Distant Voices, Still Lives

This is a fantastic 1988 British drama film set in 1940’s and 1950’s Liverpool.

The story follows a working class family headed by an angry and abusive father (played by the excellent Pete Postlethwaite), his wife, and three children.

The film is split into two parts, with the first part called “Distant Voices” and the second “Still Lives”. Each part jumps around in the past, present, and future, and does it quite well, although some may find it confusing.

A central part of the story, apart from being about a family that has to deal with a difficult father, is singing. Most of the cast are singing at some point, or are all singing together at home, or together down at the pub with their friends. This is pre-rock ‘n’ roll, so the songs are old-timey. The film’s timeline ended probably just on the cusp of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and I was actually expecting to hear Bill Haley or Fats Domino at the end. Some of the actors and actresses were very good singers.

Everything about this is superbness, and I find it hard to criticise it in any way. Some may find this to be a bit depressing, especially the scenes involving the father who is mostly in a bad mood, and what his suffering wife has to go through. But, I found it to be beautiful and unforgettable.

Date watched: August 19th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 53

Tetro

Today’s film review is in pirate speak, for no particular reason. Aye.

’tis a 2009 film starrin’ Vincent Gallo, ‘n directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

’twas filmed in Argentina ‘n be a U.S./Argentina/Spain co-production wit’ a cast o’ mostly Argentinian actors, along wit’ Vincent ‘n Alden Ehrenreich, who I could nah place ’til th’ end credits. Both o’ them, along wit’ th’ rest o’ th’ cast were mighty good.

Th’ cinematography too was excellent, mostly filmed in glorious black ‘n white. Th’ scenes taken in th’ Patagonia mountains were beautiful. ‘n th’ tale itself was reasonably simple, but multi-layered, ‘n told th’ tale o’ a difficult family relationship well. Thar was a good endin’ too, quite unexpected, although unlike many films o’ th’ ilk it went fer th’ safe endin’.

Alden Ehrenreich were bein’ great in his role, this bein’ his first film aft bein’ discovered by Steven Spielberg. While watchin’ this ’twas hard nah t’ reckon ye were watchin’ a young Leonardo Decaprio, he looks kind o’ like ‘im ‘n had a similar actin’ style.

A mighty good, but nah great film I would say. I would recommend watchin’ this wit’ a good white wine, ‘n a nice selection o’ cheese.

Lookin’ at Vincent’s website I see that ye can buy some rather pricey booty.

Translation by Pirate Monkeyness.

Date watched: August 4th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 52

Taxidermia

This is a 2006 Hungarian/Austrian/French surrealist comedy-drama horror film.

A few minutes in it became a bit of a shocker, with scenes that were just a tad hard to watch. I won’t go into details, but after watching cosy Hollywood films this reminded me that true film-makers don’t hold back, especially East-European film-makers.

It was split into three parts, following three generations of men. The first involves a dim-witted and quite perverse soldier who is under the control of an army lieutenant. The second part is about his son, who is a professional speed-eater, and the last part is about his son who is a taxidermist. The stories are intertwined, and are mostly either quite disgusting or gory, with added humour or bizarreness.

It is very well filmed and acted, and after the first act, which was the most disgusting of all, I found it to be very entertaining and quite funny. It is certainly not a film you would want to watch with anyone with a closed mind when it comes to film…just watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead. But, if you like something very different, and don’t mind watching speed-eaters projectile-vomit into buckets after a contest, then this is a highly recommended watch.

Date watched: August 3rd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 51

American Made

I will pretty much watch anything with the Cruiser, the guy knows how to make himself look good on film, and the stories he tells are good with a large Coke and plenty of potato chips.

This is very loosely based on the true story of Barry Seal, a pilot who got himself involved in smuggling all kinds of stuff for Central and South American drug lords and dictators.

What the film spends most of the time on is convincing us that being a crafty pilot smuggler is damn cool because you can buy anything you want, people will love you, and the law cannot touch you. And to top it off the CIA is helping you do all of this, so it’s all good, no need to feel guilty about any of it. Not only that, but the government right up to Olly North, and even Ronno Reagan himself, were ordering the CIA what to do in their campaign to rid South America of dirty commies. They didn’t come off looking so good.

In the story, as in real life, Barry was assassinated, while the CIA, Olly, and Ronno all got off scot-free, and went on to dream up the Iran-Contra affair (which didn’t work either).

