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Posts Tagged ‘Haywire’

At a time when action movies have become CGI laden and often dull, there are occasionally films that break the mould.  Shortly before his short live retirement,  Steven Soderbergh made Haywire (2011).  The story goes that while channel surfing late at night Soderbergh spotted Gina Carano fighting in an MMA fight on TV.  He quickly developed the idea of Mallory Kane, a highly trained operative working for an independent contractor.  One of the notable things about the film is the way the fight scenes are staged.  Shot at mid range with long takes, much the way MMA and Boxing is shot.  This is a world away from the ultra close-up highly edited style that can make anyone look like an action hero.  Then came John Wick (2014); former stunt men and stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch made their feature debut.  Making the most of Keanu Reeves martial arts skills the fight scenes and gun fu are highly choreographed making the whole spectacle like a ballet. The photography and editing combines styles with a mixture of long takes and quick cuts.John Wick Haywire

While Chad Stahelski made John Wick Chapter 2, his former directing partner, David Leitch went his own way and made Atomic Blonde.  An action spy thriller the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s.  Charlize Theron stars MI6 field agent sent to Berlin in the last few days before the fall of the wall to retrieve a McGuffin that anyone who has seen Mission: Impossible or Skyfall will be familiar with.  The film is so stylish it makes a Luc Besson look passively plain, the action is fantastic and Charlize Theron is a  charismatic and likeable lead.  The film is a little too plot heavy to be as fun as John Wick; there are a series of twists and turns that you will see coming a mile of, but none of this matters, it is still an enjoyable movie.attomic blonde

In the near thirty years since the film was set films have changed a lot so I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the spy and or action movies of 1989:

Starting with the spy thrillers: Licence to Kill was Timothy Dalton’s second and final James Bond movie.  A more violent and action based movie than earlier Bond movies, it recived mixed reviews on release.  I loved it and am happy to report it has aged well and in the era of Daniel Craig’s Bond people are beginning to re-evaluate Timothy Dalton’s time as 007.Licence to Kill

The same is not true of The Experts; a  John Travolta vehicle in the pre Pulp Fiction wilderness years.  I seem to remember enjoying it at the time but re-watched it about ten years ago and was surprised just how bad it was.  It was also considered a box office bomb at the time.the experts

Technically a 1988 move: Red Scorpion was released in the USA and UK in ’89.  Significant as it portrays Dolph Lundgren as a soviet soldier who ends up fighting African freedom fighters against Soviet oppression.  I remember liking the film at the time, it did however receive poor reviews, I must re watch it to see.Red Scorpion

We think of Marvel and DC comic book movies as a modern thing, with about three each a year as well as TV spinoffs, but both comic book giants had movies out in 1989.  The more significant of the two: Batman; Tim Burtons vision of the dark knight was revolutionary.  A dark brooding gothic fairytale Batman a world away from the camp of the60’s TV show.  The Batmobile looked amazing and the black sculpted latex batsuit was revolutionary.  I’m not sure if Michael Keaton is the best Batman, he is certainly the best Bruce Wayne.  Over at Marvel, Dolph Lundgren was staring as Frank Castle, aka: The Punisher.  Taking the idea of the Marvel character but changing many details of his origin.  The film isn’t great, and is a world away from current Marvel movies, but it isn’t terrible either and has a certain charm.Batman The Punisher

Cop movies, particularly buddy cop movies were all the rage at the time, the best of the bunch was Lethal Weapon 2. Almost as good as the original, this first sequel had all the action and excitement of the first in the franchise but with a lot more comedy.   Other entries to the subgenre worth watching are: Black Rain and Tango & Cash.Lethal Weapon 2 Black Rain Tango & Cash

One of the best movies of the year and possibly my favourite of the franchise: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Taking a big risk with a very self indulgent origin or the character prologue that not only works, it enhances the film.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Two years after Dirty Dancing and two before Point Break, Patrick Swayze’s star was on the rise, he had two movies out in ’89 the better of the two was: Roadhouse. Dumb action fun, it isn’t a great film but its impossible not to like it. Roadhouse

One of the biggest action stars of the time, Jean-Claude Van Damme had two movies out in ’89: the sci-fi action adventure Cyborg, and the fight movie Kickboxer.  I saw Kickboxer around the same time as the previous year’s Bloodsport and can’t differentiate between them in my mind. cyborg and kickboxer

Finally: Blind Fury is a Zatôichi inspired action movie starring Rutger Hauer.  Robot Jox is a low budged B movie masterpiece from Empire Studios about people fighting giant robots similar to the Jaegers from Pacific Rim. Blind Fury Robot Jox

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Dom 5Back for a second year of Groovers Movie awards. As with last year, no nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and is a virtual for a second year as Moët haven’t approached offered to sponsor the award.

