Archive for 1999

Eyes Wide Shut

Posted in Drama, Fantasy, Mystery with tags on November 3, 2017 by Mark Walker

Director: Stanley Kubrick.
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Alan Cumming, Marie Richardson, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Rade Serbedzija, Leelee Sobieski, Fay Masterson, Sky Dumont, Madison Eginton

“Millions of years of evolution, right? Right? Men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women… women it is just about security and commitment and whatever the fuck else.”

For many, Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors America has ever produced and has offered up some of the most thought provoking films throughout his career. Unfortunately, his last film didn’t receive the credit that it deserved. Literally days after delivering the final film, Kubrick died. However, in some senses, I’m actually glad Kubrick didn’t have to witness his swansong’s much maligned backlash. A big factor in this was the poor marketing campaign. For the first time, Kubrick released a film in the internet-age where information was readily accessible on the secrecy of its production. Rumours abound, it was flaunted as a sexually explicit bonkfest with Cruise and Kidman and the trailers teasing the audience with the real-life, married couple’s nudity certainly didn’t help matters. In truth, what (little) you see in the trailer is essentially all there is in the entire film between the couple. Added to which, there were rumours that Cruise would be shooting heroine for the film and wearing a dress. Needless to say, those who flocked in their droves to see such controversy where left sorely disappointed. What they really missed, though, was a rich and provocative meditation on sexual desires and the human psyche.  Continue reading

The Straight Story

Posted in Drama with tags on June 19, 2017 by Mark Walker

Director: David Lynch.
Screenplay: John Roach, Mary Sweeney.
Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, Everett McGill, Jane Galloway-Heitz, Ed Grennan, Jack Walsh, Bill McCallum, Kevin Farley, John Farley, John Lordan, Leroy Swadley.

“The worst part of being old is remembering when you was young”

Walt Disney and David Lynch are two names that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to see involved on the same project. Disney is, of course, the leading production brand for family entertainment and Lynch’s work couldn’t be further from that magical and innocent material. However, that’s exactly what we’re looking at with The Straight Story which is a complete change of direction from the usually dark and disturbing Lynch and he proves to his naysayers that he’s entirely able to construct something of a different nature altogether.  Continue reading

Polished Performances

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 17, 2017 by Mark Walker

Actor: Tom Cruise
Character: Frank T.J. Mackey
Film: Magnolia

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Fight Club

Posted in Crime, Drama with tags on November 6, 2014 by Mark Walker


Director: David Fincher.
Screenplay: Jim Uhls.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, David Andrews, George Maguire, Richmond Arquette, Eugenie Bondurant, Rachel Singer, Christina Cabot, Sydney Colston, Jared Leto.

“We are consumers. We’re the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession”

Despite showing confidence in his abilities, some unwanted studio interference with his feature debut Alien 3, left director David Fincher carrying the can for failing to fuel the franchise. It was critically panned and a massive failure but Fincher didn’t let that get him down. He got his angry head on and seemingly still had a point to prove. What followed were two of contemporary cinema’s most visceral works; the serial killer thriller Se7en shocked audiences to their core while Fight Club cemented Fincher’s reputation for being one of the most wildly inventive directors of his generation. With these films alone, it’s clear that Fincher does things his way now.

Continue reading

One More Kiss * * * *

Posted in Drama, Romance with tags on October 25, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Vadim Jean.
Screenplay: S.A. Halewood.
Starring: Valerie Edmond, Gerard Butler, James Cosmo, Valerie Gogan, Carl Proctor, Danny Nussbaum, Dilys Miller, Ron Guthrie.

Over the course of the next couple of days I’ll be posting a little trilogy of Scottish films that will have, no doubt, passed many people by and are certainly worthy of some more attention. I’ll begin with this 1999 film set in the Scottish borders that although it falls into a particular romantic genre, it dares to do things differently and succeeds admirably.

Sarah Hopson (Valerie Edmond) has been living a successful, high-flying lifestyle in New York but when she finds out that she has a terminal illness, she heads back home to Scotland to prepare for her death. When she arrives, she reacquaints with her childhood sweetheart Sam Murray (Gerard Butler). Sam now runs a restaurant and has since married but Sarah approaches his wife (Valerie Gogan) to ask that she spend time with him before her death – causing everyone some mixed emotions.

