Tag Archives: Alan Rickman

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

“Never tell a soldier he doesn’t know the cost of war.”

Sometimes a film comes out of absolutely nowhere and blows you away. Sometimes you go see a film based on, I don’t know, the awesome looking cast or because the synopsis makes it sound interesting or, like this for instance, timing just happened to mean you were seeing Eye in the Sky because there wasn’t a convenient showing of The Jungle Book when you got to your local flicks.

I plonked my arse in the chair having not seen a trailer (amazingly!) or really heard anything about what I was about to watch. Sometimes that’s my favourite way to go into a movie.

Gavin Hood – director of the okay Rendition and the pretty crap X-Men Origins: Wolverine – has put together an awesome cast for what may be the most tense drama I’ve seen in quite some time. British army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has led a years long charge after a couple of violent extremists in Kenya, the sum of all her work culminating in a multi-national operation to apprehend and interrogate them. She soon comes to blows with her commanding officer, Lieutenant General Benson (Alan Rickman) and the politicians he answers to when her mission goes sideways and it quickly goes from being a target capture to an execution from afar.

Things are complicated further when the pilot of the drone that’s watching Powell’s targets (Aaron Paul), who has suddenly become the man with his finger on the trigger, refuses to pull it when the question of collateral damage isn’t one that is answered in a way that satisfies him. Demanding the Colonel and the General rethink their strategies and come back with a safer alternative, they all find themselves in a race against time trying to get a safe solution before their very high value targets, and the men they are grooming to be suicide bombers leave the building they are holed up in making them impossible to track.

I don’t know where to begin with this film. Almost everything about it is outstanding and I’m genuinely confused about where to start. Let’s talk for a second about the pedigree of two of the three main characters. We have the outstanding Helen Mirren, a woman who won an Oscar playing the Queen for Christ’s sake, sinking her teeth into a part that was clearly written for a man. Nevertheless, she grabs that ball and runs hard with it as the colonel at the end of her rope. We get to see this stoic military woman try desperately to hold it together as the last few years of work starts to slip away and she has to wonder where she can draw her line. On the other side of her monitor is the truly amazing Alan Rickman. A man who has dedicated his life to the military and, like it or not, he has to convince politicians on both sides of the Atlantic of the right thing to do. He has to fight with these men and women who’s priorities are skewed around protecting themselves first and everyone else second.

Bringing up the rear, in a way, is Aaron Paul. A man I was never really a fan of (yeah, I know he was great in Breaking Bad, but what else?) but is definitely on the road to converting me after this role. As the man with his finger on the trigger, his reaction to the situation on the ground is what makes this such an important film. He’s us. He’s the guy asking if he’s doing the right thing and making sure those giving the orders are doing the right thing too. It’s not a question of legality, it’s a question of morality; we know it, he knows it, and damn he’ll make sure his superiors know it. Ok, so maybe I am bigging him up a bit. Mainly he does that silly crying thing he always does and looks very sad, but I’m pretty riveted with every line he utters.

Hood’s direction, which in the past has left a shit load to be desired, is near perfect here. With the perfect pace the ramps up the tension to nail-biting levels and a beautiful editing job that never lets you forget all the players in this game, there’s no way you get to the end of this surprising little flick without gripping the arm of the chair. Not one minute of screen time, not one frame of film is wasted in the telling of this story. It’s a story of men and women that have to decide to kill people, or not. It’s a story of the decisions that are made probably more often than any of us want or care to realise and it’s the story of people that have to go through this hell, and come back the next day and do it all over again.

It’s the story of decisions that none of us would ever want to make.

In an impressive feat, Mr. Hood has taken a film with almost no explosions, fewer guns, and gone and made one of the greatest, most compelling war films of the last few years as the question of the morality of not just the war on terror but that of long-range drone warfare are brought to the forefront and a spotlight put on them like never before. Each person involved brings everything they have to convincing us of the turmoil they are going through. It would be awful of me not to mention the late, great, Alan Rickman in what is his last role on screen. There’s a certain melancholy to his part and a real sad feeling to watch him bring his driest of dry humour up there for the last time, but it’s one of his most memorable parts and as shit as it is that he’s not with us anymore, this is a great send off.

