March 4th 2016 releases – London has Fallen – Hail Caesar! – Hitchcock/Truffaut – The Other side of the door – Truth

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Clooney suddenly realizes he's wearing a horses false teeth

London Has Fallen

With the recent terrorist atrocity on the streets of Paris and London on alert for any similar attack you’d think filmmakers may be a little wary of producing a popcorn action film based around such an idea but of course that would be ridiculous because with 2013’s ‘Olympus has Fallen’ (which in fairness was a decent bit of hokum) having made $161m off its modest $70m budget it was inevitable a sequel would follow which for its star and producer Gerard Butler must have been a bit of a godsend after his foray into rom-coms were met with indifference and his yet to be released in the UK film ‘Gods of Egypt on line to be one of this year’s most costly flops.

So having saved the President from kidnappers in the White House the sequel takes a wholly different tack and  this time the President goes to London where Butler has to save the president from kidnappers. Oh.  Alright maybe it’s not so different but here the film takes what is now the staple bad guys, Middle East terrorists who mount the most audacious attack on London where the funeral of the UK Prime Minister is being attended by world leaders. Where real life terrorists cells are usually carried out by a small group here there seems to be an almost infinite number of terrorists here who have infiltrated the police guard to such a ludicrous degree that they can smuggle in bombs, rocket launchers and just about anything they choose and all carnage ensues with credit going to the effects people and production designer who has turned down town Bulgaria into a convincing facsimile of the streets of London. The attack is in itself is something of a guilty pleasure as landmarks are destroyed and aerial shots show the devastation as it occurs. It makes something of an unwitting mockery of the superb real life counter terrorism work done by Police and scant credible research seems to have been done even down to the Head of the Police operation run by a Chief Inspector rather than a far higher rank but nonetheless he wears the epaulettes of the Met Police Commissioner.

However the script struggles to match the destruction with some unintentional laugh out loud lines with one character who appears to have never been to London and having seen Post Office tower, Big Ben and a Cathedral blown up then states that every landmark in London has been destroyed which must be a bit annoying for the local tourist board but a bit of a relief to Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Tower bridge, Trafalgar square, Madame Tussauds, Covent Garden, Marble Arch and dozens  of other tourist attractions in the Capital.

And against all this those quality script lines keep on coming with Angela Basset keeping a straight face as she tells Butler, ‘Do me a favour …stay alive’ all it needed was the Bee Gees on the sound track at this point. But some lines are so ludicrous they don’t even make sense…’They only need to get it right once….today they got it way more than that!’  and perhaps the biggest laugh of all (although only to UK audiences) is the name of the newly appointed Prime Minster at the end.

With this really being a 12a certificate its preponderance for some quite brutal knife fights and a spattering of F-bombs throughout the script have ramped it up to a 15 and the action is thrillingly shot by the Iranian director who grandly has his credit writ large across the screen , ‘A film by Babak Nejafi….’ to which the audience cry, ‘Who?’  and seems to have drawn his inspiration from Call of Duty:Modern warfare for many of the sequences.

Essentially a bit of a bromance between Butler and Eckhart’s President it also sees the return of Morgan freeman in what seem to be another addition to an ever lengthening  list of ‘I’m free that afternoon I’ll do it’ [performances this is the first big ‘switch your brain off and watch the mayhem’ movie of the year and it fills the vacuum nicely but do remember to switch your brain back on afterwards.

 

HAIL CAESAR!

This was not the reply to the great Roman Emperor’s question to his resident soothsayer as to what the weather would be like the following day but does explain just why our Editor failed his O level history exam. This is the latest from the Coen brothers and stars one of their regulars, George Clooney as a particularly dim leading man in 50’s Hollywood studio system unwittingly kidnapped by a bunch of well intentioned communist screenwriters. With Josh Brolin as a Hollywood fixer stalling for time on the biblical Roman epic that Clooney is starring he finds he has to bat away twin sister gossip columnist both competing for the same story whilst at the same time trying to cover up the pregnancy scandal of one of their unmarried starlets.

