But it would be nice if future instalments weren't quite so predictable.
Barry Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West is a film that I have avoided for over 15 years. I have no frame of reference with the source materials, but even though I'm a big Westerns fan, it wasn't this, or the critical pounding it got on release, that kept me away. It was the original trailers for it, it just looked like a garbled over budgeted mess - which it kinda is.
However, that's not to say there isn't fun to be had, because for all its many failings (poor effects, poor script, waste of a strong cast, superficiality), there is some verve and swagger, excitement, Will Smith's likability and some splendid gadgets. Having very low expectations no doubt helped me out, but I would hardly call this a 1/10 type of film. I say chill out with a beer, turn the home cinema speakers up and just roll with it, because thinking about it too deeply could possibly make you angry... 5/10
Darkness in Devon.
Tim Roth dons the directing hat for the first time and brings to the screen a shattering tale of incest and child abuse. Alexander Stuart adapts from his own novel and it stars Ray Winstone, Lara Belmont, Freddie Cunliffe and Tilda Swinton. Story is about a family who have moved from London to the Devonshire coast. The son, Tom, is unhappy and feels alienated in the new surroundings, but when he discovers a dark family secret, things become much much worse.
It's an uncomfortable viewing experience at times, making it a film you don't readily recommend, but Roth's approach to the story gives out a powerful message without exploitation or sermonising. The script is deliberately taut and sparse, while the marrying up of the crashing waves and jagged rocks of the locale with the emotional turmoil is a deft piece of directing. The use of newcomers Belmont and Cunliffe add a potent sense of realism to the whole thing, aided no end by an intelligent screenplay that doesn't go for conventionality. Quite simply it's an unforgettable film, a claustrophobic emotional battering ram of celluloid. 9/10
Sometimes you gotta sacrifice a single sheep to save the rest.
The Salvation is directed by Kristian Levring and Levring co-writes the screenplay with Anders Thomas Jensen. It stars Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Jonathan Pryce and Douglas Henshall. Music is by Kasper Winding and cinematography by Jens Schlosser.
1871 and ex-patriot Danish soldier Jon Jensen (Mikkelsen) is, after 7 years of foundation building, welcoming his wife and son to a new life in America. But after they all board a stagecoach bound for their homestead, events will see that journey not be completed. And thus begins a tale of retribution and redemption.
There are few smiles in The Salvation, in fact viewers will need to grab onto the sparse offerings of such very early in the piece. For it's a film of blood, brooding and misery, of intensity and a paucity of the good side of human nature. Levring has managed to successfully blend the traditions of the American Western with the feel of the Euro Spaghetti Oaters. There is so much for Western fans to enjoy here. It's a classic revenger pumped by a good versus bad heart, yet as pared down and as simple as the story may at first seem, there's interesting asides of worth.
The issue of Euro immigrants trying to make it in the Wild West is noteworthy, while there's a delicious juxtaposition between two soldiers from different continents, and different wars. Jensen fought the Germans in Europe, while his nemesis, Henry Delarue (Morgan), has been through the Indian wars. A most interesting comparison, one where the characterisations are vividly opposed to each other. Add in a good old town in the grip of a tyrant theme, and a bit of carnal desires upon thine brother's spouse, and it's a spicy hot pot.
Filmed at dusty South African locations, there's a scenic beauty surrounding the harsh story. Westerns don't have to be filmed in America to look authentic, and this is a case in point. The town of Black Creek has been called fake looking in some quarters, not so. This is a new up-coming town, it's meant to be wooden and sparse. Hell! The saloon is also the local store, the mayor is also the undertaker, this is a basic Wild West town without frills and fancy.
Elsewhere the costuming is splendid, especially Morgan who is nicely dapper in black hat and crimson mack, and there's a whole host of face fuzz on show, which is needed to keep up the whole mud and blood, hard West factor. Levring has an eye for a nice shot, such as a full moon bearing witness, even a traditional slow-mo piece. All that said, irks do exist, Green's character is sketchily drawn, but she's playing a heaving bosom mute (her tongue was cut out by the pesky Indians), so scope for development is admittedly limited. While Winding's score is a bit too modern sounding for the key shoot-out sequences.
Ultimately it's great to see the Western is still thriving in this day and age of CGI and blockbuster pandering. From the shattering and moody first quarter to the bloody and excellently staged finale, The Salvation keeps the Western genre well and truly alive. 9/10
Unity is powerful.
The Garment Jungle is directed by Robert Aldrich and Vincent Sherman. The screenplay is adapted by Harry Kleiner from "Gangsters in the Dress Business" by Lester Velie. It stars Lee J. Cobb, Kerwin Matthews, Richard Boone, Robert Loggia, Gia Scala and Valerie French. Music is by Leith Stevens and cinematography by Joseph Biroc.
Alan Mitchell (Matthews) returns from the War to help his father Walter (Cobb) run the family fashion designer factory. Unfortunately he finds a business being protected by local hoodlum Artie Ravidge (Boone), who has the backing of Walter, and who is defiant in not letting the Union into the company. Things are about to turn very ugly and Alan is right in the middle of it.
Robert Aldrich is uncredited in a lot of sources, but the film was 98% his work. Cobb had a sulk about where his character was going, it all came to a head and Columbia head Harry Cohn, not needing much of an excuse to fire Aldrich (who was sick as well), brought in Sherman to finish the film. Or at least that's the party line story...
Aldrich's mark is all over the film, the harsher edges involving racketeers and violence are unmistakably his. The characterisations are pungent with varying degrees of menace, betrayal, cowardice and stoicism, with morals and ethics brought into sharp focus. Much of the pic is filmed indoors, which is a shame because when Biroc gets to photograph outside in the New York locales, we can see that we could have had a visual film noir treat. Instead we get a very good pro Union drama with noir tints, though the softening of a key character, which Aldrich didn't aspire to, leaves you wondering just how much more spicy things could have been. 7/10
Everybody oughta listen to his mother.
Boston criminal Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is in the mire, the cops have him bang to rights and he's facing a long stretch in the big house. However, if he turns informant he will keep out of poky...
For far too long this film had been stuck hidden away in pirate hell, thankfully it finally saw the light of day and can be seen for all its glory. Peter Yates directs and Paul Monash adapts the screenplay from the George V. Higgins novel. Supporting Mitchum are Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats and Alex Rocco. Music is by Dave Grusin and cinematography by Victor J. Kemper.
It's a film noir lovers picture, a throw back to the halcyon days of the first wave of noir back in the 1940s. So who better than a battered pug faced Mitchum to front up the story? Pic is perpetually downbeat, with the air of despondency hanging over our protagonist like the grim reaper. The underworld painted by Yates and his team is smartly stripped down to basics, it's a world that is after all, always moving in secretive circles. There's no frilly glamour here, there's crime and consequences, realistic street operations, and brilliantly there's believable characterisations.
With dialogue dominating the narrative, it's not one for the action junkie - though the set-pieces are superbly staged by Yates, this is a neo-noir of high respect to previous blood lines. And it boasts a quite brilliant turn from Mitchum whilst not copping out at the finale. Noir heads rejoice! 9/10