Review: Sid & Nancy

Director: Alex Cox
Screenplay: Alex Cox, Abbe Wool
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Andrew Schofield
Country: UK
Running Time: 109 min
Year: 1986
BBFC Certificate: 18


I‘m not a huge punk fan. The original movement came and went a few years before I was born and later punk iterations never did much for me. However, The Clash’s London Calling album has long been one of my all time favourites and when I was a teenager I also got a lot of play out of my CD copy of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. It was and still is a powerful album, full of youthful exuberance and fiery anger at the damaged establishment, which spoke to me back when I was a youngster. I never really looked into the history of the band though. Although I’ve long been a music lover, I’ve rarely paid much interest in the private lives of the artists involved. I tend to let the lyrics and music do the talking and leave the rest a mystery. Some of the Sex Pistols’ history is unavoidable though and I was aware of their troubled and brief existence, even if I didn’t know all the details.

My love of the band’s sole studio album helped pique my interest in reviewing this 30th Anniversary re-release of Sid & Nancy then, along with an interest in its director, Alex Cox, who wrote and directed the rather excellent punk movie Repo Man. Sid & Nancy dramatises the relationship between the Sex Pistols’ bass player Sid Vicious (played by Gary Oldman) and sometime prostitute Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). The two met in early 1977 and quickly formed a very destructive relationship, based largely around heroin. Nancy was already a user before she met Sid and it’s reported (and suggested in the film) that she introduced him to the drug. The two grew heavily dependent on one another, as well as the drugs, and their lives inevitably both came to tragic ends. In October 1978, Nancy was found dead with a single stab wound to her abdomen in the bathroom of the infamous Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, with Sid laid in a drug induced stupor on the bed across the room. After being arrested for Nancy’s murder, Sid died of a heroin overdose a few months later. The film opens with the discovery of Nancy’s body by the police and flashes back to their first meeting to tell the story of their brief time together.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Firm (1989)

Director: Alan Clarke
Screenplay: Al Hunter
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Philip Davis
Country: UK
Running Time: 67 min (broadcast version) 68 min (director’s cut)
Year: 1989
BBFC Certificate: 18


TV has been enjoying a new golden age over the last 10 years or so with a wealth of talent coming from and moving back to the format. There are plenty of classy, genuinely great series being produced around the world, from popular high budget HBO productions like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, to classy British offerings like Sherlock and slick Scandinavian crime sagas like The Killing. The TV movie however, still has some stigma attached to it. The more recent big TV events have all been longer format or at least mini-series. Few one-off features have made waves recently as not many seem to get made. I think too many people are of the mind that if a film is any good, why didn’t it get released in theatres or at least get a good home release before being streamed to our regular channels at no extra cost.

In Britain though, there was once a long tradition of classy feature length television drama. Known largely at the time as ‘television plays’, series such as Armchair Theatre and Play for Today, running from the 50’s until the 80’s, would present audiences with an original one off film/play in each ‘episode’. Two time Palme d’Or winner (as of yesterday) Ken Loach made a name for himself in this format with the 1966 television play Cathy Come Home and fellow Cannes favourite Mike Leigh also made a number of plays, including Abigail’s Party. The television play format fizzled out in the mid-eighties though as series became more popular.

Between 1985 and 1994, the BBC tried to keep the flame burning though, with Screen Two and Screen One, which brought back the idea of one-off original TV features, this time shot on film. Previously, television plays tended to be studio-shot affairs, more like live plays. One of the directors contributing to this series was Alan Clarke, who had made a number of controversial TV films and a couple of theatrical features since the mid to late 60’s. He died from cancer at only 54 years old but his last production was released on Screen Two, the football hooligan drama The Firm, which courted controversy again, but has held a strong reputation over the years and is now being released in a special collector’s edition Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK by the BFI, packaged along with another of Clarke’s controversial films, the short Elephant.

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Trailer: Child 44

Child 44

Child 44 is a serial killer procedural set in 1950s post-war Soviet Union. The film stars two of the worlds most chameleon actors, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman, oddly enough in their fourth appearance together on screen; the others are Lawless, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Dark Knight Rises. Here they both play Russian military officers involved in both an investigation and a cover-up, simultaneously. It all looks a tad laboured in execution (“Murder is strictly a CAPITALIST disease!”) But, perhaps it is merely the case of an uninspired trailer. The chilly period production design is quite handsome.

The film is directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Snabba Cash) and has Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine, Noomi Rapace, Charles Dance, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Jason Clarke in the supporting cast.

