Friday, August 26, 2005

Day Eight - "Welcome to the house at Pooh Corner..."

Day: 236
Film total today: 4
Films seen so far this year: 222 (14 to go)

Still no bears. Second great use of sheep in two days though.

The Dark

British thriller starring Maria Bello and Sean Bean as a couple who experience Spooky Goings On after their young daughter goes missing and is presumed drowned.

I was keen to see this because I interviewed Maria Bello for The Cooler last year and she'd described The Dark to me. Also, it's directed by John Fawcett, who made Ginger Snaps - one of the best horror films of the last few years. The Dark is ultimately a bit of a disappointment, but it does have several things going for it - namely the gorgeous scenery, some stunning location work, strong performances by the three leads and an impressive bit of Sheep Wrangling. The film is based on a novel called "Sheep" (which drew a few sniggers from the audience before the film had even got going) - Maria Bello plays Adele, a mother who takes her young daughter Sarah (pre-teen Scarlett Johansson lookalike Sophie Stuckey) to see her estranged father, James (Sean Bean) on the North coast of Wales. There's tension between mother and daughter because of a recent incident in New York, so when Sarah goes missing and is presumed drowned, Adele feels incredibly guilty. However, in true horror movie fashion, Strange Things start to happen - Adele keeps seeing a spooky young girl who isn't Sarah and James' handyman tells her of a local myth involving the resurrection of the dead by sacrificing a life for a life... In terms of its plot, The Dark has rather had its thunder stolen by Dark Water, but it's creepily effective in places. The script could use some work though - it really irritated me that the characters had to spell everything out for the audience (the worst example of this being Adele reading out loud from the articles she finds in the library). Similarly, the direction of the ending could have been a lot tighter - its impact is lessened as a result. Great sheep scene though. Three stars.

Stoned

British drama starring Paddy Considine, about the last days of Rolling Stones founder member Brian Jones (Leo Gregory).

I'd heard that this was terrible, so I'm pleased to report that I really liked it. You can't go too far wrong with Paddy Considine, really. It does have its problems - particularly towards the end - and it's hampered by not having the rights to any actual Stones songs, but for the most part it's a well-acted, engaging drama. Plus, it has loads of equal-opportunity nudity in it. It's directed by producer-turned-director Stephen Woolly and set during the last few months in the life of Rolling Stones founder member Brian Jones (Leo Gregory, fulfilling the promise that was predicted for him after Out of Control a couple of Edinburghs ago). Brian's drug convictions prevent him from joining the Stones on their American tour, so he's holed up in his country mansion (that used to belong to A.A.Milne), drinking, shagging and doing boat-loads of drugs. His manager (David Morrissey) hires Frank Thoroughgood (Paddy Considine) as a live-in builder, partly to work on Brian's house and partly to keep him company. The friendship between the two men gets increasingly strange, until it all comes to an end, when Brian is found dead in his pool. There are also tonnes of flashbacks that detail Brian's relationship with Anita Pallenberg (Monet Mazur), until she nicked off with Keith Richards (Ben Whishaw). Considine is as superb as ever - his character is extremely complex and you're never quite sure which of Frank or Brian is the one with the power in the relationship. Gregory is equally good, though his constant drug-induced haze becomes rather one-note after a while - this is primarily the script's fault. The real pleasures of the film are in the supporting performances, especially the always excellent David Morrissey - his Michael Caine impression to impress the lay-deez is an early highlight. Whishaw is good too, although I wish Luke de Woolfson (as Mick) had had more to do. Also notable are Amelia Warner (who I haven't seen on screen since Quills) and Tuva Novotny (as Brian's girlfriend), who has a terrific scene where she teases Frank by promising to take off an item of clothing every time he does 50 press-ups. This is getting a theatrical release quite soon and it's worth seeing, if not quite as good as it could have been. Three stars.

The Intruder

French film about a French man who kills people and then moves to Tahiti after a heart operation. Or something.