Best Movie:
Skyfallskyfall
Best Director:
Ben Affleck for Argoben affleck directing argo
Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard for Rust and BoneMarion Cotillard  Rust and Bone
Best Actor:
Matthew McConaughey for Killer JoeKiller Joe
Best Screenplay:
Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film:
Rust and Bonerust-and-bone-poster
Best Documentary:
Marley – The Imposter got all the plaudits but I found Marley more interesting and enjoyable.Marley
Best Looking Movie:
Life of Pi; An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Life of Pi wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.life-of-pi
Best Ensemble Cast:
The Avengers: last years Movie Stars of the year given to movie stars who had impressed in a variety of movie has been replaced by Best Ensemble Cast, this goes to: Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany who all played a part in making The Avengers great.Marvel Avengers Assemble
Fandango Award:
Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. That is why the Fandango Award goes to someone in a début or breakthrough feature: Gina Carano in Steven Soderbergh’s B movie masterpiece Haywire.haywire-gina-caranoDom 5

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  1. Skyfall: I wasn’t sure if Sam Mendes would be the right director for Bond, how wrong was I! After seeing a Bond film I have said “that was a great Bond film” on many occasions, its rare to say that’s a great film. That’s why Skyfall makes the top of my list, its simply a great film.skyfall
  2. The Dark Knight Rises: Both the most intimate and the biggest in scale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Elevated by great casting particularly Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway. A fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy ever that like all great movies leaves you wanting more.The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Argo: A spy story based on real events is going to be a hard sell but Ben Affleck has done it again. As both star and director Affleck has given us a film completely different to but as good as if not even better than his first two films. Tense and funny in equal measure and at the right times, a future classic.Ben Affleck in Argo
  4. Haywire: Possibly the controversial choice on the list certainly the “Marmite” choice on the list. Steven Soderbergh has crafted a B movie with an A list cast held together by Gina Carano, a former cage fighter with no acting experience. The antidote to modern action movies with frenetic editing an too much CGI.Gina Carano and Channing Tatum Haywire
  5. The Avengers: Joss Whedon has done the impossible. Bringing a disparate group of characters together to create an exciting and entertaining movie with just the right blend of action and comedy. Making good use of all the characters and giving the franchise a future, its far more than I expected from the movie. And he gave The Hulk the best like of 2012.Marvel Avengers Assemble
  6. Killer Joe: William Friedkin’s tale of murder set around a dysfunctional Texas family is often violent and repugnant, but it is also brilliant mainly because of a star turn from a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.Killer Joe
  7. Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson has turned his unique quirky bittersweet eye on a coming of age drama. It is as funny as you would expect from Anderson, but it is more engaging and endearing thanks to fantastic performances from both the recognisable established actors and the unknown kids.Moonrise Kingdom
  8. Life of Pi: I was a little sceptical about seeing this movie, I had heard it was a bit preachy and how interesting can a film about a boy in a boat be? I also hate 3D. I shouldn’t have worried, as previous mentioned; the 3D is the best I have ever seen, the story is great as well as being stunning to look at.Life Of Pi
  9. Rust and Bone: Jacques Audiard follows up A Prophet with a bruising and brutal melodrama. Marion Cotillard is as great as ever as is her co star Matthias Schoenaerts. Sometimes oppressive and hard to watch, at others uplifting but always emotional. A film that needs to find a worldwide audience.Rust and Bone
  10. End of Watch: Written and directed by David Ayer,. Made up of little snippets of the daily life of a pair a of cops (perfectly cast Jake Gylleenhaal and Michael Pena) working one of the roughest beats in South Central LA. A tough, brutal and believable cop film like nothing that has been made in a generation.End of Watch

A note on my selection: I have only included movies from this year. 2011 movies that didn’t reach the UK until this year have been excluded. I will probably do a redux version when I have seen all the 2013 movies in early 2013.

Don’t forget, this isn’t a best of 2012 list, it is it is simply my favourite 10 of the year. So don’t tell me the list is wrong but feel free to share your favourite films of the year.

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Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises are amongst my favourite movies of the year, but between them they cost the best part of the unimaginable sum of half a billion dollars. What can be done with a lower budget? All of the ten films listed below were made for less than $25million and are all the better for the invention and creativity that comes with limitations of a small budget. In a B movie tradition I have discarded indie drama’s in favour of genre movies: action, gangsters, sci-fi and horror.  The other notable thing, is that despite their B credentials they all received a UK cinema release.