So, what I have read about the real goings-on, and what this film portrayed, showed that Tom made Barry look too good (Barry was a large fellow too). He was not some outlaw hero who stuck it to the man, he was just a greedy criminal with a licence to ill, although he was quite brave to do some of the things he did.

The real Barry was at one point one of the richest men in America with over $60 million big ones, although Tom himself is worth $550 million in today’s money (which back in the eighties was over $200 million). Tommo is 15th on the list of rich celebs, with Stevo Spielberg at number one, worth $3.7 billion.

As a film it was pure entertainment. It was well made with some good action sequences here and there, some funny bits, and of course the Cruiser being his usual charming self. There were a few ficticious scenes added in for extra laughs or gasps, such as Bazza landing a plane on a suburban street, getting out of the plane covered in cocaine, then handing a kid huge amounts of cash to a kid for the damage caused to his house, then another bundle of cash for his bike, which he then speeds away on.

We did not at any point in the film get to see Tom running…disappointing, but the bike scene was close enough.

Another purely entertaining Tom Cruise film, not quite up there with Mission Impossible, but still well worth a watch.

And here is Tom running…

Date watched: August 2nd
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 50

Hallam Foe

This is a 2007 British drama film set in Glasgow, and is based on a book of the same name.

The story is about a young man who suspects that his step-mother murdered his mother. He leaves home and goes to Glasgow where he basically starts stalking a woman who looks likes his real mother, and falls in love with her. There is more to it of course, but the story is still quite simple.

Everything about this slightly quirky film is good. The acting is superb, the photography is simple and efficient, the pacing is spot-on, and there is a good balance of drama and humour.

The fellow in the lead role is Jamie Bell who has been in big Hollywood films such as King Kong (more of a Wellywood film actually), Jumper, and Fantastic Four. He is married to Kate Mara.

Also in the film is Sophia Myles who played Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds film, and was also in Transformers: Age of Extinction (just for the money I am sure). Ewen Bremner had a small role as well.

There was not a lot of Glasgow in it, but it looks like a very decent place to visit someday.

So it was a good watch, not overly special at all, but a good way to fill in some time on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Date watched: July 29th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 49

Akira and Toshiro

While writing my previous post, I thought maybe Takeshi Kitano should go onto the MBMS Page of Fame, but decided against it until I have seen a few more of his films.

But, it made me realise I have not added two giants of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. They made sixteen films together, many of them are in my “best of all time” list. So they are there now.

Balance has been restored to the galaxy.

Hana-bi

After watching Takeshi Kitano’s disappointing Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen a few weeks ago I decided last night to watch this film which I knew is considered one of his best films.

And it turned out to be but everything, a most enjoyable and often funny film.

Actually, it was a strange mix of quite graphic violence mixed with touching drama, kind of a cross between Pulp Fiction and Terms of Endearment, but all in Japanese of course. Like Pulp Fiction the timeline jumped around a bit.

The story was very simple, basically about a police detective who had to retire after a shooting which killed one of his partners and injured two others, and he had to take care of his wife who had leukemia. Dialogue was at a minimum with Takeshi hardly speaking at all, instead relying on his deadpan face (Kitano lost all movement on the right side of his face in a scooter accident in 1994) except for a facial tick which was either intentional or not, but which was most effective. The story was ambiguous at times, leaving small details out so that the viewer had to figure them out. There were no close-up shots inserted of someone secretly picking something up or whatever, put there to spell things out for the audience…something I hate seeing in films.

There were many long takes of random things which did not have any meaning except to give the film a very calming effect. One shot had two guys discussing something, then they walked out of view and the camera was just looking at a wall for a few seconds.

One of the characters in the film, a cop who lost the use of his legs in the aforementioned shooting, started up painting abstract pictures such as the following…

There were several of them in the film, and as it turns out they were all painted by Kitano himself. Quite a guy.

Kitano had made several films before this one, but after this film won critical acclaim in Europe it was only then that he was taken seriously in Japan as a film-maker. From Wikipedia:

Kitano himself said it was not until he won the Golden Lion that he was accepted as a serious director in his native Japan; prior his films were looked at as just the hobby of a famous comedian.

An excellent film, well worth a watch, and it was interesting to see 1997 Japan (I arrived in Japan the next year).

Date watched: July 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 48