Blu-Ray Review: Mindhorn

Director: Sean Foley
Screenplay: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby
Starring: Julian Barratt, Simon Farnaby, Essie Davis, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Russell Tovey, Richard McCabe
Country: UK
Running Time: 89 min
Year: 2016
BBFC Certificate: 15

For some reason I don’t watch many new comedies these days (other than animated family films I watch with my kids). I’m not sure why, I love a good comedy. I think it’s because I don’t go out to the cinema as much as I used to, so when I do it’s restricted to big visual spectacles or critically lauded films. The films I choose to review tend to be acclaimed classics or dark and violent cult films too, so my film watching habits of late tend to be rather serious. So, it was a breath of fresh air to be offered a copy of Mindhorn to review. I’m a fan of much of the work of Baby Cow Productions, the company who produced it, and a collection of their regular troop of British comics were involved, including Steve Coogan as well as the writers/stars Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby. Most of the talent are better known for their TV work, and it can be difficult to make the transition to the big screen, but Coogan and Baby Cow’s recent upgrade of their Alan Partridge character to feature length worked pretty well so I was willing to give this a chance.

Mindhorn sees Barratt play Richard Thorncroft, an actor who found fame playing a detective called Bruce Mindhorn on a cheesy 80s cop show set on the Isle of Man. The film is set in the modern day though, and we learn that Thorncroft blew it all after the show fizzled out, hitting the bottle and badmouthing his colleagues when he believed he’d got a shot in Hollywood. Now he’s doing adverts for compression stockings and girdles, and is deluded in thinking people still recognise him from his heyday. A chance to be back in the public eye appears though when a serial killer who calls himself ‘The Kestrel’ leaves a message for the police saying he’s only willing to deal with detective Bruce Mindhorn. Thorncroft is called up to help deal with the situation and he grabs the opportunity to get his face on TV once again. The case brings him to the Isle of Man though, where the past comes back to haunt him. Most notably his ex-girlfriend Patricia DeVille (Effie Davies) still lives there with her husband, Thorncroft’s former stuntman, Clive Parnevik (Farnaby) and her daughter, who Thorncroft believes is his. Whilst dredging up the past, the murder case takes a few twists and turns, which throws Thorncroft into some real life danger.

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Cinecast Episode 366 – Mermaid Mode

In this episode, Kurt and Andrew struggle to grasp hold of Ari Folman’s hybrid animated/live-action film The Congress. Then it is back to 1984 to visit Madison the Mermaid and high energy Tom Hanks. The Watchlist looks at the healing power of music, obscure Tae Kwon Do weirdness, VHS culture, Swedish deadpan masterpieces, a musician hiding behind paper mâché head, and Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan touring restaurants in Italy. 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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Cinecast Episode 362 – Primordial Dwarfism

Aafter nearly a three week hiatus, Weeeeee’re Baaaaa-aaack. In what is a true first on the Cinecast’s 8 year history, all three of Andrew, Kurt and Matt assembled in the same space to do a show with no telecommunications/web bridge. So, of course we pick a noisy bar and record over too many cocktails. With munchies and Montreal Smoked Meat, on the docket are three main reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood and Lucy which, oddly enough GotG gets the consensus favourite. Ever want to hear Kurt praise a Disney-Marvel production, now is your chance.

There is no 1984 project this week, but rest assured things will return to tomorrow with 2010: The Year We Make Contact next week, and Stop Making Sense after that.

Kurt does his annual 1+ hour recap of The Fantasia International Film Festival (which was also the source of the imported smoked meat) which is followed by a slew of titles from Matt (James Cameron Rape Sci-fi, Abortion Comedy, Punk Catharsis) and Andrew (Zach Braff, Heavy Metal, Alan Partridge and the last of Phillip Seymour Hoffman) with a little Terry Gilliam to round out the picture. LIVE FROM MINNEAPOLIS it is a lengthy, boozy, robust episode of the Cinecast, where bartenders, paramedics, rowdy billiard players, and the odd waitress all make for background character and salty language is tossed around in public spaces.

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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DVD Review: What Maisie Knew

Director: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Screenplay: Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright
Based on a Novel by: Henry James
Starring: Onata Aprile, Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Steve Coogan, Joanna Vanderham
Country: USA
Running Time: 92 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 15

What Maisie Knew takes the 1897 novel of the same name by Henry James and relocates it to New York in the present day. Rock star Susanna (Julianne Moore) and art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan) get divorced and fight over custody of their daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile) whilst using her as a tool to get back at each other. Maisie’s au-pair (also Beale’s new wife) Margo (Joanna Vanderham) alongside Susanna’s new husband Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) end up caught in the battle and seem to be the only two that actually care about the wellbeing of the 6 year old girl at the centre of it all.

