The Watch

I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to write anything about this movie. It just does not work. I’ve never been a great fan of American situational comedy which all too often depends of the farcical and stupid to get a laugh.

This is a movie which just does not work for me. It is in some ways similar to Grabbers (see below) in that it involves a group of locals trying to defend their home from an alien invasion. That is where the comparison ends. The Watch is at the polar opposite  end of the scale to Grabbers. Don’t bother with it.  When I started this blog I ranted about W.E., the horror that Ms. Madonna inflicted on us. I said then it was technically one of the worst movies I had ever seen. Well, The Watch is not far behind, it just did not work.

Akiva Schaffer (Saturday Night Live, 2005-2011)  directed this movie and his lack of experience shows. The story evolves around small town store manager Evan, (Ben Stiller, Zoolander, 2001) forming a neighbourhood watch. The only takers are a rag-bag bunch of; Bob, the family guy (Vince Vaughan, Couples Retreat, 2009); Franklin, the want-to-be GI Joe (Jonah Hill, Moneyball, 2011) and Jamarcus the English IT guy…in every sense, ( The IT Crowd, 2006-).

After the usual male bonding and compensatory attempts at humour the team go out on patrol and quickly realise something is wrong. People are dying and going missing and Evan’s super-store seems to the centre of all that is happening. After more stupidity they eventually start to fight the aliens and ultimately of course win – sorry if I spoiled the ending. It seems that rather than try to find humour in the fight with the aliens the writers put in a load of male insecurity  and team building jokes which, all too regularly, seem like they are there just to fill time.

The supporting cast ranges from the usual fodder to the down-right stupid.  his movie is not funny, the attempts at humour are forced and often badly delivered. There is big difference between scripting a 3 or 5 minute comedy sketch and directing a 90+ minute feature.  This movie feels like the writers, who for the sake of their careers, I won’t name, came up one night with the outline of a movie and then as they had ideas filled in the missing bits over the next few days or weeks as they had a beer or two.

Rating 4/10 and I’m not even sure why I am being so generous. This movie is simply not good, W.E. was a vicious assault on the brain. Some people like the Stiller brand on anarchistic, lowest common denominator humour, not me.  Watch this at your own risk and remember it is time you will never get back. Or maybe this was a sketch which grew legs, that was the  nasty monster here.

The Imposter

This is an interesting film both in terms of format and content.  It is essentially the story of a boy being found in Spain in 1997, wet and silent, not talking to anyone.  After some trying he eventually reveals he is a young boy who went missing three years previously…or is he.  Having taking the identity from records at hand and through phone calls where he persuades US officials that he is the missing American boy.

The authorities put the boy in touch with his family, with his sister travelling to Spain to be reunited with him. Despite obvious physical differences he is taken in by the family.

The movie is the boy, now grown, a Frédéric Bourdin, retelling what transpired.  As the boy was reunited with his “family” back in Texas certain inconsistencies start to arise. One local private detective and another FBI agent independently look in to things. Why are the family so accepting of him? Are they hiding their own secret?

Eventually the answers to the boy’s identity come to light, and what we have is an astounding history from Bourdin.  I am not going in to detail as it is the uncovering of these details as the movie progress that makes it good cinema.

Director, Bart Layton (Banged up Abroad, 2006) has made his name in TV this is a rare trip to the big screen for him with a format which is often more typical of cable TV and often mind numbingly bad. This is not. It is well timed, well shot and keeps you engrossed to learn the eventual outcome.

This is a short note but the movie is straight forward and moves clearly.

Rating 8/10 this is a different piece of work which I was skeptical about prior to seeing, now I recommend.

Lawless

This movie just works is an understated way which moves at a pace which doesn’t outrun itself of get clogged down in slow tedium, it brings you along with the story and keeps you always wanting to see how a particular scene works out. I was happy to see it was based on a book (The Wettest County in the World, Matt Bondurant), which might be worth buying. Nick Cave (The Proposition, 2005) wrote the screenplay.

I mention The Proposition because the Director on that project was John Hillcoat (The Road, 2009), who ofcourse directed this offering. Set in Franklin County, Virginia during the prohibition years of the Great Depression it tracks the lives of the Bondurant brothers who apart from running a diner and garage just outside town also are some of the leading moonshiners in the county. The brothers are led by the quiet and cautious brother Forrest,(Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises, Bane See below) who despite his calm demeanour is more than capable of swift well aimed violence. The middle brother , Howard (Texas Killing Fields, 2011) and of course the youngest of the clan, Jack (Shia LaBeouf Transformers, 2007) who as with all in his position wants to grow up fast and show the world that he is as good as the rest of the family.

