The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, Dean “Hank” Norris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!
Dead Man’s Shoes: an on-edge soldier returns home to find that local thugs have been taking advantage of his disabled brother; revenge is definitely on the cards. The story’s powerful, harrowing, chilling and hard to watch in parts (mostly the flashbacks). First time round I thought Paddy stole the show but on re-watching, his brother (Kebbell) is equally fantastic; most of the antagonists are on top form too. The soundtrack fits perfectly, making the overall ambiance more effective, disturbing you as much as the brief bursts of violence. There are some beautiful moments of black comedy in the spraypaint and comedy car – but they’re only momentary distractions. The only downside is that it feels padded out in parts, with a very long opening and plenty of scenic shots – although it could be argued that it adds to the film’s character. As a thriller, Dead Man’s Shoe is top-notch, and punches way above its low-budget social micro-thriller status.
Black Mirror: (3 Episodes) nihilistic social commentator and comedian Charlie Brooker’s latest TV drama Series. Despite each episode being set in a different reality, time and having different casts; all stories impeccably balance being realistic yet bizarre, believable yet surreal, sensible yet satirical, controversial & shocking yet engaging & thought-provoking. The series takes things from the present, twists and warps them until they’re barely recognizable, then throws it up on the screen as a cautionary tale, highlighting where these things can, have, or are going wrong. The casting and acting in particular are outstanding; production is ridiculously high and very slick – this is clearly something that has aimed exceptionally high from the planning through to post-production stages. The first two episodes are fantastic, however the finalé feels more like a single afterthought stretched to the limit – it’s still good, but has by far the least to say about the fewest subjects. The 15 Million Credits rant is among the most powerful and affecting TV moments I can remember watching. TV is undoubtedly where Brooker and his opinions shine brightest – I’ve started two of his books but finished neither due to page after page of brutal insults becoming rapidly tedious. On the whole, Black Mirror is darkly satirical, riveting and massively unsettling, this could well be the important thing you’ll see on TV, but don’t read anything else about it as there’s spoilers everywhere; hunt this down and make your own mind up.
Episode 1 – The National Anthem: The UK Prime Minister must meet a bizarre demand in order to free a kidnapped princess. Satire and commentary of newsrooms, politics, social media and the fickle public.
Episode 2 -15 Million Merits: a numb dystopian future where people work for merits and spend on useless rubbish. Scathing critique of reality TV, talent shows, free-to-air adult channels, consumerism and where our lives may be heading.
Episode 3 – The Entire History of You: anybody can have a chip that will replay any memory on demand… but that’s not always a good thing. Stand-alone sci-fi idea, definitely the odd one out.
Rock ‘n’ Rolla [Blu Ray]: Guy Ritchie introduces another bunch of dodgy geezers that you would find in ‘everyday Britain’… honestly! There’s a huge section of Basil exposition at the start; although goes with the territory of having 20 storylines and around 400 characters. There’s more narration by a LANDAN GEEZA – and the script’s full of more cockney slang / gangster limericks; I wouldn’t blame non-Brits for requiring subtitles. (Ewe go’ mo’ feet on thu street van coppas on thu beat – etc). There’s more Tarantino-esqué styling with wipes, swipes, fast cut editing, dialogue in boxes. There’s more people acting trivially when surrounded by or cut between senseless violence – which is becoming old hat. There’s also more dark comedy elements, which are quite good: a homosexual sub-plot, S&M, botched robbery, comparing scars, indestructible Russians… Where this succeeds is the stunning Brit cast; Hardy, Strong, Elba, ‘Superhands’, Butler, Kebbell, and Newton. The Blu Ray’s worth the extra pennies, with a slick picture and some tasty HD-audio. If you can’t tell from the above, Rock ‘n’ Rolla is more of the same ol’ Guy Ritchie tricks, although it’s all totally passable, and in the end, quite entertaining & watchable. It was planned to be the first of three films and – surprisingly – I’d like to see the other two.