January 29th 2016 releases

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This is what the Editor thinks he looks like

13 HOURS

In not quite his usual bombastic style Michael Bay recounts the story of 6 US soldiers in Libya.

YOUTH

Just about every film starts with the studios logo but the opening credits for YOUTH take forever as each company behind the film gives its logo its 15 minutes of fame and there are six companies behind it! In fact the film starts without even announcing its title which doesn’t appear until about 15 minutes in and even then it’s done in such a throwaway style as to almost be indiscernible.

YOUTH is about man things but principally a reflection on aging and relationships and is very, very, very  European. If you love the Fast and the Furious franchise then is not the film for you.

Starring Michael Caine as a widowed and retired orchestra conductor we find him on resting at a Swiss health farm with his daughter played by Rachel Weisz .  It’s here that he’s visited by an emissary of the Queen requesting that he come out of retirement to perform his most famous composition – Simple Songs – for Prince Phillip’s birthday. He resents the fact that this work overshadows his other pieces and in that he shares much with Paul Dano who plays an actor famed for playing a robot called Mr Q which he also resents as it’s overwhelmed what he considers to be more worthwhile and important work.  Also present at the health spa are his friend Harvey Keitel, a film director struggling with a coterie of screenwriters to come up with an end scene to his latest film which he intends to be his final masterwork.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino this is typically European art house film and there are some utterly beguiling and mesmerising scenes photographed like they’re from the pages Conde Nast magazine but with some profoundly moving scenes about love and loss. It is a film of contrasts with scenes of melancholy reflection whilst at the other end of the spectrum there is gratuitous nudity as the two leads stare in awe at a naked Miss World in a pool.

The dialogue is sure to divide audiences as, depending on your point of view, it veers between being either pretentious or insightful though there are some very funny moments whilst in the background there is a bizarre array of guests including Paloma Faith as Paloma Faith and what looks suspiciously like a disgraced Argentinian football player who is so enormously over weight he looks like he’s swallowed a space hopper. There’s a stellar cast here with uniformly good performances with perhaps Jane Fonda, almost unrecognisable as an aging actress, who vents her spleen at Keitel’s director in a stunningly vitriolic exchange, giving the film one of many stand out moments and has already earned her a Golden Globe nomination though shamefully she’s been overlooked for an Oscar though with all the controversy over this year’s nominees it hardly needs yet another white actress.

It is such a sumptuous looking film at times that it is best suited to the cinema rather than at home where there are too many easy distractions as this is a film to lie back and languish in.

 

 

SPOTLIGHT (15)

Investigative journalism seems to be slowly inexorably dying out with only the broadsheets really doing their bit as the tabloids seem ever more obsessed with D list reality TV contestants and the ongoing saga of the world’s leading oxygen thief, the balloon bummed Kim Kardashian, famous for being famous.

This week’s new film ‘Spotlight’ is also the title of US newspapers The Boston Globe investigative section which uncovered the paedophile Catholic priest scandal from 1976 – 2001. Liev Schrieber plays the newspapers new editor and it’s him who pushes Spotlight toward investigating the story of children abused by catholic priests who sees the potential in the story. Spotlight editor Michael Keaton initially resists as they have another case on but gradually little by little they realise they are onto something as even the powers that be try to persuade them otherwise and ultimately strong arming them and closing down every possible avenue in an attempt to intimidate the reporter’s and prevent their uncovering a scandal far bigger than anyone ever envisioned and which reverberated around the world shaking the Catholic church to its core.

Playing out like a police procedural this is riveting yet horrifying as it unfolds with the reputation of solicitors coming out equally poorly and reinforcing their real life reputation preferring money over justice. Unlike many similar investigative this doesn’t get bogged by deeming it necessary to bring in the effect it has on the reporters private lives instead ploughing headlong into the investigation.

It’s a scene with Neal Huff as a member of an abuse survivors group who drives a pivotal scene where it would have been easy to dismiss him as some kind of conspiracy nut that is challenging  conspiracy theorists.

However for a film that is about such a pivotal scene about paedophiles it’s a little unedifying to see that one of the producers is Jonathan King – thankfully it’s not the prince of Pop paedos himself who is probably still in denial.

With this being probably the only serious contender to The Revenant to win best film Oscar this is a challenging but worthy contender for the big prize.

 

DIRTY GRANDPA (15)

Robert De Niro , unquestionably one of the screens finest actors giving Oscar winning performances in The Godfather Part 2 and Raging Bull, and deservedly nominated for Taxi Driver, the Deer Hunter, Awakenings and Silver Linings Playbook. Sterling performances also in Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Heat, The King of Comedy , The Untouchables, Midnight Run, Cape Fear & Jackie Brown.