Eye in the Sky is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. It’s an almost perfectly formed drama that leaves a knot in your stomach long after the credits have rolled. It’s pulled-from-the-headlines subject matter puts questions none of us want to answer up there in bright lights for us all to discuss and isn’t afraid to make you wonder which side is right. It’s a serious, grim story to tell; but it’s an affecting one. I can’t remember ever seeing such a quiet, somber audience as a cinema empties.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Your Toughest Opponent

hans gruber

Inviting you to listen to this podcast may make you uncomfortable. Not because we’re walking around naked, but as one of our longest episodes for a good while (at nearly one hour and three-quarters long), you may get something of a numb-bum if you listen to the whole thing in a single sitting! Unfortunately there are no ways to montage your way out of it either.

Nevertheless, in this bumper episode, your hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by special guests Andrew Brooker and Tony Black to wag their fingers in the direction of the recent Oscar nominations, celebrate the life and work of Alan Rickman, and discuss a petition to actually lower the rated R status for the upcoming comicbook movie Deadpool.

As well as this, there’s room for Room, time for Creed, and for us to revel in The Revenant as we spend the latter part of the podcast discussing the three big new release reviews of this past weekend. We even take a look over what else we’ve watched in the past seven days. Brooker apologises to James Cullen Bressack for not getting on with White Crack Bastard; Steve, in tribute to Alan Rickman, revisits Kevin Smith’s 90’s classic Dogma; Owen reviews the recently released My Nazi Legacy documentary; and Tony is impressed with Ryan Reynolds after his surprising resurgence after seeing The Woman In Gold.

And that’s still not all as we start (as ever) with a quiz and Owen suffers through the first episode of Rob Schneider’s latest TV series, Real Rob, as penance for losing last week’s quiz.

You can see why it’s such a long episode!

Join us again next week as we bring back Liam and Andrew Alcock for a World Cinema triple bill.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Listen Up Hollywood – Die Hard 6

A new series where Steve takes a semi regular bash at planning some movies for the Hollywood bigwigs.

by Steve Norman (@stevepn86)

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I have a theory about the Die Hard films. Not only do they get worse with every film made but the quality also dips the larger area John McClane covers during the movie.

In the original, and the best, McClane is confined to a single skyscraper. The movie also has the best villain of the series in Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber but the relatively small area it takes place in helps make the film what it is.

The second instalment sees our hero tackle terrorists in an airport. A sizeable area but again still quite confined. In Die Hard with a Vengeance McClane teams up with Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus in a movie that spans most of New York City.

Then the franchise went away for a bit and everyone thought we had ended up with an excellent action trilogy. However it was bought back and in Die Hard 4 (I’m not bothering with ridiculous taglines) where we yippee-kayayed around most of the East Coast of the USA. This was the first Die Hard that was not good. It was OK though and in my opinion receives more flack than it deserves. It did sacrifice the 18 rating to get a larger audience which made the film suffer. Number 5 did the same with the rating and seemed to span an area of Eastern Europe that Vladimir Putin would envy. It sucked.

I do not like to see film franchises I love go out on a low. This is why I am optimistic that the new Star Wars films will be immense and this is why I want more Die Hard.

And I have a plan for the film.

It needs to be set in a confined(ish) space and only have one main hero, John McClane. No Samuel L. or Jai Courtney offering support. Just the former cop ass kicking and wise cracking throughout the movie.

You also need a reasonable ‘in’. In the first two movies he was picking up his wife. In the rest it was a bit more elaborate to get him involved.

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So with this in mind my film starts in the White House. Ok, I know we have had White House Down and that other one with Gerard Butler but they were pretty mediocre.

Why is McClane at the White House? Maybe he is taking his grandchild (his kids in the film are old enough to have kids about seven or eight, right?) and their class on a tour along with a teacher. Maybe he is collecting a medal or award for his heroics during his life.

Either way he is there and some terrorists turn up. Part of me wants to introduce a third Gruber brother but it seems a bit stretched. Basically pick a bad guy/group. Their motive and origin is of little consequence to the story. The main bad guy needs a bit of psychological menace and their needs to be a henchman in a vest. Preferably Nordic looking.

Of course the President is kidnapped and held hostage in the Oval Office. McClane’s only help, other than ineffectual and ‘by the books’ jobsworth police and CIA officers is White House security guard Al Powell who was annoyingly absent from the last three movies.

There you have it Hollywood. Die Hard 6.

Yes, I like Love Actually. Do you want to take this outside?

A couple of months back my twitter timeline exploded with people dismayed to find themselves watching Love Actually. From what I could tell, they weren’t being held against their will. They couldn’t bear to switch it off, but needed to justify their actions with derision.