The problems start when the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia bring a new Special Deputy down from Chicago, Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, Lockout 2012)brought in Commonwealth’s Attorney. Fighting an honest lawman is one thing, or living with the local police who know when not to take action is manageable, but Rakes is a crocked as the rest and more vicious than most. Forrest has built up a business by being careful and steady while younger brother Jack is headstrong and eager to succeed.

This of course causes some tensions with Forrest having to clean-up after Jack more than once. Jack however manages to do business with the Chicago mafia, represented by a very under used Gary Oldman (Dead Fish, 2005), if I have one complaint is it the use of Mr. Oldman. His role is essentially a glorified cameo and although it works, I suspect he presence on set had a lot to do with box-office pull.

The movie progresses through a few short years as the brothers battle the police, other boot-legers and themselves until the final showdown. This comes quickly when it comes and is done well.

I mentioned the movie is understated, don’t mistake that for “slow” it is not a slow film, it is a steadily moving story which brings you along with the characters as the story moves along.

This is a good old fashioned prohibition era gangster movie, Mr. Gagney would have worked well here. The cinematography works well with the director using the natural cycles of the surrounding countryside to mark the passing of time.  The use of various signs and props also allows us to almost get a feeling of normality as life goes by.

Rating 8/10

St. George’s Day

This is a capable piece of entertainment, at times it perhaps attempts to be something greater than it is, but overall entertaining. Director by Frank Harper (This is England, 2006) who also co-wrote thje screenplay with  Urs Buehler  who up to now has been mainly technically involved in movie projects supporting camera and electrical work. Harper also stars in the production as Micky Mannock. Micky together with his cousin Ray Collishaw (Craig Fairbrass, London’s Burning, 1990). Craig wants to get out of the family business, His cousin Micky who runs the business with him agrees to buy him out.

This is where the trouble starts. Needing a sizeable amount of cash quickly Micky agrees to smuggle in a drugs load for the Netherlands.  This is where things go badly wrong. Firstly he is working with Russian Mafia who life up to all of the stereo types for violence. This is a fight on the boat over – the boat is capsized in a storm and the Russian on board is shot.

As a result of this, the Russians want vengeance for their man, along with their £20 million; this would be troublesome enough except for the fact that they also have the police after them in the guise of two of Scotland Yard’s finest Inspector Nixon (Jamie Foreman, Layer Cake, 2004) and his subordinate, Proctor (Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers, 2002).

This all leads to a spot of bother where the two cousins need to raise the necessary cash and try also guarantee their safety. In order to buy themselves some time they engage the services of Trenchard, (Charles Dance (Michael Collins, 1996), a London underworld kingpin who is in a position to negotiate a truce and make arrangements for the cousins to pay back the money.

Paying back the money is the problem, but crime partner Albert Ball (Vincent Regan, Troy, 2004) who arranged the original shipment and is based in Amsterdam knows of a blood diamond smuggling route via one of the carriers.  Working with the cousins they begin to formulate a plan for the diamonds.

In order to get the diamonds they piggy back to Europe with other family members and friends who happen to be football hooligans on their way to a match in Europe for an organised fight at it’s fringes.

Using the fight as cover they hatch a plan to rob the diamonds and get out of trouble.  The Russians and the police close behind them thanks to an informer add more pressure than is needed. What unravels is a decent crime caper with a well-populated supporting cast. It perhaps looks to its background alongside movies as The Football Factory etc. but perhaps it also has pretensions to classics such as The Long Good Friday (John MacKenzie, 1980), it falls short here. It should be said in their defence; TLGF is a very high target to aim for.

The many twists have a feel of Deus ex-machina after a while, where one wonders if they are used to strengthen plot weaknesses.

Rating 6/10 an entertaining yarn which should keep gangster and underworld movie fans happy. All of the clichés are here and the movie very much panders to the jack-the-lad London image of rough diamond jingoism masking as patriotism.

Tower Block

Directed by two first timers;  James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson, they take their experience and create a very passable offering.  Once you have overcome certain  hurdles with the setting first.

The setting is that of working class estate tower block which is being emptied with the residents moved else where. This comes on the back of a murder about a year previously where the killers got away because the local would not help the police.

As the film opens we are given small glimpses of our main characters, a drunk, some thug, working families, single mums and generally ordinary people As our “heroes” wake up one seemingly uneventful morning only to have a sniper fire in through their windows and start killing whoever he sees.

This, obviously, brings the survivors out to the corridor where they size what happed. Stopping here to reflect for a moment we need to forget the logistical issues, for example a tower block with residents only on one side, and those residents are on the top floor, the Health and Safety guys could make a whole other movie out of that.