The film opens with a lone female, arms aloft, teetering on the edge of a skyscraper. It’s a powerful piece of imagery and an opening scene that sets the tone of this heartfelt tale. This is not a film about death but about life, love and relationships. It explores the mistakes and regrets but also delivers a chance of redemption. It’s in the human relationships that this film finds it’s strength. It’s not just about Sarah and her need to tie up loose ends but it confidently explores the effects on the people around her; she brings both a mixture of pleasure and pain to the other characters. At times she can come across as arrogant and selfish yet she also brings hope and instills a belief in people to live their lives fully. This is a film that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and for the most part, the performances are great. It’s interesting watching a young Gerard Butler and Valerie Gogan as his suffering wife is fantastic. James Cosmo is also especially memorable as Sarah’s cantankerous, rough diamond father. However, Valerie Edmond as the lead, looked a little stretched at times which I just couldn’t understand; in some scenes she was absolutely superb and in others she was quite poor. This could be down to her delivery of the dialogue though. I tend to be a little harsh on Scottish performers as sometimes the dialogue isn’t delivered properly. Most Scots have a certain slang nature to their dialect and when you hear words uttered with correct English pronunciation it jars a little. Understandably this has to be the case, so as to appeal to a wider audience but as a Scotsman, it seems out of place. That being said, Edmond still gets the job done and although some of the idiom may lost, the film still retains it’s subtle Scottish humour and delivers moments of highly impressive, realistic drama.

Despite some small inconsistencies this is still a beautifully played, poignant and heartfelt life/love story. It’s not normally the type of film I’d be drawn to but I was impressed with it’s execution.

Next up… “Dear Frankie“.

Mark Walker


A Midsummer Night’s Dream * * *

Posted in Comedy, Fantasy, Romance with tags on January 29, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Michael Hoffman.
Screenplay: Michael Hoffman.
Starring: Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart, Stanley Tucci, Rupert Everett, Christian Bale, Dominic West, Anna Friel, David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Roger Rees, Bill Irwin, Bernard Hill, John Sessions, Sam Rockwell.

As a rule, I dont like to watch any William Shakespeare adaptations until I have read the play first. Having just finished reading this classic comedy/love story, I was eager to see it on screen like I am of any of the screen adaptations of his wonderful works. This however, isn’t as good as the great master deserves.

While preparing for the wedding of Duke Theseus (David Strathairn) to Hippolyta (Sophie Marceau) a group of actors including Bottom the Weaver (Kevin Kline) rehearse an amature play for the forthcoming betrothal while forbidden lovers Hermia (Anna Friel) and Lysander (Dominic West) run away together, pursued by Demetrius (Christian Bale) and Helena (Calista Flockhart). Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Faerie King Oberon (Rupert Everett) wants to get at his wife Queen Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer). He dispatches malicious ‘sprite’ Puck (Stanley Tucci) on a mission to humiliate his Queen. En route Puck can’t resist messing with the mortals lost in the woods also, ensuring all sorts of confusion.

Director Michael Hoffman’s take transports us from ancient Greece to late-19th-century Italy (complete with newly invented bicycles) and I have to say, it works. The sets and costumes are absolutely stunning, drawing you into the magical and mystical land of the faeries. He addresses it with the same playful tone that Kenneth Branagh captured for his adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” and also like that, uses the same mix of both American and British actors who are perfectly suited to their roles. It’s a lush and extravagant production, infused with Shakespeare’s humour but something doesn’t quite click. The mock Pyramus play at end is way overlong and almost grinds the film to halt. The only positive is that this is when the underused Sam Rockwell gets a chance to contribute something, but by then it’s too little too late. As David Strathairn’s ‘Theseus’ says around this time “No epilogue I pray you…” if only he’d said this 15 mins earlier, we could have had a satisfying ending.

It’s classic Shakespeare that, shockingly, hasn’t had a decent adaptation yet. This is the best so far, but for fans of the great playwrite only.
It captures the look but doesn’t quite capture the heart.