For a start, they’re doing it wrong. Everyone knows the official date to watch Love Actually is 20th November – exactly five weeks before Christmas, and the day on which the film commences. While watching a movie that’s so laughably bad you have to provide a running commentary of its failures is fun, if you honestly hate the fact that you’re doing so, I’m willing to bet there are a couple of other films out there you haven’t seen yet, and could watch instead. Besides, where’s your festive spirit?!

Richard Curtis continues his expedition into the world of romantic comedy in this all star Christmas extravaganza. Before the opening song titles (a nod to Four Weddings and a Funeral, his first foray into the genre) are over we’ve met Bill Nighy the aging rockstar; Liam Neeson the widow; Emma Thompson the harassed mum, and Keira Knightley the sickeningly beautiful bride. This is exactly how the world looks inside Curtis’s head: a bunch of attractive middle class people who say ‘fuck’ a lot, and Hugh Grant as Prime Minister

The plot is full of holes. I won’t list them all; watch it and pick your favourite. Mine is the fact that they schedule a concert, starring children from a number of different primary schools (even St Basil’s) on Christmas Eve. That would never happen! Which leads directly onto the whole airport debacle. But I’m not going to mention that, as I generally disregard the entire kid storyline on the grounds that it’s a bit shit. Nonetheless, it’s worth it. It’s worth it for Colin Firth‘s swagger when he walks out of the room post jumping in the lake segment. For the thought of Colin Firth learning Spanish for you. For his adorably slow typing. Colin Firth, Colin Firth, Colin Firth.

I love the Wisconsin storyline. And that was surprising starring, as it does, the dude from My Family, who I was predisposed to hate on sight. But it’s just the right kind of silly, the geeky guy from Basildon getting to have all the sex with Betty Draper, Kim Bauer, and other screen hotties. Plus actor Kris Marshall landed the BT love advert series off the back of his stint at the Richard Curtis school of romance acting. We may have grown tired of Adam & Jane at the time, but they were vastly superior to a bunch of filthy students posturing about their Infinity package we have now.

And beautiful Laura Linney. Bringing a slice of realism to proceedings, offsetting the Mr Bean nonsense entirely. In standard chick flicks, you either get your desired outcome or your comeuppance. You never see a good guy get a non happy ending. This is real life in action. Well, real life if your boss was a pervy Alan Rickman hell bent on getting you laid, if you lived in a gorgeous mews house in central London, and if you had the stoic dignity of Laura Linney. She is never once shown cry-sniffing until she chokes a bit on her own snot backwash, which I admit  is a teensy bit far fetched.

I could (and will, on request) write a whole other post on why the Ant & Dec cameo makes me proud, how I strive to parent like Emma Thompson, or why the end credit footage makes me want to move into Terminal 5.

Dear Love Actually. Ignore the haters. For now let me say, without hope or agenda. Just because it’s Christmas (And at Christmas you tell the truth). To me, you are perfect. And my wasted heart will love you until you look like this. [Insert picture of generic rom com flop, set in June and not starring Laura Linney]

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far, or watch Love Actually when it’s next on TV. (Probably sometime in April.)

A Decade In Film: The Nineties – 1991

A new series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favourite films from each year of that decade, and discuss the legacy those years have left us.

Kate has chosen to relive the nineties, because she’s old enough to remember them in their entirety This week she revisits 1991.

Beauty & the Beast

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‘Tie your napkin round your neck, Cherie, and we’ll provide the rest.’

The first animation to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, an honour which wasn’t bestowed again until Up got the nod some 18 years later, Disney present this classic fairy tale as a Broadway production. Notable voices provided by the delightful Angela Lansbury as kindly Mrs Potts, and the late Jerry Orbach, whose French accent steals the show as Lumière  the singing candelabra, in the same year he first appeared in Law & Order.

While other Disney offerings have some cracking songs, make no mistake, this is a musical. Indeed, in another Oscar first, this was the first picture to receive three nominations for Best Original Song.  From the big budget opening number, to Céline Dion warbling over the end credits, this film is all about the singing. ‘Be Our Guest’, performed by the ensemble cast of enchanted objects, is right up there with Little Mermaid‘s ‘Under the Sea’ for lyrical genius.

It’s difficult to find a huge amount of sympathy for the Beast, who really doesn’t do himself any favours considering his mission to ‘love and be loved’ is a rather time sensitive matter. Belle, our plucky protagonist, is sweet enough. But a carriage clock, a teapot & cup, a footstool and the aforementioned candelabra are the real stars. Anyone else find it really disappointing at the end, when they turn back into humans?

