Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Odds & sods

If you saw and liked IN BRUGES then THE GUARD will be for you. This laid-back laconic thriller is brought to us by John Michael McDonagh, the brother of Martin McDonagh, who was writer/director of IN BRUGES (and several other well received plays like THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE). THE GUARD is the first major film directed by John Michael McDonagh and it does not disappoint.
Set in western Ireland, it begins with four drunk/drugged teenagers crashing their car, which is found by our Guard (policeman), Brendan Gleeson (who was Colin Farrell's chum IN BRUGES). After rummaging through the pockets of one of the corpses he finds a bag of drugs, which he keeps for himself. The rest of the movie is comprised of smartass remarks and brilliant dry humor as the Guard has to help an American CIA man Don Cheadle in tracking down some gangsters smuggling drugs into the country. Mark Strong again lays claim to being the cinema's new hardman as the head gangster.
Cheadle is fun as the straight laced, by the books, FBI agent who initally finds Gleeson hard going. Add in the 2 rather too glamorous young hookers Brendan unwinds with, his ill mother, his new assistant (who has an unfortunate meeting with the gangsters on that lonely road) who turns out to be gay but married to an attractive East European girl and the pace soon hots up, climaxing in a blazing shoot out. Does our "hero" survive that burning boat? Well we are shown he is a very good swimmer ...

BEGINNERS, released in 2010, was an interesting view too. Another of Ewan McGregor's recent films I enjoyed (THE GHOST, PHILIP MORRIS I LOVE YOU - must get around to SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE too) this one finds him as cartoonist Oliver, a rather withdrawn guy looking after his widowed father Christopher Plummer who comes out as gay in his 70s and after his wife dies, he is soon disco dancing and finding a much younger partner! It is quite amusing and touching in parts, though Plummer seems to be rather on autopilot, he did though win the Best Supporting Actor statuette.  Melanie Laurent, so good in Quentin's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, is the actress Oliver slowly gets involved with, and there is a cute dog too. It meanders along with the inevitable happening - the father's illness and death. Pleasant enough then, but not something I would want to re-visit.  Directed and written by Mike Mills.

PERMISSION TO KILL is an oddity from 1975, A Dirk Bogarde film I missed at the time, I don't think it hung around very long. When the exiled leader of a free party decides to return to his own country and attempt to remove the dictator currently in place there, several western governments are determined to stop him. A group is assembled, consisting of old friends, former lovers and hired assassins in order to dissuade him from returning "before his time". This group is appalled at the lengths to which western intelligence will go to stop the man from returning, and they conspire together to allow him to leave. Their plans, however, are anticipated by western intelligence which will stop at nothing to stop him, no matter who gets in the way, as the blurb puts it.
A convoluted thriller then with Bogarde headlining as the icy head of "western intelligence" manipulating everyone, good to see him and Ava Gardner re-teamed (after their 1960 failure THE ANGEL WORE RED), Ava is marvellous here, while Timothy Dalton is the very gay civil servant blackmailed into being of (temporary) use. Set in Austria and directed by Cyril Frankel, it is as cynical and manipulative as one would imagine, interesting to catch up with now though, and oh so '70s.

A FAIRLY COMPLICATED GIRL - Some films annoy one so much one wishes to yank them out of the player and toss them in the garbage bin. Such a one is this 1969 "thriller" by Damiano Damiani (who helmed an interesting little film in 1962: ARTURO'S ISLAND). The leads Jean Sorel and Catherine Spaak were ideal in a 1960 discovery of mine last year - DOLCE IGNANNI (or THE ADOLESCENTS) by Alberto Lattuda (Sorel, Italian labels) which had that nice black and white early 60s Italian look in spades and it was a poignant drama) - this though is late '60s trash with psychedelic touches as our aimless amoral couple - she is often naked, he though is just seen either taking off or putting on his trousers; then there is the sensational Florinda Bolkan in her debut in that amazing bikini, but it is a subsidiary part to our boring leads. Not one of Sorel's better efforts then, the beard suits him though.

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