Mark Walker


A Civil Action * * *

Posted in Drama with tags on January 29, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Steven Zaillian.
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian.
Starring: John Travolta, Robert Duvall, James Gandolfini, William H. Macy, Tony Shalhoub, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Zeljko Ivanek, Dan Hedaya, Sydney Pollack, Josh Pais, Edward Herrmann, Harry Dean Stanton, Kathy Bates, Stephen Fry.

“Schindler’s List” scribe Steven Zaillian seems to craft meticulous pieces of work. It’s hard to put into words but his films seem to have substance. He doesn’t try to cut corners, which is precisely his downfall here. There’s too much weight that, despite an excellent beggining, it gets bogged down and ultimately hoisted by it’s own petard.

A group of parents, whose children have died via pollution, enlist Jan Schlichtmann (John Travolta), a hot-shot ambulance chasing lawyer to fight their case against two huge corporations. But Schlichtmann soon realises that he may have met his match in opposing lawyer, Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall), with defeat possibly spelling financial ruin for him and his firm.

This was only Zaillain’s second film behind the camera and although there’s much to admire, he still has much to learn. The problem he has, is with the pace. It was the same mistake he made later with his star studded “All the Kings Men”. He has amassed an abundance of quality actors fleshed them out with substantial characterisations, yet they don’t get a chance to shine. There is too much legal jargon going on for any of them to leap to the forefront. Duvall and Travolta duel with the viewers delight but the impressive supporting ensemble are wasted. Still, it’s a cut above a John Grisham adaptation and if you don’t mind a bit of legal mumbo jumbo and consider yourself a fan of slow talking legal drama’s, then this will certainly appeal.

Based on a true story and treads a similiar path that “Erin Brockovich” would tread a couple of years later. I’d have to say that the Steven Soderbergh/Julia Roberts film is the better of the two though.

Mark Walker


The Astronaut’s Wife *

Posted in Science Fiction, thriller with tags on January 29, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Rand Ravich.
Screenplay: Rand Ravich.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy, Samantha Egger, Nick Cassavetes, Gary Grubbs, Tom Noonan.

Johnny Depp is one of those actors who has consistantly made brave choices throughout his career. There are few actors like him and although some of his choices work better than others, this is one that I’m sure he’d rather forget.

Jillian (Charlize Theron) lovingly greets her space-rocketeer husband Spencer (Johnny Depp) home from a mission, but after a mishap she soon begins to suspect that Spencer is not the same man and fears she may have been impregnated by an alien.

Although this a career move Depp would rather forget, he can’t be entirely blamed for the end product. He’s not in it enough to make any major impact and whenever he is, he’s reduced to a few sinister, brooding facial expressions. Theron’s character is the main focus here and despite her attempts at depth, she can’t save the film from being mind-numbingly boring and uneventful. She also sports a short blonde hairdo to further fuel the comparisons with “Rosemary’s Baby” during her pregnant paranoia. This is one of those straight to DVD films that remind you why not all films deserve a mainstream release. It’s pretty dire to say the least and you’re more likely to find more suspense while waiting on a bus. Quite possibly the worst of Johnny Depp’s films.

Despite the lead actors involved, steer well clear of this stinker. Do yourself a favour and watch Roman Polanski’s aforementioned horror masterpiece instead. He’ll show you how it’s done.

Mark Walker


Payback * * * *

Posted in Crime, Film-Noir, thriller with tags on January 26, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Brian Helgeland.
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, Deborah Kara Unger, Lucy Liu, David Paymer, John Glover, Bill Duke, Jack Conley, Freddy Rodriguez, William Devane, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson.

“L.A. Confidential” screenwriter Brian Helgeland makes his directorial debut with this remake of John Boorman’s “Point Blank”. The commanding presence of Lee Marvin may be gone but this time we get an uncompromising, bad-ass Mel Gibson taking centre stage.

Armed robber Porter (Gibson), is double-crossed, shot in the back and left for dead by his ambitious partner Resnick (Gregg Henry) and junkie wife (Deborah Kara Unger), who also take $70,000 from him. Once the bullets are removed and he’s fighting fit again, he chases down a parade of low lives in a violent bid to get even and grab his share of the loot.

