Monday, 20 November 2017

Freeview film of the day : monday 20th of November

I Wish (2011 123min.) [Ch4 2.00am tuesday &+1]

A 12-year-old boy lives with his divorced mother, while his brother lives with his father in a different part of the country. When a bullet train line is built connecting the two towns, he starts to believe that when the first trains pass each other, a miracle will occur - which he hopes will reunite his family. Drama, starring real-life brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda. In Japanese.

Hirokazu Koreeda is the emerging star of Japanese mainstream cinema : his Like Father, Like Son (2013) and Our Little Sister (2015) both found a very large audience outside of his homeland and created interest in his back catalogue.

I Wish (along with the superb After Life (1998) ) demonstrates the development of his style and his abiding interests : childhood's hope, joy and sheer joie de vivre captured without sentimentally or a crushing layer of saccharine schmaltz.

It's a terrific story, based on a Japanese urban legend and it's brilliantly played by the young cast and the older ensemble portaying the adults in their life.

Beautifully shot and constructed it makes terrific use of the natural beauty of the Japanese landscape and the finished work is an absolute delight to watch.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 28th of August

Animal Kingdom (2009 108min.) [Ch4 1.10am BST sunday &+1]

Australian crime drama starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Mike from Neighbours and James Frecheville. After his mother dies of an overdose, young Joshua Cody takes up his grandmother's offer of a home. But he must also gain the acceptance of his three career-criminal uncles, who are under investigation by the local police.

Australian writer/director David Michôd's feature debut is a terrific piece of film making with a gritty but realistic central story that spins off in any number of directions and includes at least three "oh no!" moments of genuine shock.

Packed with great performances, but special mention for Jacki Weaver who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the mater familias to this trio of hard-bitten, brutal but fading would-be gangsters.

It's a remarkable film that is highly recommened to everyone, but especially to those who found Chopper (to which this film has a stylistic resemblance) to be a gripping and taut piece of cinema back in 2000.

A really, really well made crime drama.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 27th of October

Pitch Perfect (2012 107min.) [E4 9.00pm &+1]

A new student finds herself a social outcast during her first year of college, but soon acquires a new circle of friends in a band of misfits with a shared talent for singing. She joins their a cappella group and leads them to compete in the campus music competitions.
Comedy, starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Elizabeth Banks.

Light hearted (but not lightweight) campus set big sister to the Glee TV series. High paced and bursting with energy; the story may not amount to much and the plot takes a fairly straight line from A to C but it's all done with such wit and performed with charm and verve that it's difficult not to get swept along.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : friday 20th of October

One-Armed Swordsman (1967 109mins.) [Film4 1.40am saturday &+1]

A man has his life saved by a farmer's daughter, who shows him a secret manual that enables him to seek revenge on the jealous classmates who chopped off his arm, as well as the people who killed his father. Martial arts action drama, starring Jimmy Wang and Lisa Chiao Chiao. In Mandarin.

Cracking example of the martial arts films that Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio (and many others) were producing at the rate of dozens per year throughout the sixties and seventies.

Shanghai-born Wang Yu was the genre superstar up until the arrival of Bruce Lee - and this is one of his very best films.
Highly recommended to those who like this sort of thing.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 14th October

The Hunger Games (2012 136mins.) [Film4 6.15pm &+1]

A totalitarian future-America holds an annual nationally televised event in which two children from each of its regions fight to the death until only one remains. A teenage girl takes her younger sister's place in the games and must pit her wits against the deadly combat skills of her rivals. Sci-fi adventure based on Suzanne Collins' novel, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks.

The quite alarming drop-off in quality as the Hunger Games film series developed seems to have resulted in people forgetting quite how good this first film is.

It's a fairly straightforward book-to-screen adaptation and therefore has some of the same faults as the source material (overly familiar sci-fi themes, the rather unsubtle social satire etc.) but director Gary Ross does a terrific job of keeping the action moving forward in an interesting and stylish way.

The design of the film is also terrific - the rendering of the world where the action takes place is really well done and the set and costume design are both excellent.

And then there's the star making turn by Jennifer Lawrence as the film's resourceful and strong hero Katniss Everdeen : it's a very fine piece of acting indeed and sits comfortably in a cast filled with some great character actors - Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and woody Harrelson are especially good.

Thrilling, exciting, sad, sweet and tender it's a film that, while aimed at a specific audience, works just as well for those without any knowledge of the books.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Freeview film of the day : wednesday 27th of september

The Red House (1947 100 mins.) [Talking Pictures TV 12.00am thursday)

A brother and sister conceal a terrible secret from the teenager they have adopted, concerning a farmhouse deep in a forest. Mystery, starring Edward G Robinson and Lon McCallister.

An absolutely terrific film that was unfairly neglected and near forgotten for decades but which has undergone significant re-evaluation and rehabilitation in the past five years or so.

Although it's nominally a domestic drama/mystery thriller it's shot in the style of a film noir by the outstanding genre director Delmer Daves, who made his name in noir thrillers before moving on to make some of the best Hollywood westerns of the fifties.

Edward G Robinson is perfect in the lead role and pulls all the attention away from the "limited" abilities of the two juvenile actors with whom he shares the first part of the story.

A very young Rory Calhoun gives spirited support as a local roughneck and Judith Anderson is perfectly cast as Robinson's long suffering wife - a study in grim faced determination to carry on with her life despite sharing in The Terrible Secret.

There's some top notch scenery (the film was shot largely on location in the Sierra Nevada mountains), the black and white photography is gorgeous and there's a Miklos Rozsa score underpinning the whole thing.

A quietly creepy and brilliantly constructed little gem.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 23rd of September

Speed (1994 111min.) [Film4 9.00pm &+1]

An LAPD cop discovers a psychopathic criminal has planted a bomb on a crowded bus, primed to go off if the vehicle drops below 50mph. He boards the vehicle and helps the hapless passenger who has been forced to take the wheel to keep a constant speed to avoid a disaster. Action thriller, starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper and Jeff Daniels.

A film that was a huge deal at the time and spawned an enormous number of cash-ins (and a less than wonderful sequel of its own) but which seems to have fallen from favour slightly over the past twenty years.

Watching it now you're struck by the amount of moments which have become cinematic cliches since they first featured here.
The central performances (Keanu, Sandy and Dennis) are all very good and Jan De Bont certainly knows how to direct this kind of film (he also directed the excellent Twister).

I watched it again last year and was struck by how well it's stood up over the passing years, unlike many big budget, effects heavy Hollywood blockbusters of the nineties.

Well worth another look.