Tag Archives: Layer Cake

Best films on TV: 6th to 12th May

The best film on free-to-air television every day this week, as chosen by site editor and “film snob” (The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, December 2012) James Diamond

High NoonMonday 6th May – High Noon (Film4, 11am)

Not only is George Zimmerman’s western one of the finest examples of a genre with a rich and wonderful history, but Film4 are offering the opportunity to watch it in ‘real’ real-time with an eleven o’clock start that should ensure you’re treated to the fantastic showdown at a titular and quite literal ‘high noon’. Gary Cooper plays the dignified town sheriff leaving town with his new bride (Grace Kelly), until word arrives that a dangerous gang he put away are heading back to exact revenge. Screenwriter Carl Foreman was hounded out of his native United States for producing a film that many saw as an allegory of the McCarthy communist witch hunts, with John Wayne branding the film ‘unAmerican’.

More great Bank Holiday viewing available later on today with the finest Star Trek film of them all (at least until we get a good look at Star Trek Into Darkness later this month) with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on Film4 at 2.35pm.

Tuesday 7th May – Manhunter (ITV4, 10.30pm)

Tonight sees the start of Hannibal on Sky Living at 10pm (the new TV series based on the earlier life of Dr Hannibal Lecter starring my current actor-crush Mads Mikkelsen), and those of you with a *insert generic DVR brand* box can watch that while taping this Michael Mann thriller that first introduced the world to the intelligent and wonderfully charming serial killer and cannibal. Or you can watch it on ITV4+1. Your choice.

Wednesday 8th May – Old School (BBC3, 9pm)

I love everything about this film. Luke Wilson is the lovable loser who is cajoled into forming a fraternity to appeal to the outcasts of the university campus where he lives after leaving his cheating wife (played by the brilliant Juliette Lewis). Vince Vaughan is his best friend in a typical Vaughan performance, just before he started to become really annoying. And Will Ferrell has never been better than as the under-the-thumb husband who unleashes his inner beast when ‘Frank the Tank’ passes into college legend. Great fun.

For those after a little more class, then I’m sure the podcast’s own Gerry McAuley would recommend Pedro Almodovar’s Volver on Film4 at 1.40am. I imagine I’ll be taping it and then steadfastly not getting around to watching it for the next twelve months.

Thursday 9th May – True Lies (Film 4, 9pm)

Quite simply the last great film that either James Cameron or Arnold Schwarzenegger made. Arnie plays Harry Tasker, a secret agent who is so good at pretending to be a mild-mannered and boring salesman that the spark has completely disappeared from his marriage to his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis). In true action movie fashion, he ends up having to save the world and his relationship while taking down a jet fighter with his bare hands.

Friday 10th May – Primer (Film4, 10.50pm)

Even if you’ve seen Shane Caruth’s low-budget time-travel mindfuck before, you could probably do with watching it again to get close to understanding even half of what’s going on with this incredibly complex and clever film. Reportedly the only time-travel film not to contain a single paradox, it is a ballsy science fiction that doesn’t treat its audience as idiots, but possibly makes them feel that way regardless. You’ll need this directly after watching.

Saturday 11th May – The Princess Bride (5*, 3.10pm)

When you become a parent, you start planning all the films you’re going to brainwash your children with on rainy weekend afternoons, and The Princess Bride is one of those films for me. With a very knowing performance by Peter Falk as Fred Savage’s granddad reading him the story of The Princess Bride, this film is both a celebration and parody of the adventure stories of our youth. It’s incredibly funny and quotable, with brilliant themes of true love and revenge. A truly wonderful film.

Sunday 12th May – Layer Cake (Film 4, 9pm)

It’s less than 10 years since the release of a this relatively low-budget British gangster thriller, and little did we know then that its star and director would go on to become two of Britian’s biggest exports to Hollywood. Daniel Craig had already won rave reviews in Our Friends in the North, though this was the role that gave us a glimpse of the gritty action star who would become James Bond. But it’s the rise of Matthew Vaughn that is more impressive. Starting out as Guy Ritchie’s producer on Lock Stock and Snatch, he stepped out of Mr Madonna’s shadow with this movie and never looked back, going on to become on of the most successful British directors of recent times with Stardust, Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class.

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Whine on You Crazy Diamond – Found Wanting

Welcome to another helping of the scooped-out mind-innards of yours truly. This week I want to talk about a style of film-making and, some might say, a genre in its own right – Found Footage.

On Saturday I went to see Paranormal Activity 4 (featured on this week’s Failed Critics Review podcast) and it reaffirmed all of the issues I have with found footage films. They are completely unrealistic, and actually alienate me as a viewer.

First let’s look at the reason people make found footage films. The bottom line is that they are cheap. Very, very cheap. The original Paranormal Activity only cost about $15,000 to make, and The Blair Witch Project was also made for peanuts. Studios love these films because they represent a low-risk green-light decision, especially in the horror genre which, more than any other genre it seems, has an inbuilt audience who are willing to give films a chance.

The reason these films are so cheap to make is not just because they don’t use expensive sets and equipment, but also because the people involved are cheap to hire. From the director, to the screenwriter (especially with a number of these films improvised in nature), to the actors (usually unknowns who are cheap, and this also helps make them seem more realistic. No one is going to believe Brad Pitt in a found footage movie).

So from a business point of view I totally get it. I even admire these films.

But from an artistic point of view?

The other argument I have heard in support of found footage films is that they are ‘more realistic’ and that in the horror genre this makes them scarier. This is where I have to disagree. In my opinion, found footage films are less ‘realistic’ than any stop-motion film, CGI-powered superhero film, or badly dubbed and bloodily violent 1970s kung-fu film.

Let me explain.

Cinema has been around for over 100 years. In that time, as a species we have evolved our perception of cinema as art-form and entertainment, and can now put ourselves in a state of suspended disbelief when watching a well-crafted film. When I watch The Exorcist, or Ringu, I forget that I am watching a film and get drawn into the horror that the characters are facing. This is despite the fact that I am seeing things that I couldn’t possibly see in real life – including camera angles and special effects. A well-directed and shot film feels ‘real’.

So any attempt to consciously make a film appear real has the opposite effect on me. My suspicions are instantly raised. I can’t suspend my disbelief and find myself asking questions – why are they talking about boring things in a film? Who ‘found’ this footage? Why are they recording this seemingly random set of events?

And that’s the killer for me – I spend the majority of every found footage film questioning why a character is filming that particular footage. Once a film sets itself up as being ultra-realistic, the slightest crack in the façade ruins the whole pretence. I have the same issue with 3D films presenting themselves as being more immersive, when in fact the opposite is true – but that’s for another day…

DVD – New out this week is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – and you can hear what we thought of that on the podcast here. Instead, why not treat yourself to one (or both) of the lovely re-releases of classic films available for the first time on Blu-ray. Steven Spielberg’s E.T., or Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

TVLayer Cake. Film 4 on Fri 26 Oct at 9pm. If you’re not going to see Skyfall on Friday night, then why not watch Daniel Craig’s breakthrough performance in Matthew Vaughn’s debut film that is that very rare thing – an excellent, modern British gangster film.

Lovefilm InstantClose Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). If you’ve heeded my advice above and forked out on the Blu-ray release of E.T., then make an extra-terrestrial night of it and watch Spielberg’s other ‘they came from the stars’ classic from the era in which he could do no wrong.

Netflix UKDreams of a Life (2011). Recently discussed on the Failed Critics Review, this fascinating documentary investigates the circumstances around the death of Joyce Vincent who died in her bedsit aged 38, and lay undiscovered for three years.