We are introduced to Porter during the opening credits as he steals from a homeless man, doesn’t tip his waitress, and basically just shows a mean-spirited disregard for everyone around him. He’s a deliciously nasty character and probably Gibson’s finest role to date. This is a gritty modern noir with everything you could possibly want. It has the voice-over, an anti-hero, arch enemies, femme fatales and also a sense of humour. Not to mention having a great seventies feel to it, and boasting three prominent seventies actors in William Devane, Kris Kristofferson & James Coburn as the crime lord’s Porter is out to get. Despite all this though, it seems everything I liked about this film was (surprisingly) the studio’s doing. Helgeland was sacked during the making of the film and as a result, he released his director’s cut at a later date. One of these studio additions is a wonderful monochromatic look with the colour desaturated, adding further weight to a Film-Noir. I haven’t seen Helgeland’s cut yet but I doubt it’ll change my opinion of this version and I never thought I’d find myself saying I like what a studio has done to a film. All the performances are delightfully sleazy or menacing with the highlights being Gregg Henry who lends some excellent support as Porter’s sleazy double-crossing partner and Gibson has never been better. Like a cross between the ruthlessness of his “Mad Max” and the craziness of his “Lethal Weapon” characters.

It may leave a bad taste for some but I found this to be an uncompromising and highly enjoyable guilty pleasure.

Mark Walker


The Sixth Sense * * * *

Posted in Drama, Mystery with tags on January 17, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director : M. Night Shyamalan.
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, Trevor Morgan.

Every once in a while a film comes along that instantly appeals to the public and becomes part of pop-culture “The Usual Suspects” and “The Shawshank Redemption” were a couple and “The Sixth Sense” is another.

It follows the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) an 8 year old boy who is misunderstood by all around him. He seems withdrawn and lacks confidence. His mother Lynn (Toni Collette) cannot work out what the problem is and neither can child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). Through time though, young Cole begins to confide in Dr. Crowe and reveals to him that he can “see dead people” and is in fact plagued by ghosts all around him that everyone else is unaware of.

This was the film that brought M. Night Shyamalan’s directing to everyone’s attention and still remains his best film. He has found it difficult to replicate the success he had with this one and it’s no surprise why. It is a brilliantly crafted ghost story with a genuinely surprising twist. Shyamalan doesn’t go for anything fancy or any unexpected fright techniques but rather allows his story and characters to unfold in their own time, which in turn allows us to care and invest in the film. Willis gives a very subtle and sympathetic performance, one of which he isn’t usually known for and the Oscar nominated Collette is outstanding and almost unrecognisable as the protective and loving mother. The real star of the show though is young Osment, also Oscar nominated, who is completely believable as the frightened and tormented child.

There’s nothing overly gorey or frightening about this film, just damn good storytelling and excellent use of atmosphere.

Mark Walker


Any Given Sunday * 1/2

Posted in Drama, Sport with tags on January 12, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Oliver Stone.
Screenplay: Oliver Stone, John Logan.
Starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, James Woods, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, Aaron Eckhart, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Jim Brown, Lauren Holly, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Berkeley, John C. McGinley, Charlton Heston.

Considering the talent involved and the fact that American sports tend to be good stock for film material, you’d think that this film would be a winner. Sadly, not on this occasion.

Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), is the coach for the Miami Sharks, a team who have hit a real slump in form and are struggling to hold their own on the football pitch. The team has too many Chiefs and not enough Indians and D’Amato not only has to manage the on-field antics of his players but also the off-field antics and spiraling ego’s. This is all done with new hard-ass owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) breathing down his neck and demanding results.

There is such a brash in-your-face kinetic energy to this film that you dont get a minute to relax throughout it. Pacino has several of his usual in-your-face rants, Oliver Stone’s direction and dreadful cameo are in-your-face, the sharp and edgy editing is in-your-face. The whole exhibitionist sport is in-your-face. So much so, that it becomes very abusive and quite frankly, tiresome very early on. Added to this, the film goes on for at least an hour over its recommended running time, bombarding us with some very high testosterone and machismo. The only positives rest with the impressive use of close contact football scenes, complete with disorientation and crunching tackles and the fine cast, particulary Cameron Diaz who shows she can match the rants and aggression of Pacino. It’s just disappointing that the film couldn’t supply the great ensemble with some material to work with.

Wonderful cast. Wonderful director. Woeful film.
On Any Given Sunday, I’d avoid this stinker.

Mark Walker