Sleepless Review

As I sail the world of film, occasionally pausing to watch the latest superblockbuster fling itself gladly upon the coral reef of mediocrity  it heartens me to see the occasional, smaller films still set sail for the local multiplex.

And all the signs look promising, which immediately got my back up.

It’s low budget which means that the studios would have pretty much left it alone as, who cares if a 30 million dollar film grosses only 28.7 million and holds 18% on Rotten Tomatoes?

No. Bad critic! Focus on your opinion and yours alone and you should love this film.

I mean it stars Jaimie Foxx who I’ve liked ever since I saw in him in his Oscar winning turn in Ray, which came out in.. 2004? Christ i’m getting old.  Since then he’s been in Stealth ( one of the biggest box office bombs in history), the franchise ending Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the abominable Annie remake back in 2014. On the other hand he was in Django Unchained and i’ve always had a soft spot for Collateral given that the subtitles are on and never turned off.

I’ll mark him down as ‘wasting his talent/my time.

And this film looks pretty solid, a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a casino in search of his kidnapped son, whilst his kidnapper needs something from him and his boss needs something from him and Internal Affairs is after the lot of them and everyone’s on the clock and you can’t trust anyone and why didn’t I love this film?

Solid cast, solid plot with plenty of opportunities for being a distracting diversion, except someone forgot to bring the action.

Yeah, for a film which is screaming out to be a Die Hard clone with a bit of Taken thrown in and with multiple people at multiple levels of society all being squeezed by the relentless march of time the action was pretty tragic. What few gunfights the film had were boring, the fight choreography sucked, there were too many characters, none of whom I cared about, oh, and the film didn’t have the courage of it’s convictions.

Seriously, the film needed to streamline it’s plot, not have the obvious twist be so obvious and it needed a hero who could be injured. I mean Foxx’s character does receive a stab wound early on, which needs constant attention through the film but has as much effect as a shaving cut most of the time.

But it needed more action, it needed better fewer, better characters and it needed better lighting as well, at times I thought I was in a screening of a slightly muffled script run-through than an actual screening of an actual film.

Oh and sequel baiting? That’s just cute.

Skip this and watch Free Fire, Taken or Die Hard.



Their Finest Review

The last time that I saw a film about the entertainment industry in London during the Second World War, I wound seeing more of national treasure Bob Hoskins than I could afford to tell my therapists about so it was with some trepidation that I apprached Their Finest featuring a (hopefully fully clothed) Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton.

The set ups a simple one, during the war, typist Catrin Cole has been seconded to the film division of the ‘Ministry of Information’ and winds up helping to write a film about a more or less true story of the Dunkirk evacuation that will inspire and unite the nation, bring America into the war, survive endless levels of official interference, cantankerous old actors, actors that can’t act all the while attempting to keep Richard E. Grant from chewing the scenery into rubble before the Nazis get the chance. Whack it on the stage and you’d have an incredible farce as increasingly desperate scriptwriters try to keep the show on the road. After all, that is traditionally what the old ‘play-within’a-play’ conceit has been used for.

Except this isn’t a fast moving farce on the stage, instead it’s a film that’s so British that I half felt I should be watching it with a cup of Earl Grey enhanced with a twist of lemon (blaspheming early Grey with milk simply isn’t done in a civilized society). Unlike most films, it doesn’t shy away from showing social attitudes of the time and the fact that with most men away in the armed forces, women are for the first time in history earning money and beginning to assert themselves in the workplace.

But this film is slow, very, almost punishingly slow. it’s run-time of 117 minutes passed reasonably quickly for myself but my infinitely better half was bored to Farmville before the start of Act Two.

It is well  acted and scored and potters along well enough, although the heartwarming moments never quite convince, mostly owing to a complete lack of chemistry between Arterton and an incredibly handsome block of wood called Sam Claflin who people keep trying and failing to convince me is a real boy.  Bill Nighy does what he can but he’s given very little to work with.

And despite opening in the rest of the world weeks before the United Kingdom, I can see why it’s so far made back less than a third of it’s budget relatively meager £30 million pound budget. This is a story that needs to be fast moving, to pile on issue after issue after issue, large and small, serious and silly but I’ve seen faster plotting in episodes of Midsummer Murders! Even the war itself feels like little more than a distraction from the central plot of getting this film made, which by the end is supposed to be doing everything bar finding out who Keyser Soze really is.

I really wanted to like this film, it had actors I like, a story-line I normally like, in a setting that I find intriguing but it feels like the kind of film that my grandparents would have loved and that’s the issue. This is a film made for a time that’s already been and gone.

And that time was about twenty years ago. No matter how many twinkly Bill Nighys you throw at me.

My Score- If Nothing Else