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Showing posts from September, 2015

British Gangster Month: Layer Cake (2004)

We conclude British gangster month with Layer Cake, another debut for a promising director, Matthew Vaughn. He’s made a name for himself for his style, kinetic action choreography that’s a visual marvel usually paired with an excellent script and intriguing characters in films like Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsmen: The Secret Service. He had produced the previous films of Guy Ritchie giving him experience in the British crime genre, which combined with his unique flavour and energy make Layer Cake an incredibly underrated gem of a gangster film.                 Based on the novel by J.J. Connelly who also wrote the screenplay, the film concerns an unnamed protagonist credited as XXXX (Daniel Craig) an accomplished drug manufacturer and distributor with plans on an early retirement. He makes a quiet living off the business, aided by an ex-con enforcer Morty (George Harris) to handle the dirty work. However the drug lord he works for Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham…

Back to the Feature: Patton (1970)

As though a curtain is being drawn back, we feast our eyes on an enormous American flag. Onto the stage struts General George S. Patton who delivers a stirring speech to the audience, one with unconventional profanity and controversial remarks. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country; He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country” he exclaims. “Americans love to win and will not tolerate a loser.” He dispels notions of individuality in the military and makes no qualms about what they’re going to do to the Germans: “We’re going to murder those lousy hun bastards by the bushel …When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.” Once finished he has succeeded in spelling out exactly the realities of war while also creating effective propaganda. ”Now you sons of bitches, you know how I feel” he says, corroborating the audience’s response: that they know precisely the kind of man he is.
Patt…

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "The Witch's Familiar"

“We are renewed! We are more powerful! The experiment has succeeded!” -Everyone who works on Doctor Who. Cliff-hangers are a tricky thing to get right. Particularly on two-part episodes of television. Sometimes the set-up can be so ambitious, so interesting, leaving you on such an anxious note, that there’s no way the follow-up can live up to it. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds”, The Simpsons’ “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” (as well as the Dallas episode it’s based on “Who Shot J.R.?”) are great examples of shows that ended on a tremendous cliff-hanger only for the resolution to be …okay. Doctor Who’s “The Witch’s Familiar” sort of falls into that collective but admittedly does go a step beyond. We find that Missy had managed to save herself and Clara from being exterminated by transporting them outside the city. They venture into the sewers to sneak back in to find the Doctor and Davros who are meanwhile in conversation, and Davros reveals that through various cables he is…

British Gangster Month: Snatch (2000)

Snatch is Guy Ritchie’s follow-up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and you can definitely tell. It’s very much like that last film which is both its saving grace and its Achilles heel, resulting in a good but not great movie. But still one entertaining enough to seek out. Boxing promoters Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham) convince a dangerous gangster called Brick Top (Alan Ford) to add their champion to the bets of his bookies. However that champion is injured and they’re forced to replace him with the man who injured him: an incomprehensible Irish gypsy (“pikey”) Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt) who may get them into further trouble with the mobster. Meanwhile the architect of a major heist in Antwerp Franky “Four Fingers” (Benicio del Toro) is delivering the prize diamond to Doug (Mike Reid) the British cousin of New York jeweller Avi (Denis Farino), but his gun-seller Boris “the Blade” (Rade Serbedzija) looks to steal it himself. There are certainly similarities this…

Depp Brings to Life a Mobsters Rise

Four years ago I remember hearing in the news of the arrest of “Whitey” Bulger a notorious gangster active in the 1970s and 80s. He had been a fugitive at large for over a decade and now in his elder years had finally been caught and given two life sentences (despite only having one life to serve). The story was notable, it looked like our era’s “Eichmann in Argentina” catch, but I didn’t know much about his story and the news just slipped my mind. It came back to mind and vividly, when I went to see Black Mass starring Johnny Depp.                 Directed by Scott Cooper, Black Mass is the story of Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger’s (Depp) rise to power and how it was made possible by the FBI. Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who grew up in the same neighbourhood recruits the Irish criminal to be an informant for the FBI so they can wipe out an Italian mafia family that’s been running Boston’s organized crime scene. However Bulger soon begins to use this position of relative …

Doctor Who (Spoilers!) Review: "The Magician's Apprentice"