Haywire
Budget: $23,000,000 (estimated)
Legend has it that Steven Soderbergh was sat at home late one night channel surfing when he came across a Mixed Martial Arts contest (a cage fight). He was so enthralled with one of the contestants Gina Carano that he diced to write a movie for her. Having never acted before it was a big risk, but we are talking about the director who cast porn star Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience. Taking a different approach for haywire, he filled the supporting roles with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Ewan McGregor), but it is the action that really sets the film apart. Forgoing the post Bourne trend of ultra close-ups and staccato editing in favour of long takes and mid length shots with lots of depth of field. It all helps show off Carano’s fighting talents. A love it or hate it film, it has received mixed reviews, personally I love it.

Killer Joe
Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)
Back in 2006 William Friedkin made a criminally overlooked gem called Bug, it was based on a play by Tracy Letts who also wrote the screenplay. The pair re-teamed to adapt a play Letts wrote twenty years ago. Set around a criminally stupid dysfunctional Texas family it is a violent and repugnant tale. Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon are all brilliant but are in the shadow of the real star Matthew McConaughey. Often funny but the humour is truly jet black, this is a seriously fucked up film that many people will hate, again, I love it.

The Raid
Budget: $1,100,000 (estimated)
Welshman Gareth Evans is the unlikely director of this film that highlights Indonesian martial art, pencak silat. Set in a Jakarta tower block controlled by a crime lord a swat team have to fight for their lives as the story of why they are there gradually unfolds. A brutal and violent film that isn’t actually that originally but still manages to feel fresh and new. It isn’t as good, inventive or as memorable as Die Hard but it cost less than £1million, in other words less than the coffee budget from Lord of the Rings.

Wild Bill
Budget: no idea but its British so it won’t be much!
Dexter Fletcher has always been a decent and likeable actor, although never a great one, therefore it many come as a surprise, but his debut feature as a director is brilliant. Given his association with British gangster movies it is natural that Wild Bill would be set in London’s underworld. What’s great about the movie is that it avoids the usual storylines associated with this type of movie in recent years and concentrates on more personal story of an ex con who returns home from prison to find his two young sons abandoned my their mother. Being a farther is the last thing on his mind but something compels him to do the right thing. Fletcher also avoids the pitfall of casting himself instead opting for a whose who of British TV and genre movies.

Killing Them Softly
$18,000,000 (estimated)
This gritty tale of low level mobsters and hit men could have been a disaster. Not a great deal happens, it is filled with scenes of men talking around the issues of the movie. The social and political commentary have earned the movie its greatest praise and largest criticism. Directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, the pair worked together on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and are both on top form again. And like all great genre movies, it clocks in at less than 100 minutes.

Lockout
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson, I’m not sure there is an original idea in the whole movie and don’t think Luc Besson has actually had an original idea in a long time, but that really doesn’t matter, the movie is great. Its silly and its fun and that’s all it ever intended or indeed needed to be. The plot involves a shady but honest spy type character who is forced to rescue the president’s daughter who is held hostage on a prison in space. So basically its Die Hard meets Escape from New York, in space. The CGI is terrible and the plot is thin but none of this matters, the action is good and the dialogue is often funny. The real appeal is a surprisingly good Maggie Grace and the always brilliant Guy Pearce.

Chronicle
$12,000,000 (estimated)
The surprise low budget hit from the early part of the year. A Sci-fi movie reminiscent of Push (2009) and the TV show Misfits. I’m not a fan of the found footage genre but they get away with on the whole here. It loses its way in the final act but overall it is still an enjoyable movie. The unknown cast are good and the fact they are unknown often works in the movies favour.

Storage 24
Budget: again no idea but its British so will be well within the $25million limit.
I have suggested in the past that Noel Clarke is the most important person in the British film industry at the moment. Actor, writer, director and producer, awarded the Orange Rising Star Award at the 2009 BAFTA’s, he is the writer and star of Storage 24. Ultimately it is an alien invasion movie but without the grandeur of Hollywood movies and scaling it back to a small intimate and personal story. It plays out like a haunted house movie with a great blend of horror, comedy and action. Remembering the golden rule the creature is kept hidden for a long time and when we see it, its pretty good for a low budget movie. Criminally overlooked and underrated.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo)
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Sadly under seen thanks to Mel Gibson’s personal problems and the lack of a cinema release in America. First time director Adrian Gruenberg worked for Gibson as assistant director on Apocalypto, the pair give us an old fashioned story of a getaway driver who finds himself in trouble south of the border. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961) and is all the better for it. Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Mel Gibson of old. Ultimately it is the story of a flawed character looking for redemption, just like Gibson himself.