The kidnap plot is becoming something of a regular plot device for the Coens dating all the way back to their earlier films and here it is used once again with Clooney dressed throughout in Roman toga and enjoyably enlightened by the embittered screenwriters. Much like Woody Allen the Coens have such a reputation for these quirky tales that they have little trouble attracting major talent and this time they called on Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johanson (agreeably objectionable as the pregnant starlet) and Ralph Fiennes as an uptight English director lumped with an actor known for his cowboy films suddenly earmarked by the studio to take the lead in an upper class English drama , a role that he couldn’t be less suited for and one which he is utterly incapable of playing. Despite the plethora of stars the Coens continue to find unknown actors and cast them in great roles and Alden Ehrenreih as the cowboy is great fun especially in the films stand out scene where Fiennes attempts to tutor him as to how a line should be said.

However these scenes are few and far with several scenes lovingly recreated but to no real benefit to the film,  Channing Tatum in a song and dance routine seems to do little but to serve as a audition piece for musicals he might want to do later in his career, and an Esther Williams type sing and swim number is there only to show how adept the directors are in adopting the visual style that these films were shot. In fact most of the stars which the films publicity heavily leans on have very little screen time with Jonah Hill popping up for one small brief scene presumably because he had a morning free and wanted to work with the Coens. Even the voice over by our own Michael Gambon lends little to the film except his gravitas.

Like Woody Allen whose output is prolific it becomes hard to maintain a constant high standard and this is one of the brothers lesser films when compared with No Country for Old Men& Fargo though it is certainly better than their version of The Ladykillers but ultimately this is a slight story with few of the directors usual quirks

 

 

 

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Many film students have either read or possess one of the definitive books on cinema ‘Hitchock/Truffaut’ – heck ,even the Editor of AnyGoodFilms? has a copy in his attic buried under back issues of Razzle & Health and Efficiency (they’re purely for reference – Ed).  It’s a superb book of interviews with the portly director conducted by the French director Francois Truffaut who at the time was half his age and interviewed him at length about each of his films. It was a book that lifted the director from entertainer to the lofty heights of auteur – something which the director embraced.

The book has now come full circle with it now having been made into a film or to be accurate a documentary which covers how the book came into being and in turn many of the world’s top directors including David Fincher and almost inevitably Martin Scorsese talking about Hitchcock’s influence on their own careers. For film students this is something of a must see but for others even with just a slight knowledge of Hitchcock’s work this is an engaging watch even if some of the directors interviewed are a little too  earnest and over analytical though it’s worth seeing just for how camply dressed Peter Bogdanovich looks as he waxes lyrical.

Interspersed throughout the documentary are audio clips and photographs taken during the interview many of which are further illustrated by scenes from his films notably Psycho & Vertigo.

Hitchcock’s success was something of a double edged sword for him because despite the regard with which he was held Truffaut’s book gave Hitchcock a respectability that he’d clearly craved for his entire career and was conflicted about his position as being either an artist or entertainer within a Hollywood system and the documentary gives much time to ‘Vertigo’ which the director regarded as the peak of his creative powers and it’s true that the film is regularly evaluated as being one of his best.

Overlooking his penchant for ice cool blondes, his Svengali attitude to women and his alleged behaviour to some of his lead actresses this is not just for fans of his work and is an enthralling watch and, though not exhaustive, is a decent companion piece to the book which despite being written 50 years ago is as relevant today as ever. This is something of a labour of love by its director Kent Jones, one time director of programming  for the New York film festival and it’s unlikely that the career of German hack meister Uwe Boll the director/producer behind such legendary tosh as ‘Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead’ will ever be evaluated in the same way. Thankfully.

 

The other side of  the door (15)

British director Johannes Roberts has been directing horror since 2001 with his self financed low budget horror ‘Sanitarium’ which bizarrely featured top cutlery mangler Uri Geller. Since then his output has been variable with his most recent ‘Storage 24’ being a moderate success.