That Claire Denis, eh? She’s a tricky one and no mistake. I’m one of the few people I know who actually enjoyed Trouble Every Day (in which Beatrice Dalle fucks and eats people) but The Intruder is a lot harder to defend. Her storytelling style consists of presenting a series of scenes in which nothing much happens and nobody really says anything. Then something horrible happens. Then nothing happens again for ages. And that’s kind of it. To be fair though, that’s not the problem here – I was enjoying the first half of the film, which seemed to be about a semi-reclusive grumpy old guy who killed immigrants if they strayed onto his property. Then, for no reason that I could see, he fucked off to Tahiti after a heart operation and tried to build a relationship with an adopted son, when he had a perfectly good real son at home. It really felt like the film was made from the result of a photocopying accident in which two scripts got mixed together – at any rate, it doesn’t help that the second half of the film is much, much weaker than the first. There were precisely three things I liked about The Intruder: 1) the unusual sex scene near the beginning with Gregoire Colin and his wife, 2) a scene in which Beatrice Dalle (as “The Queen of the Northern Hemisphere”, it says here) answers the door wearing a bra and a fur coat, and 3) the final scene, which for some reason involves Beatrice Dalle, laughing and sledging down hill, pulled by a team of dogs. And Claire Denis includes rather more close-ups of her cleavage than you’d expect from a prestigious female director. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Dalle’s actually only in one other scene, which makes her other two appearances all the weirder – maybe Denis just doesn’t like to see her friends out of work. Two stars.

Green Street

British film in which Elijah Wood becomes a football hooligan. Yes, you read that right.

Seriously, who casts Elijah Wood as a football hooligan? Or Charlie Hunnam, for that matter. Shoddy work, casting directors. Shoddy. Anyway, Elijah plays Matthew Buckner, an American journalism major who gets expelled from Harvard when his rich roommate frames him for drug possession. He ends up in dear old Blighty, intending to visit his sister (Claire Forlani). He then quickly hooks up with his brother-in-law’s brother (Charlie Hunnam), who turns out to be the leader of “The Glorious GSE” (Green Street Elite) – a firm of West Ham-supporting hooligans. After his first fight, Matthew is accepted into the firm, despite the suspicions of fellow hooligan Leo Gregory (yet another actor with two films in the festival). But how will they react when they discover his journalistic background? Green Street is yet another film I had heard terrible things about from friends, but again, it’s not actually that bad. The fight sequences are very violent and actually quite exciting – they’re very well staged. It also has some great supporting performances, notably from Forlani (who really doesn’t have the career she deserves), Leo Gregory, Joel Beckett (Jake Moon from EastEnders) and the always excellent Marc Warren (as Matthew’s brother-in-law). On top of that, it makes brilliant use of West Ham’s adopted anthem “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” (also used to devastating effect in EastEnders, when die-hard Hammers fan Gary realises that Baby Bobby is Ian’s and not his and ends up teaching Ian to sing the song because it’s the only way Bobby can get to sleep – I’m welling up just thinking about it, but I digress). Anyway, the problem is that the bad bits of Green Street are very bad indeed. They include: the casting of Elijah (he’s actually pretty good, but horribly miscast); Hunnam’s utterly dreadful, line-mangling, squirm-inducing performance (reputedly redubbed, but still pretty bad); and some appalling voice-over narration that includes lines such as “We could have died that day in Manchester. But we didn’t. We survived.” Actually, the combination of semi-decent movie and hilarious bad movie elements are making me feel more charitable towards this in the final analysis. Two stars.

Random FilmHouse Encounters Of The Famous Variety

I had planned on a party-free evening and a relatively early night but I stuck around the FilmHouse to catch the Q&A for The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (see below) with a friend and I got chatting to Pauline McLynn while at the bar. She’s really lovely – one of those people who you makes you feel like you’ve known them your whole life. She’d just come from the first public screening of Gypo, so we discussed that - I congratulated her on the surprisingly good love scene and she told me some amusing stories about the direction of the scene. We also talked about the new version of Heidi (which she’s also in) and agreed that Heidi didn’t get beaten nearly enough. I then met Chloe Sirene (see below, when Blogger gets its act together with the photo upload thingy), who I was surprised to discover was English and not foreign at all. Impressive accent skillz, lady. Finally, I very briefly met Paul McGann – long enough to tell him I loved both The Monocled Mutineer and Withnail & I but not long enough to start quoting bits of it at him. Which was probably a good thing.

Chloe Sirene (star of Gypo):

4 comments:

Neil said...

Looking forward to your take on today's films - Green stret in particular. Keep up the good work.

DanO said...

I hope you like L'Intrus, but if you're at all tired, then you'll sleep like a baby most of the way through.

I quite liked it when I saw it last year, but it was pretty tough going (for a Denis).

su lizhen said...

I wanted to go see Mirrormask today, but I just can't fit it in. Looking forward to The Moustache though!

elijah_is_tough_and_brave_one11one said...

FF (almost) liked Green Street! Top and bananas. Thanks for being so charitable. ;-)