Archive for 2011

A Separation

Posted in Drama, Foreign Language with tags on April 13, 2018 by Mark Walker

Director: Asghar Farhadi.
Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi.
Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Babak Karimi, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi, Shirin Yazdanbakhsh, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zarei.

“What is wrong is wrong, no matter who said it or where it’s written”

After About Elly and The Salesman I’ve decided to complete my Asghar Farhadi trilogy by ending on probably his most widely received and critically acclaimed film, A Separation. By winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 2011, this is arguably the film that brought Farhadi a lot more global attention. That said, it’s not just because it won the Oscar that suggests it’s a good film, its because it’s a great film and the Academy would’ve been fools to ignore it. This film showcases Farhadi at the peak of his powers when it comes to assembling a narrative with great depth that explores numerous important moral complexities. Continue reading

Polished Performances

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 16, 2017 by Mark Walker

Actor: Michael Fassbender
Character: Brandon
Film: Shame
Continue reading


Posted in Crime, thriller with tags on December 3, 2015 by Mark Walker

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn.
Screenplay: Hossein Amini.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks, Kaden Leos, Jeff Wolfe, James Biberi, Russ Tamblyn.

“I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything a minute on either side of that and you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive”

In 2008, just three years after the publication of James Sallis’ crime novel Drive, Universal Studios got behind the idea of a film adaptation. Originally, director Neil Marshall was to take the reigns and craft an L.A-set action mystery with Hugh Jackman as the lead. Two years later, this proposed plan collapsed and in stepped Ryan Gosling. With a spate of successful films and strong performances already behind him, Gosling was an actor in high demand and for the first time in his career he was given the opportunity to choose who would direct the film. Already a big admirer of his work, he chose Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. The film was eventually released in 2011 to mass acclaim and struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. Not only was Refn awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival but the film received a 15 minute standing ovation. Continue reading

Love * *

Posted in Drama, Science Fiction with tags on March 14, 2013 by Mark Walker


Director: William Eubank.
Screenplay: William Eubank.
Starring: Gunner Wright, Corey Richardson, Bradley Horne, Nancy Stelle, Roger E. Fanter, Ambyr Childers.

I often find it difficult giving my opinion on independent films as I’m aware of the struggles that have been faced in order to bring it to the screen. They are hard to criticise, as the filmmaker certainly doesn’t get the same luxuries or benefits that the financial backing from a big studio would bring. However, when all is said and done, it’s ultimately the material that it should be judged upon. Such is the case with this film; it’s undeniably impressive in it’s assembly but found wanting in it’s substance.

As I can’t really be bothered to write the plot summary, I’ll leave you with the director’s own description of the story… “After losing contact with Earth, Astronaut Lee Miller becomes stranded in orbit alone aboard the International Space Station. As time passes and life support systems dwindle, Lee battles to maintain his sanity – and simply stay alive. His world is a claustrophobic and lonely existence, until he makes a strange discovery aboard the ship”.

As the film opens, we find ourselves in the midst of the American Civil War and a commentary that’s reminiscent of the work of Terrence Malick. Visually, it looks spectacular and you wouldn’t think for a second that this was shot on a shoestring budget. Debutant director, William Eubank certainly knows how to capture a scene and his work here is exceptionally well handled. There’s a good sense of atmosphere and overall, ethereal, feel to the film.
From the battlefields we are then taken to a space station that is orbiting earth and we are introduced to our protagonist who wanders his enclosed environment and ruminates on his lonely existence much like Duncan Jones’ “Moon” or Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey“. It’s not just the setting but also the existential nature of those films that this tries to emulate. Sadly, it’s nowhere near as good as either of them. The isolation of our protagonist brings about a monotony in his daily routine and that monotony is soon shared by the viewer. To put it simply, very little happens. I got the point of his dilemma and the effect that it had on his psyche but it’s laboured too strongly and the connection between the astronaut and the civil war is tenuous at best. There are many verbal musings throughout, whereby some lovely passages of words are weaved together but it sounds more poetic than it does philosophical and I think that’s where the problem lies. The film has airs and graces of having challenging, philosophical, ideas but doesn’t really have anything concrete to cling on to. I kept waiting for some revelation that would tie everything, meaningfully, together but when it arrived, it didn’t deliver the punch I was hoping for and only confirmed my suspicions of how pretentious the film really is. The only thing that really makes sense is that it was funded entirely by the band “Angels and Airwaves” (who also provide the soundtrack) and it comes across as an exercise in marketing their own stuff and no more than a glorified music video.
In fairness, it does manage to hold your interest on the visual front with some stunningly captured images and moments. However, impressive visuals do not a good film make. If it continued how it began, then it might have had something going for it but it didn’t and it doesn’t.

