The Frozen Ground: when an upstanding citizen is accused of kidnapping, torturing and raping a ‘lying’ prostitute the case is immediately dropped, but lands on the desk of a diligent detective. The first-time director coaxes solid performances from an impressive cast: Con Air’s Cage and Cusack are always welcome (and Cage looks like he actually wants to be here!), supported by the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Kurt Fuller, Brad Henke, and 50 Cent’s teeth. Unlike 99% of serial killer films, this is different because you know very quickly who the baddie is – it’s not a random character added in the last act – so we see the cop stalking the killer, while the he tries to evade detection, not unlike Insomnia (in setting / location too). In fact the only real mis-step is the clichéd ‘over-committed-detective-with-suffering-family’ trope, but it’s a minor part of the picture. As great as this is, it’s a tough one to recommend because it’s pretty grim viewing in parts, but I’d put this as being head and shoulders above your average movie in the burgeoning ‘true crime / serial killer’ genre.
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.
Ted: a young boy who wished that his teddy bear could come to life and be his best friend gets just that, but 25 years later their friendship is tested by a smelly girl! With Wahlberg, McFarlane and Kunis as the leads you know that this one should be funny, and it is. They’re also aided by some ace casting of the smaller roles; Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Ryan Reynolds, Sam Jones etc. The film’s pretty much gag-o-rama, with the funniest ones being the ‘shouldn’t be laughing’ moments – the Airplane / Saturday Night Fever homage to a spoof was brilliantly used too. The downside is that the direction is fairly plain, and story is weak, and although it’s funny, it’s not end-to-end-side-splittingly-good. The bottom line is that as a (live action) extension of family guy – cast, voices, music – the Ted does alright, but as a ‘film’, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It’s definitely funny, but most of it is forgettable.
Killing Them Softly: a mob ‘enforcer’ investigates the robbery of a protected card game. the style is a bizarre mix of Indie/Arthouse, and cutting-edge (often trippy) blockbuster effects and visuals. The sound mix is equally as strange, mostly through the ‘background noise’ being deliberately amplified in almost every scene. The script is very dry, boring, overly – and offensively – misogynistic, and contains characters called Frankie, Mickey, Markie – which gets hard to follow at points. Most scenes are overlong and rambly, Gandalfini in particular gets far too much time. Pitt is the best in class, everyone else coasts on mob/Australian stereotypes. Scoot McNairy – decent performance, but hands-down THE most annoying voice of the year. There’s a blatant political/economic overtone – mostly through in-picture TVs/Radios – and it’s as subtle as a brick to the face. Most frustratingly,, it plays out exactly as you know it will; with no twists, turns, surprises or originality – and you can’t root for any of the characters. Killing Them Softly is a bleak / grim / crushingly realistic mobster-procedural critique of corporate culture (where underpaid people do the dirty work, and getting a decision from the bosses is impossible – original, huh?) – unfortunately, it’s nowhere near entertainment.
Matador: a struggling salesman and troubled hitman meet in a bar… no it’s not a joke! First thing’s first, Brosnan absolutely owns this film as an alcoholic, borderline psychopathic, burn-out, jaded, lonely, vulgar assassin with homosexual undertones, including a wicked tache and fashion sense. He is nothing short of pure entertainment, with great comedy timing and black comedy vibe, effortlessly creating an unforgettable character. Greg Kinnear’s also rock solid, and plays the straight-laced guy perfectly – because there’s only two mains they’re both fleshed out well. There’s a great off-kilter tone throughout and it harks back to the classic screwballs – which keeps the film interesting. Visually, it’s delightful with lots of bright colours, tourist-friendly cinematography and some unique direction. There’s a few great songs masterfully inserted too. Of all the decent things that Broz has ever done, this is the one film that put him up for a Golden Globe – make sure you see why! Bottom line, it’s a well-made, very funny, black screwball comedy with two great characters at the centre.
Horrible Bosses: three friends are having major issues at work and decide it would be best if their bosses weren’t around any more… so they hire a ‘murder consultant’. The three bosses (Spacey, Aniston, Farrell) are all well cast and solid comedy characters. The three goons pull off the comedy of errors pretty well; albeit in a Hollywood shouty fashion, especially the little guy. However, it’s Jamie Foxx in the cameo role that and outshines and outfunnies everyone else put together with immaculate comedy timing. Worth noting that Aniston looks amazing, and gets to say some unbelievably filthy lines – ‘I fingered myself so hard I broke a nail’ – for the guys, this has been a looooong time coming! The majority of the jokes are consistent, and pretty funny, although mostly lowbrow crude/sex orientated – which is a shame as it had massive black comedy potential. It’s also well shot and has the advantage of being one of those films that everyone can relate to – who hasn’t had a boss that was a Psycho, Maneater or Tool at some point?! Horrible bosses is far better than it looks, and a contender with Bridesmaids for Comedy of the year.
Luther (Series 2): Detective CI John Luther Thud! Is back on the streets of London Thud! Stopping more bad guys Thud! and saving the day Thud… Hear that? That’s the sound of the BBC dropping the balls of everything that made series one great. 1) Format changed from 1 hour 1 case to 2 hours 1 case – also instead of 6 there are only 4 episodes (and only 2 cases) 2) Bad guys are ridiculous, one is straight out of a Saw film, and the other was just a normal nerd – neither particularly scary, or believable 3) Good, established characters are neglected – most noticeably crazy Alice, who is majorly poo poo’d – and the show suffers big time – and Schenk, who was hot on Luther’s heels in S1 and now his immediate boss. 4) Worst side story ever (Geezers, porn, drugs…) although I strongly suspect it was written as a 2-episode case, but was so bad they cut it in to the others as a backstory. 5) Super-Luther… he was suspiciously good in Series 1, but it’s all a bit too “just one more thig…” this time round. On the up side, there’s some really tense scenes, we get more of Ripley, the acting and production are to a high standard, and it’s still watchable. Don’t get me wrong, Series 2 is still good TV by UK standards, but it’s a mere shadow of the brilliant series 1.