What was probably quite a scandalous story back in its day is rather commonplace now. What sets it apart however is the fact that the film (and possibly the source material) tells and shows everything from Maisie’s perspective. Any details of the divorce and the custody battle are only shown in flashes that Maisie herself hears. The camera generally stays on her or at her level/perspective too creating a film that is all about Maisie and the effects her parents’ pettiness and selfishness is having on her.

This approach would never work without a strong child actor in the title role and they knocked it out of the park with this one. It may be the sign of excellent direction more than talent at such a tender age, but Onata Aprile gives a superb performance as Maisie. Subtle and natural, she’s totally believable as a child thrown between two bitter parents. She balances the forced maturity that can occur in these situations with the innocence expected from her age which makes her rough treatment all the more heartbreaking.

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Trailer: The Look of Love

Michael Winterbottom, as prolific as he is, has had a particular brand of commercial success in his collaborations with Steve Coogan. The latest one is a biopic of Paul Raymond, a UK entrepreuner who opened up the UK’s first strip club, had a publishing empire, and was at one point the richest man in Britain. The Look of Love has all the trappings of 24 Hour Party People, stylized and slightly tawdry subject matter, fourth wall breaks, and splashy editing. And, with the addition of Imogen Poots, here playing Raymond’s daughter who was primed to take over the big business in the early 1990s, but then had a turn of her own, it looks like this one has another ace in the hole. I’m in.

Trailer: What Maisie Knew

There is not a bad performance to be found in . When I caught the film at TIFF last year, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s bad-parenting-drama What Maisie Knew, I liked it well enough for its curious narrative structure (a child’s POV with parents and caregivers playing musical chairs.) The adult performances, from the likes of Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan,Joanna Vanderham and Alexander Skarsgård, are across the board solid, and the very young girl, Onata Aprile, can certainly act. My issue was the filmmaking using Ms. Aprile’s character as an emotional prop. Sure that is kind of the point of the story, but it rings more than a little false that this quite mistreated girl would be so damn angelic. Your mileage may vary.

An aging rock star and a contemporary art dealer — Susanna and Beale are too self-involved even to notice their neglect and inadequacy as parents; their fight for Maisie is just another battle in an epic war of personalities. As they raise the stakes by taking on inappropriate new partners, the ex-nanny Margo and the much younger bartender Lincoln, the shuffling of Maisie from household to household becomes more and more callous, the consequences more and more troubling. Always watchful, however, Maisie begins to understand that the path through this morass of adult childishness and selfish blindness will have to be of her own making.

Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Con Air

1997 USA. Director: Simon West. Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Colm Meaney, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Steve Buscemi.

They just don’t make ’em like they did back in the late 90s. On rewatch, the movie is as goofy as ever but done so completely deliberately; which is something I actually appreciate now, more so than my theatrical experience 15 years ago whereas I just looked at everything as action cheese. It’s as simple as it gets but the outlandish scenarios keep things interesting at every turn. The score is awesome! It’s a unique blend of mechanical sound effects (listen closely whenever Buscemi is on screen), heavy metal and strings. The action and effects still hold up (the Vegas crash scene is terrific!). And of course it’s Nic Cage in proper mode working next to a fucking great, over the top John Malkovich performance. It’s fun and funny. For good ol fashioned, proper action flicks, you could do a lot worse.

The Hunger

1983 USA. Director: Tony Scott. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, David Bowie.

Finally, a Tony Scott film I can actually get behind. OK, I do like True Romance, but it doesn’t quite hit on all it’s cylinders with me – especially towards the end. Though the last 15-20 minutes in this modern day vampire story (well, it was modern day when it was released 25 years ago anyway – those hairstyles certainly couldn’t be mistaken as modern at this point), go slightly astray here as well, there’s a lovely slow build up as Catherine Deneuve marks medical researcher Susan Sarandon as her next companion. A lot is made of the steamy scenes between Deneuve and Sarandon, but they aren’t the focus here (in more ways than one – things are so soft focus you’d swear they were filmed through a feathered pillow). Deneuve plays the countess with a wonderful icy cool exterior that belies the real fire beneath and Sarandon’s big eyes soak all of it in (Bowie is actually very good as her previous companion as his Thin White Duke character slides perfectly into place). The style occasionally threatens to undercut it all, but (short of that last section) it achieves a strange tense balance that had me solidly entranced for most of it.

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Review: The Trip

With no other knowledge about the film, the title “The Trip” might, to unsuspecting American ears, conjure up images of Road Trip and frat boy humor, possibly even the thought that Todd Phillips has snuck in a second movie this year to compete with his own The Hangover II, but one need only note that this one is directed by Michael Winterbottom and stars two of Britain’s best comedic actors (not nearly well enough known, sadly, in the US), and it’s immediately obvious we’re in for a different sort of experience here. And yeah, that’s a very good thing.