The major issue with Love, is that it believes itself to be deeper and more profound than it actually is.
There is such a thing in the cosmos known as a ‘Black hole‘. This certainly has a hole, and it’s head is too far up it.

Mark Walker


Killer Elite * *

Posted in Action, thriller with tags on October 20, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Gary McKendry.
Screenplay: Matt Sherring.
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert DeNiro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Ben Mendelsohn, Yvonne Strahovski, Adawale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Whiteley, Matthew Nable, Lachy Hulme.

Jason Statham is normally a ‘type-cast’ kind of actor that I normally steer clear of. It’s not that I dislike him personally but his films tend to be of a particular genre that I don’t much care for. All they seem to consist of, is the “The Stath” serving out his knuckle sandwiches on some stereotypical numskulls. For me, the draw to this film was my liking for Clive Owen and especially my personal favourite Robert DeNiro. Unfortunately, even those two couldn’t save this film from mediocrity.

Former assassin Danny Bryce (Jason Statham), is brought out of retirement to save his mentor Hunter (Robert DeNiro), now held captive by a Oman sheikh. In exchange for Hunter’s freedom, Danny must hunt and kill the SAS officers that the sheikh believes killed his three sons during the Oman war. Danny is certainly up to the job but it’s not made easy when another ex-SAS officer, Spike Logan (Clive Owen) is determined to keep what happened in Oman a secret.

Opening with an intense action set-piece sets this film up well and from the off-set, it promises to be quite a thrilling ride. Statham delivers his usual bad ass schtick and it’s great to see DeNiro flex a little of his (ageing) action muscles too. Once the initial 10 minutes of action is over though, DeNiro takes a back seat, Statham takes over and Clive Owen is brought into the mix of intrigue and espionage. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t deliver the action expected and the intrigue is less than… erm, intriguing. The film falls flat very early on and it seemingly has no chance of redemption. That is, until Statham and Owen finally cross paths in a brutal physical exchange that’s impressively handled and before we know it, the film has found it’s feet again. Or so it would seem for this fleeting moment of fisticuffs. After that’s over and done with, the film falls back into it’s not-so-comfortable formula and fails to ever resurface. Reportedly, it is based on true events (as reflected in ex-SAS and adventurer Rannulph Fiennes’ book “The Feather Men“) but whether that’s true or not, it still doesn’t add anything to the story. The delivery is just a bit too tedious which I found to be quite a conundrum in itself as the material should make for an exciting watch. Added to which, nobody really puts a foot wrong; Statham and Owen deliver the goods and solid support is given by DeNiro and Dominic Purcell from TV’s “Prison Break“; debutant director Gary McKendry also seems to be in command of his material and frames his film well. Sadly, it just doesn’t quite come together, which leads me to the conclusion that it’s the script that’s the major issue here.

This is the type of film that’s neither an out-and-out action movie or a complete spy thriller. It can’t seem to make it’s mind up and as a result will probably disappoint fans from both camps. At one point Statham says “Killing’s easy. Living with it is the hard part“: the same could be said of this film; putting it into the DVD player is easy, getting through to the end is the hard part.

Mark Walker


Margin Call * * * *

Posted in Drama with tags on October 7, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: J.C. Chandor.
Screenplay: J.C. Chandor.
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Penn Badgley, Mary McDonnell, Aasif Mandvi, Ashley Williams, Susan Blackwell.