Father of the Bride

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‘Our plane’s about to take off, but I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. Thank Mom for everything, ok? Dad, I love you. I love you very much.’

A remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy & Elizabeth Taylor romp of the same name, Father of the Bride is a simple tale of a daughter flying the nest. Like the Meet the Parents of the nineties, what makes it great is the stellar ensemble cast. Steve Martin portrays almost the same neurotic, fiercely loyal father he did in Parenthood two years earlier. Only this time he plays basketball and makes trainers for a living, so he’s pretty much the perfect dad.

Add to that the always great Diane Keaton, Kieran Culkin at the same age, and just as funny, as his older brother was when he starred in Home Alone, and Martin Short‘s inspired performance as the generically ‘European’ wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer. There is also a bridal couple but, as these things often go, the film is less about them and more about everything surrounding them. Indeed, Wikipedia notes that groom George Newbern is ‘best known for his roles as Bryan MacKenzie in Father of the Bride (1991) and its sequel’.

An enjoyable 105 minutes for anyone who has planned a wedding, owns a daughter, or likes looking at the ridiculously lavish mansions that seemingly pass for a ‘house’ in the United States.

Thelma & Louise

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‘Shoot the radio.’

You know that feeling on the last day of your holidays when you really don’t want to go home? This is the tale of what happens when you actually act upon those feelings, under the direction of Ridley Scott. The story obviously resonated, and gained writer Callie Khouri the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for this, her first produced film.

Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon star as sunglasses and head scarf clad best friends, heading off to the mountains in their dusty convertible. Thelma is instantly lovable as the ditzy downtrodden housewife, while Louise is bolshy and demanding, with hints of a hidden past which might make you warm to her. Such is the nature of long car journeys, spend enough time with a person in a confined space and you’ll grow to love them. Or kill them. (Spoiler.)

There’s a cameo from Michael Madsen, a ‘before he was famous’ sex scene with Brad Pitt, and Harvey Keitel as the cop with a heart who is rooting for our anti-heroes. Even if you’ve never seen the film, you’re sure to know the oft-parodied ending scene. And while, at age 11 watching my mum’s VHS copy, it took me a while to comprehend the significance of the decision to ‘keep going’ in relation to the Grand Canyon, it was nonetheless pretty inspiring.

Backdraft

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‘You go, we go.’

Admittedly the initial appeal for me was the sight of William ‘Billy’ Baldwin in full firefighter get-up. But legendary director Ron Howard goes one better and makes burning buildings look sexy. Chicago’s emergency services never fail to impress on the big screen, and this depiction of their fire department is no different, gaining the auspicious title of ‘the highest grossing film ever made about firefighters’ in lieu of awards.

Baldwin and Kurt Russell are brothers and co-workers, who become embroiled in the work of a serial arsonist, the fallout of a mayoral campaign, and the deaths of several colleagues. One of them also has sex with Jennifer Jason Leigh on top of a moving fire truck. Have a guess which one. Elsewhere, Robert De Niro puts on a suitably geeky performance as an arson investigator, while Donald Sutherland is like Hannibal Lecter but with fire.

Backdraft has action, obviously, tension, and more than a little heart-wrenching family drama. Personally, nothing makes me sob like a baby more than some on screen reference to real life at the end of a movie. There are over 1,200,700 active firefighters in the U.S. today.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

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‘I’m not one of you, but I fight! I fight with Robin Hood! I fight against a tyrant who holds you under his boot! If you would be free men, then you must fight! Join us now, join Robin Hood!’

A thoroughly British affair, showcasing our rolling landscapes, our engaging folklore and our classic actors. Kevin Costner does his bit, by chucking in the occasional semi-English accent when he remembers to. Which is more than can be said for Christian Slater, as New York’s finest Will Scarlett.

Funny (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not so much) the film builds to the climactic final wedding/multiple hanging celebrations. Naturally Robin of Locksley saves the day, with a combination of arrow skills, sword fighting, and good old fashioned punches to the face. Alan Rickman is at his slimey evil best as The Sheriff of Nottingham, while Morgan Freeman’s Azeem is the person you’d most want to have your back in the woods.

The Bryan Adams rock ballad which featured on the soundtrack spent an epic 16 consecutive weeks at number one in UK charts, and somewhat eclipsed the film. Which is a shame because, to dismiss it, would be to miss out on the most amazing cameo/tribute to The Untouchables at the end.

 

See the five films Kate picked for 1990 or check out the full A Decade in Film series so far.