I had to get that out of my system.  Once the shooting starts and the cast come together we have real start of the movie.  Within seconds it is obvious, we are not talking (Attack the Block , 2011 ) where our heroes defend the block (and the Earth) against terrifying aliens, of even (Dredd, 2012) where he battles out major urban warfare  both something  more subtle.  I was immediately put in mind of Lifeboat (Hitchcock, 1944) or Das Experiment, 2001).

What we have here is not a lecture in social ethics and morals, it raises the questions and answers them through the various cast members, we are then allowed to almost “judge” the characters by how they respond to being trapped and frightened.

Jack O’Connell (Skins, James Cook, 2009) plays the local yob Kurtis, who a day previous was forcing extortion money from his neighbours such as Becky (Sheridan Smith, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, 2001), a single women going about life as best she can. It should be noted that Smith flawlessly transitions from her normal comedy roles, as a matter of fact a number of the cast are better known for their more humorous roles.

As the story develops and people get killed we get shown more and more of the personalities of the people involved. Russell Tovey  (Grabbers, 2012, see below) plays a lonely depressed alcoholic trying to come to terms with life, while Ralph Brown (Killing Bono, 2011) plays Neville a retired soldier who together with his wife just wants a quiet life. In the chaos following the initial shootings it falls to him to deal with Kurtis.

This is a good and very watchable ensemble piece which thankfully stops short of patronising us. The supporting cast is made of some of the UK’s better known young actors and this definitely helped. What we have here is our cast trying to escape and in so doing needing to overcome the physical obstacles of the building, traps by the sniper and their own selves.

We are brought along as much by the characters as by the movement of the film itself. I am deliberately being vague about the plot; simply put the survivors need to escape, overcoming the sniper, themselves and their environment. This had the potential to be bad but managed to escape it

6/10 engaging movie which knows where to hold back and not patronise to the audience any more than necessary.

Premium Rush

This is a movie that knows what it is – entertainment.  I saw the posters and wasn’t overly sold on the idea of a courier being chased around New York; then I looked and saw the cast list and decided it was worth a try, any movie with Joseph Gordon-Gordon-Levitt (The Lookout, 2007) usually is, it got me thinking there might be an angle to this movie.

This is an original slightly quirky but entertaining movie. Directed by David Koepp (Stir of Echoes, 1999) and also co-written by him with John Kamps (Ghost Town, 2008). Essentially the story evolves around a group of New York cycle couriers. Our Hero, Wilee (all through the movie I thought his name was “Reilly”) is hired to take a package across the city by 7pm. The thing is he was hired by his girlfriend’s former room-mate, Nima (Jamie Chung, The Hangover Part II, 2011) who asked for him specifically. It turns out he is the only person she trusts to deliver the envelope. Why the trust because it is worth about $50,000 and is essentially a promissory note to a Chinese gang leader in payment for Nima’s son to come over from China – watch the movie for the details.

Ordinarilly this would all be fine except at around the same time, there is a police detective with a gambling problem who owes a considerable amount of money and decides to go further in, in the hope of getting out of his predicament. As a result of killing a Chinese street kid that he took his anger out on, he’s now a liability and  also must get the ticket to pay his debts. Detective Monday (Michael Shannon Machine Gun Preacher, 2011 is a man who just went over the edge and is fighting (and failing) to hold on to what  little sanity he has as he chases down Wilee and the ticket.

As if Wilee hasn’t enough to do he has to try make-it-up to his girlfriend Vanessa (Entourage, 2010) while at the same time ensuring his love rival Manny (Wolé Parks, As The World Turns 2007). All this might be enough to ruin an normal day, but the rivalry with Manny results in them getting the attention of NYPD cycle cop played by Christopher Place (CSI NY, 2006), although usually employed as a stunt man, he works well as part  of the comic side.

The fact that they use Place, a stunt man, will give you an indication that not all is safe and well of the streets. The chases are fast and more than nerve wracking. This is parkour on bikes.  An interesting slant is the “time-outs” Wilee takes during the chases to look at his options and try go for the least fatal. This is similar to the device used in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (See Below) when our eponymous hero plans out his fight moves.

Through twists turns and falls the movie moves to a satisfying climax which works well, in line with the overall flow of the movie. The soundtrack also works well, with one final exception – the closing track Baba O’Reilly from Pete Townsend & The Who. There is nothing wrong with this track except as soon as I heard it I immendiately jumped to to thinking of a certain New York based police procedural show mentioned above. IT ofcourse did not help my “Reilly” mistake.  A fine piece of music but one which I heard a few times lately when I should not have.

That said the script is sparse, the vocal and visual jokes work and the supporting cast of familiar faces bring the movie home.  Uncomplicated fun

 

7/10