We've Been Watching...
Here at the Digital Fix we don’t simply watch the films that we write about. Of course, the review discs take priority so as to keep our readership informed of the latest releases, but still we find the time to satisfy our various tastes and predilections. As such we’ve come up with a new fortnightly feature in which to share some of our off-duty viewing. Every other Wednesday we’ll be asking the reviewing team to highlight some of the films they’ve been watching, whether it’s on a big screen or small, an ancient title or brand new…
IAN: This past week has seen me travel to Glasgow for the eighth year of FrightFest’s strand within the Glasgow Film Festival (which you can read more about here), but also allowed me the time to catch some treats around the overall festival. Among them, Derek Cianfrance’s atmospheric crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines which reunites the director with his Blue Valentine star Ryan Gosling. I would say more, but it’s definitely the type of film that’s best to go in blind to and let the layered plot shock and surprise you, keeping you enthralled from start to finish. A stark contrast to my first film of GFF, the Korean box office smash The Thieves which while a chaotic and entertaining heist flick, ultimately proved overlong and derivative.
Close behind as a highlight to Pines was Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, which received its UK premiere as the closing film, with Whedon in attendance. The film itself is an utterly charming and witty take on Shakespeare’s much-loved tale, with Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof simply terrific and instantly endearing. It opens in the UK through Kaleidoscope in June and I urge you all to seek it out.
GAVIN: The cinematic highlight for me this week was Cloud Atlas, a surprisingly effective multi-story epic from the directing team of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis. It's slightly out there, but highly entertaining; even after three hours I don't think I wanted it to end.
A Good Day to Die Hard was something of a disappointment of course. Easily the worst of the series to date, it nevertheless managed to entertain in patches. But I miss the old, more human John McClane.
At home I finally got around to watching the recently restored version of The Terminator. My favourite of the franchise (and second favourite James Cameron film after Aliens), it looked in excellent shape image-wise, and the film itself still works a treat. As great a thriller as it is, I've grown fonder of its noir leanings the older I get; its use of night-time Los Angeles locations gives it a slightly gritty atmosphere absent from the sequels.
And then, for no good reason, I saw Shrek the Third, which was as abysmal as I remember it being in the cinema. A lazier sequel I've not seen in many a year - and that includes Die Hard 5.
JOHN: The last few days have seen me wandering along the crossroads to hell with the Lone Wolf and Cub BD set, enjoying the usual treats of American TV (Walking Dead, Castle, Elementary and Arrow) and a pasta bowl brimming with Spaghetti Westerns. Earnest and highbrow works like Criterions’ Les Cousins and Le Beau Serge sit dusty and shrink-wrapped on my bookcase whilst I gorge myself on nonsense like A Pistol for Ringo, 10,000 Dollars for a Massacre and Massacre Time. Because as much as I like a bit of insight into the human condition, I am much more in the mood for Ogami Itto’s flashing blades and geysers of blood, or Giulano Gemma’s acrobatic gunplay.
There is, of course, a way to bridge the profound and the profane of my tastes and it sits awaiting the attentions of my BD player. Sure it’s a Spaghetti Western, but it’s a film of lawlessness, of uprising, and of thwarted redemption - a fable of unfettered capitalists killing for gold and prejudice. I refer to The Great Silence, my favourite Spaghetti Western, and recently sent from Japan in glorious high definition.
CLAIRE: This weekend I was seeking something light hearted for a Sunday afternoon, what better than a comedy drama from the Duplass brothers? After starting to watch the US sitcom The League last year, I have been paying particular attention to anything Mark Duplass does as he seems to be popping up everywhere. Jeff, Who Lives at Home stars Jason Segal, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer. The story follows Jeff (Segal) a 30 year old pot-head who believes that everything happens for a reason, consequently when he gets a strange phone call one day he takes this as a sign and goes in search of his destiny. The signs lead Jeff to his brother (Helms) and his possibly adulterous wife (Greer), meanwhile their mother (Sarandon) is having her own destiny play out in the office. All of the character’s paths lead to one place for the finale and Jeff realises his destiny. What happens at this point I did not see coming, but I was pleasantly surprised. The film was funny, charming and surprisingly emotional! I fell in love with Jason Segal’s character, and Ed Helm’s performance was great too as he plays a very un-likable character which is unusual for him. After this successful afternoon, next on my Mark Duplass watch list will be Safety Not Guaranteed.
ANTHONY: This week I’ve caught up with a Ray Cooney horror movie. No, not Run for Your Wife, the current big-screen adaptation of his 1983 stage farce that’s scaring up only the tiniest of box-office receipts, but The Hand, a barely-remembered British ‘B’-picture from 1960. Best known for theatrical comedies, the film was something of a diversion for Cooney and his then-regular writing partner Tony Hilton. Instead of the usual silliness came a tale of dismemberment and revenge…
In a Burmese prisoner of camp in 1946 three British soldiers are interrogated by a sadistic warden resulting in two of them losing a hand. Fast-forward to the present day and a drunk is found in a London alleyway similarly missing an appendage. Of course, the two events are connected, though it takes Ronald Leigh-Hunt’s Inspector and Cooney’s wet-behind-the-ears Sergeant some time to make that distinction. First there are illegal operations, organ traffickers, murders and a suicide to be investigated. Admittedly more a police procedural than a horror pic, The Hand is perhaps a little too polite, a little too stagey and a little too British (plenty of tea drinking here) to work as an all-out exploitation flick. Nevertheless, it rattles along at a fair old pace and throws up a nicely ironic ending. Not great, but not bad either.