Captain Phillips (Mild Spoilers): the Maersk Alamaba cargo ship gets hijacked by four AK-47 wielding Somali pirates whilst navigating ‘round the dangerous ‘Horn of Africa’. I can never tell if Tom Hanks is really good, or really samey (in the same way that Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise) – although the only dodgy part of this performance was his accent. Unfortunately the film peaks too early, in the nerve-shredding boat boarding set piece, which even the big finale doesn’t live up to. Like most films at the moment, it’s a little flabbier than it needed to be, out-staying its welcome, with a hyper-extended finale in the cramped lifeboat, in which Greengrass slowly loses his grip on the audience. Also, if you know anything about legendary sniper shots, you’ll know how the film ends before you step in to the cinema, which is a bummer! All-in-all, a solid film – but note quite Oscar worthy.
The Iceman: biopic / mobster film based on the notorious hitman Richard Kuklinski – who has killed over 100 people (believed to be nearer 300). This is definitely a post Killer Inside Me / Killing them Softly type film, a real focus on keeping things real, and when they need to be, graphic. The biggest problem is that film is that it’s essentially an indie re-telling of the Goodfellas story arc, but based on a hitman – so when the focus is on his life collapsing in the last act, you don’t care much because… well… he’s a hitman, and he should be in jail long before then; the film seems to make him a little more sympathetic. Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard Mobster piece, that doesn’t stray far from the path – other than a random scene of political opinion thrown in for no good reason (Vietnam war). Seriously!? Who the fuck casts David Schwimmer as a badass gangster? As soon as he opens his mouth, BOOM, character ruined! Quick note for Ray Liotta – change it up bro, this is getting hella boring. Winona Ryder’s decent, but flaunts her boobs an awful lot (distracts from her good performance). Chris Evans is really good – could have done with more of him. But the biggest, and most obvious, outcome of this is to cast Michael Shannon in as many films as possible – he can, and does, act with every single muscle in his face and body. In the end, The Iceman is a decent enough gangster film that focuses more on the hitman himself than his actions – but Shannon keeps this watchable with a captivating depiction of the cold-blooded mobster.
NEDS: follows a catholic kid in Glasgow circa in the 1970s at the teenage crossroads between continuing education or joining gang life. With a no-holds barred approach to the story and filmmaking, this is gritty, raw and violent for the entire duration; the mentality of the characters is particularly shocking – but as a Scot, I can (sadly) vouch for the realism. The language is coarse and very broad Scottish, so will be pretty difficult for anyone outwith the country to fully understand it. The central character is also one of the meanest pieces of work I can remember, with a likability score of zero, even as the school SWAT. Put this all together and you’ve got a moderately depressing story that in parts makes Trainspotting look like a sitcom – but there’s a few saving graces. There’s a lot of great performances, especially from a cast made primarily of non-actors; most notably the father and both the young & teenage Johns (esp Conor McCarron). Secondly, although it gets to some pretty dark places, the story arc is fantastic, proving to be very powerful and surprisingly effective as a whole. I’m glad I saw NEDS, at first I wasn’t impressed but as the story continued I was slowly drawn in and engaged through to the last 5 minutes. Even though it’s pretty dismal, this film won me over in the end.
Richard Pryor Live in Concert: a 74 minute stand-up show filmed at one of Pryor’s 1978 gigs. Starts with an onslaught of “Whiteboys do this stupidly, niggers do it a different way” observations, although they weren’t as frequent after the first 15 minutes. In the course of this he covers topics as diverse as: police methods, dogs, death, fathers, camping, boxing, running, kids, Chinese people, and sex all with enthusiasm and fantastic execution. As someone that’s performed stand-up live and enjoys the genre, it’s clear that Pryor was light years ahead of the curve with his personification of things, delivery, voices and acting. Unfortunately, because this gig – and Pryor – are now so famous all of the best bits are shown on every TV clip show and countdown. Although it’s clearly a great performance, the focus of race throughout puts me off a bit. Pretty dated, slightly risque but unquestionably funny.