mystery to a role that is difficult to pin down. He also has the funniest moments. Zero Effect is not a film I enjoyed but maybe that is just because it is not really my thing rather than the film itself being bad. It also suffers from not knowing whether it wants to be a comedy or a crime drama.

A Simple Plan – 7/10

Standard

simpleplan

Three good old boys discover a huge amount of money. Make terrible decisions.

Director Sam Raimi is most well known for the original Spiderman trilogy and The Evil Dead series so A Simple Plan is a nice change of pace. Bill Paxton is an actor who has never really captured my attention despite appearing in a thousand movies but he is actually terrific throughout. A Simple Plan is another fine example of how an uncomplicated story with a simple message (money can’t buy you happiness) can make for a great film in the right hands. Billy Bob Thornton puts in a good shift as lovable and vulnerable Jacob and while Thornton was nominated for an Oscar, it is Paxton who really leads the way. Fans of Fargo – both the film and the TV show – will find a lot to enjoy in A Simple Plan.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – 6/10.

Standard

ghost-dog-sword

Man with a silly name kicks ass and eats ice cream.

Ghost Dog is not a terrible film. It has a brilliant hip hop soundtrack composed by RZA of Wu Tang Clan fame and features an interesting idea at it’s core. Mafia hit man who follows the ancient way of the samurai. Forest Whitaker is fine. Good even. Although he has little to do other than narrate deep and meaningful extracts from his Samurai hand book. The problem here is I didn’t connect with this movie. It flies straight in to the plot with little back story and character development and the film suffers massively for this. The ending should pack an emotional wallop but when the final shoot out hit I was already disinterested and also a bit bored. It is true I am not very familiar at all with cult director Jim Jarmusch or his work so maybe there is something I am missing here but Ghost Dog left me feeling cold. I think I might have preferred a film about an actual ghost dog. That sounds like fun.

Top Five Movie Bartenders

Standard

A good barman is a noble and rare beast. Here is a list of the greatest movie bartenders ever to yield a damp cloth:

 tumblr_m29qfc3lEx1rpf9sro1_1280

1. Lloyd – The Shining
Most barmen turn into a shivering wreck when faced with the slightest sign of complexity. Not Lloyd. Lloyd handles the notion that he is either a figment of Jack Torrance’s deranged mind or one of many impeccably dressed ghosts haunting an old hotel with a quiet dignity and professionalism. Lloyd is the type of guy who would never let a touch of existential despair get in the way of a classic Jack Daniels on the rocks. He is also ‘The best Goddamn bartender from Timbuktu to Portland Maine…or Portland Oregon for that matter.’

Goodfellas_211Pyxurz

2. Spider – Goodfellas
Spider has an inauspicious start in his role as primary bartender at an underground mob joint. He has a poor rapport with customers, a lousy attitude and his dancing leaves a lot to be desired. When he returns after being shot by Joe Pesci’s menacing gangster Tommy De Vito however Spider is a changed man. A good barman should be full of confidence and Spider is not afraid to tell an imposing gangster to go fuck himself. Though he might be dead, his spirit lives on in downtrodden, hard working bar folk everywhere. Extra points for popping up in the Sopranos alive and well.

tumblr_krz27oTBDY1qzhiqw

3. Razor Charlie – From Dusk Till Dawn
It is essential that a barman can handle their customers whether they be bikers, vampires or Harvey Keitel. Danny Trejo’s Razor Charlie deals with all three heroically whilst also sporting a tremendous moustache. The reasons for RC’s inclusion on this list are plentiful . He works in a bar called the Titty Twister. He makes George Clooney look silly by pouring George a drink and then drinking it himself. I’ll just let that sink in a second… HE MAKES GEORGE CLOONEY LOOK SILLY. Also THAT moustache!

52efebf3697ab040f100b65d._w.540_s.fit_

4. Gary – The Big Lebowski
It is quite difficult to picture Gary even though pop culture hero Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski maintains a pretty constant relationship with him throughout the Coen Brothers cult classic. It is this anonymity that makes Gary such a true pro. Rarely seen or heard; he lends a sympathetic ear to the dudes ongoing woes whilst also serving up a mean White Russian.

TOM+CRUISE+COCKTAIL

5. Brian Flanagan – Cocktail
The irrepressible Brian Flanagan is probably the most famous bartender in the movie world which makes him annoyingly difficult to leave off this list. Tom Cruise’s Flanagan may not be cool but he undoubtedly has talent. He would work in the upstairs cocktail bar but would be shunned by his co-workers.

Bar Manager:
Rick Blaine (Casablanca)
Because of course it is.

Doorman:
Dalton (Roadhouse)
Just ask Peter Griffin!

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – 7.5/10

Standard

spring-summer-fall-winter-and-sp-11

An old monk and his young apprentice live an idyllic life in isolation with a cat.

S,S,F,W & S (that will become annoying quickly) is a testament to what a talented director can do with a simple story. The film takes place entirely in one location but the different seasons vastly transform the singular setting into a plethora of contrasting representations. The symbolism is biblical in it’s simplicity and it’s beauty but the message is much more entrenched in the Eastern philosophy of Buddhism. The Hollywood equivalent of this kind of fable brought to life would be something like The Book of Eli but S,S,F,W & S (sigh) is much more enlightening and ultimately satisfying. Largely at odds with a lot of contemporary South Korean cinema (mainly because it isn’t batshit mental) Kim Ki-duk’s timeless parable is a nice change of pace for fans not just of film but of story telling in general.

Maleficent – 6/10.

Standard

Maleficent-2

 

Evil old woman shuns societal norms.

So after the perplexing success of Alice in Wonderland Hollywood has now decided that ‘dark re imaginings’ of much loved fairy tales is the order of the day. Maleficent follows Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel And Gretel The Witch Hunters and Snow White and the Huntsman and like those films it has varying degrees of success. Angelina Jolie has always had a bit of melodrama and panto about her so it is no surprise she is perfect in the titular role. Possibly still smarting from the enormous failure of The Tourist she really does put everything into her performance here and she carries the film throughout. Sam Riley provides solid support despite being inexplicably Irish but there is little else to love about Maleficent. To be fair at just under one hour and forty minutes it never outstays its welcome and some of the visuals and effects are nice. The problem with all these films is that they say they are dark but they are not really are they? Maleficent is no darker than Sleeping Beauty was. Thankfully Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) is at the helm for a new version of Pinocchio so that should raise the bar a bit.