And who could forget The Adventures of Rocky and Bulwinkle, Machete, and of course The Intern. Answer: Everyone. Because it seems that De Niro is hell bent on permanently tarnishing his legacy n with rubbish that even Adam Sandler might think twice about. His new release Dirty Grandpa is no exception and with a title like that you’d have thought the script would have been kept at arms length before being dropped in the recycling bin.

Here he stars as, yes, you’ve guessed it, a dirty grandpa or more specifically a recently widowed ex army covert ops soldier who tricks his about to be married uptight grandson Zac Efron into driving him to Florida. The clash of opposites has DeNiro’s grandpa trying to enlighten his grandson before he makes the mistake of marrying his control freak fiance.  Watch as all hilarity ensues…except it doesn’t. This is woefully bad and  warning as to how bad this is and will continue to be is early on when Efron catches DeNiro furiously masturbating in front of a porn film. Both Efron’s and the audiences jaws simultaneously drop in astonishment. DeNiro must have some outstanding and immense tax bill because he’s really slumming it here and comes out of this with little integrity intact using language and phrases you’d expect from a sexually frustrated 14 year old obsessed with using the word ‘cock’ in one scene on a golf course that seems to be improvised to little benefit to the film or frankly DeNiro’s career.

Directed by Dan Mazar who produced the Ali G show and went on to direct the under rated but decent 2013 comedy ‘I Give it a Year’ this is a depressingly predicitable and overlong film with which only Zac Efron comes out of with any shred of dignity and probably will appeal to teenage girls wanting  to see him naked in many scenes but will probably leave them repulsed at De Niro’s antics.

DeNiro seems to have had more fun making the film than audiences will have watching it and with it only being January this could well be a contender for the worst comedy if not film of the year.

 

 

THE 33 

Having not seen ‘The 1-32’ and unaware of it being a  franchise we were taken by surprise when this turned out to be about the story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped deep underground back in in2010. It was story that caught the world’s attention with the increasing liklihood that they were never going to get out alive.

As with many true life stories of this ilk the papers are always full of stories about it being made into a film which it usually is only not a glamorous Hollywood extravaganza but a low rent movie of the week featuring ex TV soap stars. The miners story has not suffered the same fate however as here we have the all male cast led by Antonio Banderas taking a break from the comic roles he’s recently played from Stallone’s comic foil in ‘The Expendables 3’  to voicing Puss in Boots in the Shrek fims or as the villain in the ludicrously enjoyable ‘Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge out of Water’.

With an audience of around 1 billion people watching the final rescue the end is not in doubt and for that reason there is little tension as to whether they will survive. This is an insight as to how it happened and how they survived for 69 days underground with only 3 days of food rations.

With the safety of the mine already being raised with one of the managers and dismissed out of hand the miners unaware of the jeopardy they are in find the mine collapsing as work begins. With all 33 scrabbling to the relative safety of an area constructed for just such an emergency they then find a number of obstacles which would seem to seal their doom. The food rations are so thin that they have to survive on a small spoon of tuna each for a day and having to share a carton of milk between them all as they carefully measure it all out for only a mouthful each. Added to this is that the company had not fully installed enough steps in each escape tunnel for them to get to the surface. To make things worse the rock is unusually dense and  would divert the drills from the cavern where the men were trapped. It’s little wonder that some of them went a little stir crazy and there’s a moving scene where each hallucinates being served their favourite meal by their loved ones.

The all male cast led by Banderas also features Lou Diamond Phillips whose last decent role seems to have been 30 years ago in ‘La Bamba’ having been confined to mostly TV roles since. Here he plays the supervisor who alerts he bosses to the instability of the mountain only to be ignored and also finds himself trapped with the other miners.  There’s are one f only a few of the miners who directly portray the miners and naturally there is an amalgamation of certain roles but unusually the all male cast are directed by Mexican director Patricia Riggen who handles the cast with aplomb.

The film divides it times almost equally between the miners below ground and the angst of their wives and families above ground with an almost unrecognisable Juliette Binoche leading them to force the company into a rescue. It’s here that a PR savvy Chilean President played by Bob Gunton (who seems not so dissimilar from his prison warden in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’) has his hand forced by his Minster of Mining to lead the mission though quickly comes to realise that with the worlds eyes on his country any failure is politically toxic.

If a little long at over 2 hours this is in all respect a TV movie given a big budget treatment which could have shaved off half an hour because as the film is divided into chapters Day 1, Day 59 etc it does start to film the film might last that long too but there’s enough there to see just how likely it was to have ended tragically as obstacle upon obstacle raises its head. Several facts of the story have been tinkered with in typical Hollywood style – here, the first miner to the surface was not the first out in reality or that several rescuers went down the rescue shaft first and that they were actually the last out of the mine. If there’s one thing that isn’t addressed it’s, Where did they go to the toilet?

But with an ending that is known this is a bunch of men who went down as miners and came out as celebrities.

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