Cinecast Episode 361 – We Smell Our Own

With Andrew turning traitor over to The Matinee this week, Kurt & Matt cobble together a much more ‘raw’ style of show. Opening with a bit of name calling on one of the Filmjunk boys, before moving on into The Planet of the Apes franchise with the latest Prequel/Sequel/Reboot chapter. The 1984 project is on hold this week, but no matter, lots of time is spent on the joy, craft and strategies of Marc Maron as The Watchlist focuses on the WTF podcast, his stand up special, Thinky Pain, and other things related to interviewing celebrities and working folks on tour. Matt has a sort spot for Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words, and Kurt loses himself in the two big war films of 1970: M*A*S*H and Patton. There is more in this loose and casual episode, so have at it.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 
 

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Trailer: Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

There has been a fair number of teasers and trailers for the latest Planet of the Apes movie and here is the promised final one before the movie opens in July. With a focus on Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jason Clarke who is operating as a kind of peace-keeper and is working with the original genetically modified ape, Caesar, to try to prevent the inevitable war between humans and simians in a decaying San Francisco.

Big on spectacle and action, we all know what’s coming, and this trailer certainly makes the promise to deliver.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [trailer #2]

In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was not only a box office success, it was very surprisingly quite a critical success as well. With that kind of success, we knew a sequel couldn’t be far off. Three years later and the story of Caesar and his minions continues. And it looks like war in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Sure to be one of the top bananas in the Mamo Box Office contest, this is one of the few summer blockbusters I actually quite look forward to. There are more than just apes here though. Besides Andy Serkis as Caesar, the human cast includes Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Judy Greer and Keri Russell.

Have a look at the new trailer which gives a bit more of “the story.” Probably not much to chew on for the long haul, but it definitely looks well conceived and exciting!

Teaser: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Faster than you can say “franchise,” Andy Serkis and the Planet of the Apes prequels are back picking right up where we left off. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is at the helm for this second instalment, and Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Keri Russell are up the non motion capture side of the acting. The film will bow in July, 2014.

Review: Lawless

Director: John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road)
Screenplay: Nick Cave (The Proposition)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min


I don’t think that this is the film that John Hillcoat or Nick Cave wanted. That’s not to say that Lawless is bad – far from it. In fact, I’d say that there are quite a few moments of brilliance, which is to be expected considering the enormous talent involved. Yet, just like the title was altered from The Wettest County in the World to The Promised Land to The Wettest County to, finally, Lawless, one gets the sense that producers had a hand in more than simply a title change.

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Rank ’em: The Performances of Gary Oldman

Oldman

Character actor, chameleon, often playing villains and grotesques (but the occasional hero as well), it is no coincidence that I chose the image from Ridley Scott’s detestable Silence of the Lambs sequel, Hannibal for the purposes of illustration of Mr. Gary Oldman. Here is an actor who has played Ludwig van Beethoven, Lee Harvey Oswald, Pontius Pilate and Sid Vicious in biopics, and in pure fiction, the gamut from Dracula to Drexl Spivey (the Pimp) to Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Space Dictator), to Officer Stansfield (The cocaine snorting corrupt cop in The Professional) to Shelly Runyon (the ugliest Republican senator ever put on screen), Milton Glenn (evil warden of Alcatraz), Sirius Black (The Prisoner of Azkaban), Rosencrantz (or was is Guildenstern?) and Lt. Jim Gordon (in the most recent incarnation of Batman universe.) Of course there are many more performances, because Oldman never seems to stop working in either Hollywood, Indie, or foreign productions (underrated Spanish thriller: The Back Woods.) He even directed one of the more nihilistic dramas out there, Nil By Mouth. Of course, all of these performances add up to his recent highly nuanced, but very restrained performance of career spook, George Smiley, in Thomas Alfredson’s recent incarnation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Put Smiley in a room with the The Driver, and you just know that Oldman likes his Gosling served cold and raw.

Personally, I’m partial to his performance in The Contender which is so lizard-like and vile it is the black cherry on the top of his career. But even in a few quite mediocre films (Lost in Space), outright terrible (Red Riding Hood) or even the truly WTF-how-did-this-get-made (Tiptoes), Oldman is interesting, even excellent amongst the detritus of bad cinema.

My top 5 is tucked under the seat.

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Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Directors: Tomas Alfredson
Screenplay: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan, John le Carre (novel)
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Dencick, Kathy Burke, Stephen Graham.
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo, Alexandra Ferguson.
Country: UK/France/Germany
Running Time: 127 min
Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: R

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy comes with a lot of impressive credentials: it’s based on a best-selling novel by John le CarrĂ©, it’s helmed by the director of a successful Swedish vampire movie, a previous mini-series adaptation of the book is fondly remembered (at least by people of a certain generation) and it has one of the best British casts in recent memory. The possibility of utter disappointment looms over it like a cloud. But it thankfully proves that a film with such hype behind it going in can completely deliver.

Set during the Cold War, Gary Oldman plays ex-MI6 agent George Smiley who is brought out of retirement to help uncover a mole planted by the Russians years ago.

It’s perhaps understandable the trailers sold the film as a lot more of an all-out thriller than it actually is. The trouble, though, is it might draw in audiences who are expecting something faster paced when in reality this is much slower than you might expect. However, it’s never once dull or boring, taking its time to build a quiet suspense and anticipation which gives it a palpable energy, a fascinating heartbeat.

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