Filth: a detective gunning for promotion is also heading for a breakdown, but how long can he keep his many plates spinning? This is the latest movie adaptation of an Irvine Welsh book, and feels like it’s going for a “Trainspotting for the teenies” angle. It would be silly to complain about the content of a film called Filth, but in case you need a heads-up: it’s crammed with deviant sex & sexuality, drug use, violence, and oodles of fantastically creative swearing, amongst other things. The over-emphasis of the of the craziness going on in Bruce’s mind – hallucinations, binges, sex, porn – don’t really detract from the story, because Bruce’s nose-candy nose-dive IS the story. Despite all the headline-grabbing controversial content crammed into this, the main talking point is undoubtedly James McAvoy’s performance; in an era where leading men no longer required to be likeable or even remotely empathetic, he works wonders with the few tiny slivers of humanity he gets. My biggest concern of the picture however is it’s extremely unflattering – and wholly unrealistic – take on Scotland and it’s culture: if it’s not films about the Loch Ness Monster, it’s about the druggies of Trainspotting, Red Road, NEDS, and now Filth – the Scottish tourist board must really hate our film industry.
Dexter (Season 1): Miami’s top blood-splatter expert has a nice little hobby of dispensing the city of its criminals that the justice system spits back out. I know it’s the first season and everything needs to be established, but there’s no need for the dialogue (and lazy voiceovers) to be this wincingly bad: “This box is like me, completely empty,” “if I had a heart, it would be breaking…” WE GET IT, You’re an emotionless sociopath! THIS IS THE PREMISE OF THE SHOW – DUH!!! Dexter’s (Michael C Hall) acting is also good, or bad, enough (hard to tell when he’s playing a psycho) to convince us he is truly cold, and always trying to act normal. Plot-wise, the bigger “ice Truck Killer” story is far more interesting than the scumbag of the week episodes, however they do reinforce, and slowly let you see Dexter’s M.O. which is interesting to watch. Dexter Season 1 has some good watching in it; and features TVs smoothest asexual, and most supportable vigilante.
Sniper: Reloaded - when his team are ambushed by a single shooter, a marine goes behind enemy lines to draw the sniper out and avenge his fallen comrades. For a b-movie, the action in this is surprisingly strong and intense; unfortunately the filler between these big set-pieces is fairly standard. Unbeknownst to me, this is the 4th film in the series, but you don’t have to have seen the rest to understand this; although they may explain the unprecedented overuse of ‘shoulder touching to convey trust’ symbolism. Most importantly, for a film about snipers, pretty much all of the famous / trick shots are in there: kill through a wall, one shot – two kills, thread the needle through another sniper scope. It’s also aided by some stunning wildlife & nature shots and a gratuitously bad all-holds-barred sex scene. For a no name cast (other than Billy Zane, who kinda feels at home here) and no budget, Sniper: Reloaded shouldn’t be nearly as good as it is, but the action, cinematography and setting make up for shortcomings in the script and story departments.
Benda Bilili!: documentary spanning five years from the creation, to the eventual success and acclaim, of a street band from the Congo, 5 of whom happen to be paraplegics. Given the tough upbringing and background of the musicians, it’s truly inspirational to see them always looking at the plus side, as well as their determination to succeed. Your shanty house burnt down? Things like this happen in life, get over it! The music is excellent, given that it’s self-taught musicians, playing beaten up guitars and homemade instruments (like a string and stick attached to a can). Unfortunately, the doc gets pretty French in parts, with some long spiels of philosophizing on the streets, rather than just telling the amazing story. The balance of the movie is also a little off, with most of the runtime dedicated to the struggle and hardship, and not nearly enough celebrating the success and rewarding good times. Still, Benda Bilili is an uplifting tale of adversity against all odds.
Arrested Development (Season 2): with George Bluth on the run, the family must march on without him, and Michael must keep the Bluth Company - and his family - under control. This is my third time watching through AD and in reflection it’s so obvious why a show like this was destined to fail on TV. The biggest problem is that the running gags are subtle, and would be easy to miss if there were 7 days (let alone weeks) between the episodes. With the DVDs however, you can bash through a season in a few nights and really appreciate the fine writing. In saying that, S2 tries to address this by having clusters of jokes that are confined to an episode; like the ‘Charlie Brown’ slow walking, Gene Parmesan, etc. The biggest step up for me is lot more brilliantly timed physical comedy: chicken dances, face pulling, slipping, and Mrs Featherbottom’s spectacular Mary Poppins moment. Once again the brilliant ensemble cast of comedic actors does great things with well-written characters. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone that enjoys comedy TV – almost a decade later and it still puts most shows to shame.
“I just blue myself”
After Porn Ends: doc that catches up with some porn superstars of yesteryear and sees what they’re doing having left the industry. This doesn’t feel much like a conventional documentary – there’s no narration, or much of a narrative for that matter, just feels like you’re listening in on people storytelling; which has some merits. The biggest surprise is how smart and pragmatic some pornstars are (one actress is in mensa!), but this feels short-lived as it’s quickly balanced out by the ridiculously vapid bimbo stereotypes that also show up. You have to be a unique person to enter this kind of work, and in a way that’s what keeps this watchable - these people have led quite fascinating, peculiar lives during their porn careers, then as an ex-porn star societal pariah. The most interesting – and telling - part of the film however is seeing what happened after the interviews in the pre-credit titles. In the same way that ‘Side by Side’ was about the transition in cinema, this feels a bit like old-timers reminiscing about the glory days / ‘golden age’ of porn. All in all, After Porn Ends is surprisingly watchable, yet it’s a little unforgivable that someone could stitch together a film this flat and ordinary when it features so many people with remarkable stories (like a world-record breakin’ gangbang featuring 500 men!), working in the world’s most taboo and sensational industry.