Well I knew Clara was leaving the show, but I didn’t think they’d kill her off that quickly!
“The Magician’s Apprentice” is a title that recalls the famed Goethe poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the even more famous sequence from Fantasia. That story and this share a theme of ill consequences as well as being darker in tone than is traditional of their respective brands, but the Doctor Who series premiere really pushes it, turning out a stellar first episode of what looks to be a promising ninth series. As we open the episode, a boy is trapped in a field of hand mines (aka a thousand of those things from Pan’s Labyrinth with the eyes on their palms buried underground) but the Doctor arrives just in time to save him. When the boy says his name is Davros though the Doctor leaves beginning a ripple effect that leads to a bounty hunter searching through time and space for the Doctor as a final request of the now dying megalomaniac. Also searching for him is the alliance of convenience (an…

British Gangster Month: Sexy Beast (2000)

Aside from the kid who helps around the villa, there was not a significant character in Sexy Beast who was under forty. If nothing else that’s impressive, especially for a film with the word ‘sexy’ in its title. Fortunately there are a number of other impressive aspects to this film. It too is a directorial debut this time from Jonathan Glazer (who most recently directed Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin) and also pays off as quite a good starting point for a director. Not amazing, but a good one. Gary “Gal” Dove (Ray Winstone) is a safe-cracker who after some prison time has put his criminal past behind him and retired to a villa in Spain where he lives in luxury with his wife Dee-Dee (Amanda Redman) and their friends Aitch and Jackie (Cavan Kendall and Julianne White). However his former associate the manipulative sociopathic Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) arrives to recruit him for one last job. He wants Gal to participate in an elaborate bank heist organized by crime lord Teddy Bass …

Why all the Missy Hate?

Doctor Who’s coming back! And like any Whovian I am excited! The trailers look great! Zygons! Maisie Williams! More Peter Capaldi! But there’s one thing in that trailer as well as last series that seems to have fans divided down the middle: no not Clara the character it should be, but Missy. Yeah, one of the break-out characters of last series has attracted a lot of detractors. People say she’s an insult to the legacy of Doctor Who and many are declaring they aren’t going to watch the show anymore. Wow! Is she really that bad? What’s with all the Missy hate?
                Now here’s where I get into SPOILERS for series eight of Doctor Who. Missy played by Michelle Gomez was a character who popped up a number of times throughout the series usually at the end of an episode as a teaser. In a way it became another of the show’s series arcs. In the finale it was revealed that Missy is in fact the latest incarnation of the Master (though the name ‘Missy’ did kind of give it away)! This was…

British Gangster Month: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

             Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the directorial debut of Guy Ritchie who’s gone on to make among others the Sherlock Holmes films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  His name has somewhat become synonymous with British gangster films because with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels he practically reinvented the genre. He made the film eighteen years after The Long Good Friday and made it stand out by heavily stylizing it and infusing it with elements of comedy and caper films. The result is a wild and outrageous but exciting and intense triumph!                 Four friends Eddy (Nick Moran), Tom (Jason Flemying), Bacon (Jason Statham), and Soap (Dexter Fletcher), pool their money so Eddy who’s a card-shark can afford to play a game of three card brag with mob boss “Hatchet” Harry Lonsdale (P.H. Moriarty). But his enforcer Barry the Baptist (Lenny McLean aka “The Guv’nor” a real-life former criminal and boxer) rigs the game causing the boys to lose and be severely in debt …

British Gangster Month: The Long Good Friday (1980)

Who doesn’t love gangster films? They’re thrilling, dramatic, and often action-packed, with writing and performances that at their best can make you relate to an ensemble of violent, morally ambiguous criminals. But there’s a sub-genre of gangster movies that has its own charm, tropes, and style: the British gangster film. British gangster films (or British crime films) are more than just Goodfellas in London, but they reflect the unique culture of British organized (and unorganized) crime. Where an American gangster film commonly has a tone of drama and suspense throughout, their British equivalents often seem to employ a more darkly comic edge rounded with a cast of colourful characters (and language), intrigue, and themes that are inherently British. They give a very interesting perspective on British culture, crime, and character. And because of my fascination with this, and realization I haven’t seen enough films of this genre, each Wednesday in September I’m going to…