Are you feeling the pinch of our current economic crisis? Are you angry at the investment wankers bankers that have put us all in a precarious financial position? If so, you may find a dramatisation of the operations and swindling of these high-flying executives of particular interest. Writer-director J.C. Chandor seems to and has his finger firmly on the pulse when conveying the enormity of greed and dishonesty in corporate business.

In an unnamed New York investment bank, the majority of the work force are losing their jobs. One of the first to go is risk management executive Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Before he’s escorted from the building, he hands a USB to analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) asking him to take a look. Sullivan does so and finds that the company’s profit margins are superseded by it’s debt. It’s unsustainable and will dangerously and inevitably lead to a financial collapse.

Margin Call could, comfortably, be described as a zeitgeist film. It addresses the economic crisis at face value and reflects the very financial situation that has affected a lot of people at this time. It isn’t a film that bombards you with statistics but plays it from the angle of the people behind the scenes and does it admirably with sharp dialogue; the best of which goes to Irons’ CEO when he spouts such choice lines as “The world will always be full of happy fucks and sad sacks” or “It’s spilt milk under the bridge“. There’s a ruthlessness involved in big business and this film captures it well. Ultimately, it may all just come down to number crunching but the job that these people do has a direct effect on all of us and in this respect, debutant J.C. Chandor gets his point across. It’s an impressive and effective first feature and Chandor makes great use of close-up’s on all of his characters. So much so, that every wrinkle, pore and nervous expression is captured – lending the film a real intensity. Across the board, the high-calibre cast are brilliant; how can you go wrong with such talents onscreen when every one of them is given just enough material to sink the their acting chops into? Well, the answer to that is… you can’t. And that’s what makes this film standout. Don’t get me wrong though, this does have it’s narrative flaws and despite a very tense opening and consistent display of captivating boardroom meetings and fast, flowing business jargon, it loses it’s momentum around the midriff. However, it still packs enough of a punch to see itself through to the end.

A worthy reflection on the current financial times and cutthroat nature of business. This is a film that will appeal to fans of “Glengarry Glen Ross” or the underrated and mostly unseen “Boiler Room“. A top quality cast and an excellent directorial debut.

Mark Walker


The Raid: Redemption * * * 1/2

Posted in Action with tags on August 31, 2012 by Mark Walker


Director: Gareth Evans.
Screenplay: Gareth Evans.
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Pierre Gruno, Tegar Satrya.

If someone had told me that a Indonesian martial-arts movie directed by a Welshman was going to have much of an impact on the film going public, I have told them to stop shitting on my head until I’ve at least put a hat on first. As it turns out, no defecating took part in the build up to this film. What I was hearing through the grapevine turned out to be true. This is a very impressive action movie and it’s easy to see why it’s had mass appeal.

A slum housing estate in Jakarta is run by a ruthless drug baron who’s also secured the place into a high-rise fortress. A SWAT team is brought in to infiltrate the building and bring the crime lord down but when they enter, alarms are raised and the police find themselves under attack from an army of killers from all 30 floors.

As there’s not much on display as far as the narrative goes, it’s hard to write about this without throwing a plethora of adjectives at it. So I’m going to take the easy way out and do just that. Quite simply, it’s exhilarating, gripping, thrilling, exciting and exhausting. What it also is, is preposterous. However, it’s entertainment value cannot be faulted in the slightest. Is that enough to describe this film? If not, I apologise ’cause there’s not much else to say. Right from the off-set this film get’s going and wastes absolutely no time in getting down to business. It’s relentlessly energetic and unashamedly over-the-top but essentially, it’s over an hour an a half of people pumping some lead, bashing some heads and people screaming and writhing in pain. What fun it is though and this is coming from a person that’s not entirely enamoured with mindless action movies. However, credit must be given where it’s due. The display of martial-arts and action set-pieces are skilfully handled and it channels the type of kinetic pace that director John Woo was a master at. This is the quintessential ‘leave your brain at the door’ type of film. It demands very little and delivers plenty in return.

Some sublime action set pieces and bone crunching fights and although it’s wildly over the top, it delivers no less than it sets out to do. I had some fun with this one but action/martial-arts fans will enjoy it even more so.

Mark Walker