Thursday, November 30, 2006

Winter Nights Movies

Its cold - minus 30+ for part of the time, and we have a lot of snow. So movies. Here are the ones we have seen since I last posted.

Defence of the Realm
РA British film with Denholm Elliot, Fulton McKay, Ian Bannem and others Рmade in 1985. A journalist looks at the link between a British MP and a Russian agent, which then leads to other things. Strong writing and a solid cast. Captures the challenges of journalists working on political stories with an edge. It is also strong on intrigue Рa good, potentially classic, English film. Based in part on the Profumo case where a cabinet Minister and a Russian military attach̩ (KGB agent) shared a call girl called Mandy Rice Davis. The starting point for this film is this same story. Director David Drury maintains an understated tension throughout, helped by sombre and often striking cinematography by Roger Deakins, later favoured by the Coen Brothers. Robbie (Cracker) makes an appearance in this film.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang – Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jnr and others in a well crafted film based on a Brett Halliday novel (Bodies are Where You Find Them) and directed by Shane Black. It’s a thriller mystery with a detective, an actress and an amusing story line. Fun – imaginative and well worth a glass of wine and an evening. (It is quirky!).

Beauty Shop – Queen Latifah starts in this simple comedy. It is simple. Did I mention simple. Well, yeah. Couldn’t sleep, turned it on, soon was snoring like a trooper. She is a very beautiful lady, by the way – but I couldn’t raise a smile here. Guess you had to be there.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – you’ve got to like thr energy and imagination of these. I have not read the books, just watched the movies. So my knowledge of Rowling’s characters are all based on the films. Down to earth (ho ho) good family entertainment, even for a couple of old timing.

Shadowboxer – Helen Mirren is an assassin dying of cancer who lives with her step son, played by Cuba Gooding Jnr. A dark, difficult movie. Mirren takes on one last case – which gets complicated and a birth is involved. Mirren is simply a classic player in this (also saw her in the final Prime Suspect on TV). Gooding is also very strong in this movie. There are a lot of silences – careful dramatic moments, tensions. Not sure it works well, but anything with Mirren is worth watching. Intriguing, if not compelling.

The Badge – a small town cop (Billy Bob Thornton) investigates the murder of a transsexual and sees that politics may well have been involved. Patricia Arquette, William Devane and others in this 2003 movie, written and directed by Robby Hensen, who is currently working on House.

The Man Who Saved Christmas - A very charming feel-good seasonal tale of a man with strong dreams and expectations. Jason Alexander plays Erector Set inventor (similar to Meccano in the UK, who later bought the company), A.C. Gilbert, who is asked by the Government to urge citizens to cancel Christmas during the first world war and buy bonds instead of toys. Gilbert turns his toy manufacturing plant in a war supply plant making gas masks, bomb casings, chemical suits and bayonets among other things. Gilbert has a change of heart and goes with his deepest and long fostered dreams. He goes before the nation's Defense Counsel and gets permission to go back to making his toys. The toy maker still kept manufacturing war supplies, but also turned his own home into a producing center for more Erector Sets. After the war, Gilbert continued manufacturing Erector Sets, Chemistry Sets , Magician Trick Sets, trains and other toys for over forty years. Alexander is good in this role and light-years away from his role on TVs "Seinfeld" as George Costanzia. Also in the cast are Kelly Rowan, Ari Cohen, Ed Asner and Jake Brockman. Entertaining for all ages (provided you have a stiff scotch to hand).

Scoop – Woody Allen with Scarlett Johnasson, Ian McShane, Charles Dance and Hugh Jackman in this classic movie. In the line of Allen’s murder mystery series, the movie moves along well and is most enjoyable. Some great one liners from Woody (playing poker, someone says to about him “he’s very good with cards”, “yes,” he says “I bought my first Rubens by playing cards – best sandwich I ever had..”). Strongly recommended.

Cellular – Kim Bassinger (who wouldn’t watch this movie) and Chase Bloch star in this thriller. A woman is kidnapped and is able to make one call to a complete stranger and asks him to rescue her. Story evolves from here. Snakes on a Plane director David Ellis (also a skilled stuntman) directed. Strong start and it just keeps going. Bassinger acts well in this role (better than in Door in the Floor or L A Confidential). W H Macey is in this too - always makes for a more interesting film.

In addition I caught bits of other films during the last few weeks, but didn’t get through the first few minutes… the more we watch, the tougher it is to find something worth watching.

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