After working with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on his brilliant adaptation of Tristram Shandy, Winterbottom brings them together again for a largely improvised comic journey through rural England, the two actors playing versions of themselves with so much real-life detail brought in that it’s difficult to tell where the line between fiction and reality lies. After his girlfriend returns to America for a job rather than join him on a restaurant tour of England (he’s writing an article or doing publicity or something in between acting jobs), Coogan cajoles Brydon into going with him, despite the fact that neither of them are particularly keen on the idea.

The trip takes a week, and the film divides up into days, each day basically having Coogan and Brydon drive cross-country to a new inn, sample lunch, maybe take in a sight or handle some publicity business, and head to bed, ready to do it all again the next day, all the while carrying on an ongoing conversation full of comedy bits or impressions. The trailer is basically an excerpt of the pair arguing over their Michael Caine impressions, and that plays a recurring part in the film (a too-often recurring, some will think), but there are plenty of other bits that play out, too, and the pair are so unassuming that you easily believe they just do this style of banter naturally in real life.

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Cinecast Episode 178 – Do not Bury the Good Stuff at the End!

Welcome to another episode of the Summer Blahs! The Other Guys fails to generate an impression or enthusiasm from Andrew or Kurt, although we talk about it at length. Tangents on Opening Credits and DVD Artwork. We talk a little Timur Bekmambetov, Parkour, Escape From New York-ish Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and Cat-III HK Cinema, A Malaysian riff on Monty Python, surreal Hungarian hard science fiction, Terry Zwigoff and more. Enjoy!

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

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):

Full show notes are under the seats…
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Quick Thoughts: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy JacksonI don’t doubt that Rick Riordan’s series is a fabulous read. Full of Greek mythology and more than a little action, it makes for a fast paced tale of adventure but how that translates onto the big screen isn’t exactly great. I’m sure one of the reasons Fox brought director Chris Columbus on board to direct the first film in the series may have something to do with his success in kicking off the Harry Potter franchise. What they failed to take into account is the fact that Harry Potter already had a rabid fanbase where as Percy Jackson…let’s just say he’s no pre-pubescent magician.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief has a whole lot going for it. The story of demigods living amongst humans in the modern world certainly offers many an opportunity for story telling. In this particular world, Zeus has forbidden the gods from communicating with their mortal children in fear that they will overlook their Godly duties but when Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen, Zeus gets angry (and a little irrational). He knows his brother Poseidon didn’t steal it but he thinks Poseidon’s son Percy may have and so an ultimatum is set: return the bolt in two weeks or face war. Typical God stuff wouldn’t you say? It also brings this whole Gods not interacting with their half human kids into question.

Here’s where the story really kicks off (as much as it ever does). As everyone searches for the bolt (who wouldn’t want to rule Olympus?) Percy comes to know his true origin, is taken into a camp for special kids (other demigods like himself), gathers a few troops and heads off to rescue his mother who has been kidnapped by Hades, the ruler of the underworld, a dude who also happens to be his uncle. Basically, there’s a whole lot going on including some digging through Greek mythology. To the film’s credit (likely due to screen writer Craig Titley who adapted Riordan’s book) the convoluted associations between characters and the mythology associated with them is peppered throughout the film quite well. The only problem is that with all of the supernatural stuff flying around, the film still manages to be pretty dull.

The action is yawn inducing, the effects good in places and laughably bad in others, the comedy occasionally works and falls flat in other places – it’s a bit of an uneven mess, one that’s heightened by the appearance of some amazingly talented actors. Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they agreed to some of these roles. From Kevin McKidd as Poseidon to Catherine Keener as Percy’s mother, there are a spattering of appearances from some heavyweights including Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Melina Kanakaredes, Joe Pantoliano and Uma Thurman. When one appears, you can’t help but groan – yes, it’s that bad (with the exception of Sean Bean as Zeus who is just…well, awesome). As for the leads, Logan Lerman as Percy has a promising career ahead of him; he may not be great but neither is the material and he does show promise (along with a fair amount of screen presence) while Alexandra Daddario’s pretty face is likely to turn up again, hopefully in another role where girls kick ass.

Percy Jackson is a disappointment considering the amount of money thrown at it and the calibre of talent involved. It’s a bit of a slog at nearly two hours but you know what? It’s worth every penny for the awesomeness of seeing Hades and Persephone duke it out. Steve Coogan and Rosario Dawson are easily the highlight of the film and they steal the show in their short interlude. Someone should really think to cast them in The Life and Times of Hades and Persephone because they’re genius together. And seriously, is it even legal to look this amazing? And I’m not talking about Coogan.

Steve Coogan and Rosario Dawson in Percy Jackson

Yeah, that’s what I thought.