American Honey (2016) is a wonderful piece of mid budget filmmaking and film were Shia Lebouf is actually quite bearable. It’s a gentle drama about the freedom of being young and fearless, miss-fits who go on road trips selling magazine subscriptions by day and partying by night the theme. It hits that backpack vibe of the best times of your life and a sweet love story on top by a brilliant newcomer Sasha Lane.
The Salvation (2014) is cracking little Western staring Mads Mickelson and although perfunctory in its themes its visceral shock approach packs a real punch. You need a gritty Western that steers away from cowboy cliché now and then and this is it.
Mindhorn (2014) is spoof British comedy about an ageing TV actor, Julian Barrett, that was a big star in the 1970s fictional cop drama Mindhorn. His career receives an unexpected boost in the modern day when a murderer on the loose on the Isle of Wight demands to meet this TV hero or he will kill again. Barrett decides to take his role rather too seriously and becomes Mindhorn on the case as chaos ensues on the island.
Dont Breathe (2016) is an above average horror psyche drama about two guys and a women who break into people’s houses and burgle them. But they pick the wrong one this time as, although the house holder is elderly and blind, he is an ex Vietnam veteran and has acute hearing and a gun as he traps the robbers in the house and begins to try and take them out. It’s got a few plot holes but a great twist and plenty of atmosphere and violence.
I neglected foreign movies a little this year but still the best to watch out there. Spacewalk (2017) from Russia, an action movie about the Russians first ever spacewalk, is exciting stuff and fills out a little known story, a sort of Apollo 13 for Russians. In Order of Disappearance (2014) was a really enjoyable and violent revenge black comedy from Sweden as Skellan’s Skarsgard’s angry father character reeks havoc on the Albania mob up in the snowfields for killing his son over a bungled drugs deal.
Mummy (2014) was well worth a look from super talented Xavier Dolan, who stars, produces and directs in his own movies, a gay man who plays skewed versions of himself in really smart comic dramas, here the unstable son of a single mom (Suzanne Clemont), both determined to keep each other in their care as the authorities close in. Suntan (2016) was also stand out in this genre, the story of a balding middle aged doctor who takes a job in a Greek holiday resort and soon infatuated by the summer season debauchery and develops a crush on a younger holiday maker, who reciprocates to a point but soon tires of his clinginess, resulting in stalker like behavior and neglect of his other patients. It really niggles on those issues of age verses youth and intelligent film to see on the subject.
Peter Jacksons extraordinary film on the First World War should be there in everyone’s must see film list, if just for a likewise moment. We begin with that ‘flickery’ Pathe News black & white footage of the 1914-18 Great War we are very familiar with, slightly sped up footage with the soldiers almost comical in combat in what was mostly propaganda footage back then. Then it fades into color and the soldiers and the tanks slow down to normal speed and suddenly the people come alive, as if right there like opening a time portal to 1914. It’s an incredible moment in cinema and a jaw dropping moment. You learn about peoples more polite and innocent manner back then and the tremendous camaraderie between the troops. The respect each side had for each other as the Germans are also digitally revived is heart warming and surprising, two sets of young working-class men pointlessly led to the slaughter by upper class fools. Its spellbinding stuff. After an hour of it you get used to the special effects and like when you first see the Grand Canyon but it is must see stuff.
Another very different one to the above but enjoyable documentary is about the once famous 1980s pop band Bros, identical twins Luke and Matt Goss. ‘Bros: After the Screaming Stops’, was filmed during the run up to a one off reunion concert at the 02 Arena in London in 2017. The boys had fallen out and not spoken much for 30-years since their heyday and as the cameras role the tension is soon back and old egos and arguments arise in the studio rehearsals in spectacular style
The boys have forgotten the very fact they were famous a long time ago and have not really been that famous since, Luke making an OK living in Hollywood doing low budget action thrillers ( Blade 2 his most notable moment) and Matt doing well with a singer song writer residency in a big Vegas hotel. The boys have been away in America for a long time and all but forgotten now in the U.K., accept by their ageing loyal fan base, which the documentary maker and brothers exploit well. Their sense of self importance has not left them and it all becomes very Spinal Tap, throwing strops and diva behavior galore. They think they are still megastars and the rather (de)arranged fan base at Heathrow Airport briefly brings back Brosmania, if just for a small area in terminal 5, a gaggle of chubby blue collar tattooed forty something single moms eager for a selfie, which the boys gleefully oblige. It’s very much chicken and the egg here on why the film came about and unclear if the film was to promote the tour or vice versa and was it pulled when it went Bros hostile? Either way the concert was a sell out and the recently released film has sparked interest for another reunion gig.
The King of Kong: A fistful of Quarters (2008) is ten-years-old but hilarious stuff and one I’m glad I sort out. It’s all about the world of classic coin op gaming we did as kids in arcades and the quest by mostly middle aged gamers to get the world records, holding the Donkey Kong record the center of the movie. The battle between two men to hold the million point plus Kong record is the frivolity here, Nick Cave look alike Billy Mitchell, the rock star of 80s retro gaming, and Steve Weibe, the likable family man challenger to the throne, going head to head. But Billy comes under suspicion of cheating as Weibe closes on the record in his garage.
Countdown to Zero (2010) is an exploration of the Cold War, more specifically the nuclear weapons aspect and the many accidents that happened that you probably didn’t know about and quite frankly wouldn’t want to know about. We got very close to nuclear Armageddon quite a few times back then from pressing the wrong buttons. If Yeltsin had of been drunk one night in 1984 we would not be here. In 1988 a B52 bomber accidentally dropped three armed nukes over the Midwest, just a cheap 50 cent safety switch saving Nebraska. Its mind blowing stuff.