With his previous films being UK based the director has now relocated the horror to India where a young family decide to settle only for tragedy to strike when their son dies in an accident. Unable to forget and blaming herself the death the mother played by The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies learns of a deserted temple which has the ability to bring her son back momentarily from the dead for her to say her goodbyes as long she doesn’t open its entrance and go to…..wait for it……. The other side of the door! (see what I did there? ) So of course unable to resist the temptation she does indeed open the door and….. cue all manner of creepiness.

Starting with a scene of the demise of the young boy the grief of the mother is palpable and unlike most stage school children there is a real sense of distress at the child’s death and is a credit to Logan Creran as the child. It’s not long however before the chills begin and this is a decent little horror with the director finding his stride and taking his cue from the ‘Insidious’ franchise at times which is no bad thing and unusually using Hindu mythology for its back story before it becomes something of a haunted house / home invasion hybrid.

Callies is good as the mother devastated by grief and unable to shake her feeling of guilt at her son’s accidental death and ends up willing to sacrifice everything for him. With her character to the fore it’s Jeremy Sisto as her husband who quickly disappears in to the background for long stretches with little to do except to reappear for the climatic sequences. With the lad returning from beyond the grave he brings death with him as well as a load of  local actors done up in loincloths glassy eyed and ashen faced solely due to them having smeared ash on their faces.

Produced by French horror maestro Alexander  Aja  this is a workmanlike film and should give Roberts  much needed success and possibly even a franchise.

 

TRUTH (15)

‘Your minicab will be 5 minutes. It’s just round the corner’.

‘No officer, I’ve only had two pints’

And the old favourite

‘It’s cleared up now. The Doctor said it would be fine’.

All pitiful lies and as far from the truth as you can get but this week’s new release ‘TRUTH’ is a true life account of TV newsroom journalists working on US TV’s flagship 60 minutes presented by what the US regarded as their foremost senior journo Dan Rather. The programme had a reputation for uncovering a number of government cover ups but was spectacularly caught out when it started rooting around in George Bush’s military record as he was seeking re-election in 2004.

Starting with producer Mary Mapes sitting in a lawyer’s office she retells the story of what happened when they went to air with what turned out to be a fabricated story of Bush having been given preferential treatment during his military service. Similar in vein to this years Best Film Oscar winner ‘Spotlight’ this focuses instead on the journalist led by Cate Blanchett as they interview their sources telling them that great journo lie, ‘I promise we will protect you’. All goes well with the transmitted story until bloggers start picking away at it starting with a superscript type face on one of the documents that was apparently not around in the 70’s from here it all snowballs and Blanchett and her team find themselves quickly isolated with executives rowing for shore wanting to distance themselves from the story with the network insisting on the employees doing some corporate arse covering even if it it’s to the detriment of a frail and ill old man who is their source. If anything it shows that corporate politics is every bit as ruthless as the politicians they are striving to hold to account.

With Republican Bush as the target, though even he doesn’t come out that well even when the story is repudiated, it was a script that was always going to attract notable Democrat supporters like Robert Redford who plays news anchor Dan Rather as someone  with enough experience  who frankly should have known better and Cate Blanchett is as excellent as ever with able support and it’s good to see actors like  Dennis Quaid and Stacy Keach back on screen showing they’re still great actors when given suitable roles.

That fact that journalists seem outraged at having been had over is hardly new and this is isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last with similar stories having happened at The Times with the Hitler diaries and most recently at The Mirror with its fake photo of Gulf war soldiers  abusing prisoners – though many would say it was for the greater good as it cost Piers Morgan his job as Editor.

That said this is an entertaining account of a story unravelling though this is somewhat pompous and self important as one character grandly announces, ‘How we destroyed modern journalism?’ with Redford giving an ode to journalism and an ending shot in super slow mo to emphasize the gravity of what has happened whilst the reality is that despite what journalists think of themselves, actually, life goes on.

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