The Grey
$25,000,000 (estimated)
A horrible and inaccurate portrayal of grey wolves but a haunting and entertaining movie. Liam Neeson has always walked the line between serious actor and action star, originally leaning more towards actor but more recently falling on the action side of the line. When a plane carrying oil drillers crashes in the freezing wastes of Alaska the survivors are hunted by killer wolves. A metaphor for the destruction of the environment and the power of nature or just a survival thriller. Whatever you get from the movie it is well made and largely enjoyable.

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I see a lot of movies at the cinema, on average two a week. I know for many people DVD (and now Brue-ray) is their first experience of many movies. With this in mind here are ten recommendations of films set for release in the next few months.

12 March 2012

My Week with Marilyn: The true story of 23-year-old Colin Clark’s experience on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (who also directed the movie). Directed with a light touch reminiscent of the best of Monroe’s movies but the best thing about it is the fantastic acting, Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Olivier, Michelle Williams is even better as Monroe.

19 March 2012

Moneyball: With a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Brad Pitt’s second great performance of last year does for sports movies what The Social Network did for Facebook. A true testament to the quality of the movie is that it is equally as enjoyable regardless of if you are a baseball fan or not.

Take Shelter: As a regular family man starts having apocalyptic visions he prepares for the impending doom and questions his own sanity in equal measure. A haunting movie that will stay with you long after it ends, elevated by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

26 March 2012

The Awakening: An old-fashioned ghost story, if you know my thoughts on horror, you will know that “old-fashioned” is a compliment not an insult. There are a few twists and turns in the plot but nothing spectacular, the real draw is Rebecca Hall who caries the movie virtually on her own proving her star credentials.

50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a young man who is given a 50% chance of surviving his recently diagnosed cancer. A touching and funny movie inspired by a true story and having a perfect blend of genres and styles. The whole cast is great with a special mention for Anna Kendrick who makes every movie she is in a little bit better including the Twilight movies.

2 April 2012

Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is quite possibly his best movie since Casino (1995). The young stars are fantastic and the movie looks amazing.

30 April 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Tom Cruise is back for a fourth impossible mission. The surprising thing, it could possibly be the best movie in the franchise so far. It has been suggested that Jeremy Renner’s character Brandt is intended as a replacement for Ethan Hunt when Tom Cruise retires the character.

7 May 2012

The Artist: The black and white, (largely) silent movie has just picked up five well deserved Oscars including best picture. With two months to go until its video release there is still time to catch it at the cinema, something I highly recommend you do if you haven’t already.

21 May 2012

Shame: Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

28 May 2012

Haywire: Steven Soderbergh’s version of a revenge B thriller stars former cage fighter Gina Carano and is amazingly the second best movie I have seen this year (after The Artist). 

TV

The five disc box set of season one of HBO’s epic Game Of Thrones is set for release tomorrow (5th March). Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels about the seven kingdoms of the mythical land of Westeros and the families who fight for control of them. With the second season set to premier in America next month what better time to catch up on one of the best new shows of recent years.

A note on the selection: I have no knowledge or interest in the special features these discs contain (I usually purchase “vanilla” versions), my recommendations are based purely on the movies.
All dates refer to UK release dates are are correct to the best of my knowledge.

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From speaking to American movie fans and reading their blogs I understand that January is a bit of a lean month full of crappy movies. Here in the UK things are very different, with indie gems and Oscar contenders coming out, for example last January I saw: 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Black Swan and Blue Valentine. Unfortunately I also saw Season of the Witch! So what did I see this January?

The Artist -The story of the end of the silent era told in the format of a silent movie, stunning!

The Darkest Hour – Alien invasion movie, a good concept poorly executed.

The Iron Lady – Great performances from Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent can’t save what is an ill judged mess of a biopic of form British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Shame – Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

Haywire – Steven Soderbergh gets his hands dirty with a revenge B thriller and a new action star is born in the shape of former cage fighter Gina Carano.

War Horse – Manipulative, sentimental and clichéd, but surprisingly enjoyable. What do you expect for Steven Spielberg.

Underworld: Awakening – Kate Beckinsale returns in her trademark catsuit as the war between Vampires and Lycans has taken a new turn. Disposable but fun. It would have been better without the 3D.

J. Edgar – Uneven but interesting biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. The main draw is a great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Descendants – With his wife in a coma following a powerboat accident, an Hawaiian lawyer has to reconnect with his daughters. A fantastic family drama that surely makes George Clooney favourite for the best actor Oscar.

The Grey – Surprisingly good adventure thriller about a small group of drillers oil workers who survive a plane crash in Alaska only to find they are in the middle of the kill zone of a pack of wolves.

Like Crazy – A British student falls for an American classmate, things are complicated when she is deported for overstaying her visa. An honest and believable story beautifully told and with a fantastic young cast.

The movie of the month is:

And an honorable mention for a movie that is far better than I ever imagined it could be:

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