Films of 2017

Thanks to the powers of a Curzon membership I managed to see more films than I’ve ever seen before in cinemas in 2017. Between us, Lyd and I managed a total of 58, three higher than last year’s previous best. Looking back through the full list there are three immediately obvious things:

  1. There were loads of really good films this year
  2. There weren’t any films that will be troubling my top 3 (Harvey, Donnie Darko, Mad Max Fury Road)
  3. Despite seeing more films than ever before, there were still plenty that I wanted to see but didn’t get around to.

So as much for the benefit of jogging my memory as anything else, here’s a bit of a roundup of the greats, the surprises, the not-so-greats and the I-wonder-if-they’re-great-or-nots.

The Greats

After watching a film I try to pretty swiftly update my list and give it a knee-jerk rating. That’s not always the best way to judge a film, but it gives me a nice reminder about my instant reaction to it. Of the 58 seen, I reckon something like 20 or so managed an 8 out of 10 this year – that’s what I mean about it being a good year. Whittling it down to just a handful is hard so I won’t present a simple top 5 (edit: turns out I will attempt a top 3 later on, oh well).

Detroit

One of the things this year seemed very good at was tension. Dunkirk and Detroit were the big hitters that spring to mind, and in any other year one of them would be the most tense film by a country mile. But this year there were the two of them, and even then there was another film that managed to out-tense them by some margin. It Comes At Night was an absolute masterclass in two things – gut-wrenching tension for every second of its run time, and how marketing can fuck a film up. For some reason It Comes At Night was marketed as a jump-scare horror, but that’s not what it’s like at all. Perhaps it gets bums on seats to do it that way, as jump-scare horror is surprisingly popular, but most of their bums are going to be disappointed if they’re not getting the raucous scare-athon they were after. And you don’t want to disappoint a bum.

handmaiden

2017 was the year that I finally managed to visit Japan, so with unerring timing as well as some excellent Japanese animation in Silent Voice, there were a duo of films released in the weeks before my trip that really didn’t paint a good picture of Japanese history – Age of Shadows and The Handmaiden both used the Japanese annexation of Korea as a backdrop. Both also feature some pretty harrowing torture and are excellent, but the similarities end there.

In non-Japanese animation it was also a great year – Red Turtle and My Life As A Courgette are so utterly different to look at, but I found both deeply affecting and both being pretty short, are likely to make my rewatch list at some point. And I thought brevity was a lost cinematic art.

If, held at gunpoint, I had to pick a top three of the year though, it would probably be Death of Stalin, Lady Macbeth and Good Time.

Death of Stalin

I was expecting the humour of Death of Stalin, but how it managed to take its subject matter simultaneously so serious was a revelation. And Simon Russell Beale finally tearing up the big screen was a long awaited joy. Even if Jason Isaacs summarily upstaged everyone.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth will, if there’s any justice, make a huge star of Florence Pugh. What I feared might be a film stuck full of long shots of countryside that were meant to be portentous or somesuch was actually a much tighter beast with a nasty streak a mile wide. There were still a few shots of countryside, but they were dripping with subtext. A timely re-examination of some costume drama staples.

Good time

Good Time was another top tense film, but it also rattled along, barely staying in one place long enough to let me catch my breath. There’s a fantastic twist about half way through and Robert Pattinson continues to exceed expectations by taking on interesting projects (The Rover, Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars spring to mind) and excelling. Also there was a nice (small) role for Barkhad Abdi who was so fantastic in Captain Phillips. He also rocked up very briefly in Bladerunner 2049 and for me was one of the most memorable aspects of the whole film (more on that later). Let’s have some meatier roles for Barkhad please!

Oh, and Paddington 2 was just beautiful. I was snooty about the first one, but eventually watched it on the small screen and was blown away. The second one is, if anything, even better. Swallow any snootiness and go and be bowled over by loveliness.

I liked Star Wars n’ all, but the internet has volumes written on that so I shan’t trouble you any further with my opinion. But I do love Poe Dameron.

The Surprise

As part of my job I have to watch film trailers again and again and again. I watched various different cuts of The Daddy’s Home 2 trailer over 160 times, for example. One that I saw a LOT of trailers for was Happy Death Day, and I really thought it was going to be utter bobbins. Groundhog Day meets teen slasher is an interesting enough idea, I suppose, but boy did it look duff. And yet, it was one of the most purely enjoyable films I saw all year (see also: Thor Ragnarok). The horror goes out the window after the first half hour or so and it becomes a straight up comedy. It even makes some serious points about believing women when they call out abuse.

The Not So Great

There were 2 (and a half) walk outs this year.

Atomic Blonde didn’t seem like it was going to be my kind of film. I gave it a go because it seemed like a good time to support female- led action films (I didn’t enjoy Wonder Woman much either to be honest, but that was a LOT better than this), Charlize Theron was great in action scenes in Mad Max, and I like James MacAvoy more than I should. It was definitely not my cup of tea.

La La Land. I gave it a go. The opening nearly killed me, then I thought it might settle down a bit. Then they were both just obnoxious and not as good at singing and dancing as people who’re the leads in musicals should be. Lyd has to spend a few minutes watching West Side Story to decompress if the memory of La La Land resurfaces.

Lyd walked out of Bladerunner 2049, but I stuck out the whole ting and honestly? I think she made the better call. It looked beautiful, of course – Roger Deakins is a magician. Lyd left because she couldn’t take the misogyny. And it is really misogynistic. It seemed like it was doing it to make a point, but I don’t think they pulled it off. When I explained the ending to Lyd she laughed and laughed and laughed. I’ve ever been in love with the original, so that probably didn’t help either.

Oh, and we should have walked out of Trespass Against Us, but kept thinking it was about to end. An utter waste of Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender.

The I-Wonder-If-They’re-Greats

I wanted , but completely failed, to see quite a few this year. Marjorie Prime, The Levelling, The Ritual (I think that’s what it was called – British horror of some sort),  God’s Own Country, Call Me By Your Name, Raw and many many more beside. Some of those are ending up in top 10 lists so hopefully I’ll catch up with them at some point.

That’s my tuppence worth. What should I have seen that I missed?

@BornToPootle

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Talk Radio – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 73: Talk Radio

Talk Radio 01

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

We watched The Three Musketeers. The 90s one. Why do we put ourselves through these things? It’s all for love.

The Choice

There wasn’t a shortlist this time as Tim decided to play his cards close to his chest. So the lights dimmed, the credits rolled and I discovered we’d be watching…. Talk Radio (1988).

The Link

Michael Wincott

Talk Radio 04

Plays villains you say…?

He’s the badassest villain in The Crow, he’s the slightly rubbish right hand man of the villain in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Three Musketeers, he’s the dead-too-soon captain in Alien Resurrection… And presumably some other things too. He’s got a voice and cheekbones to die for, I know that much.

What will he be up to in Talk Radio? If I had to guess (which I don’t, but will anyway), he’ll be a late night radio show host with some kind of grudge against the main character. He’ll be a nemesis, but not as nemesis-like as (let’s assume) the station owner. There’s always a villainous station owner.

Talk Radio and me

I’ve heard of it, but little more than that. It falls into a mass of broadcasting films that I don’t know well enough – Broadcast News, Network, A Face In The Crowd and I think a couple of others. Presumably there are others, otherwise that’s an embarrassing quartet to muddle up.

I used to listen to talk radio a fair bit while going through a lonely patch in my early/mid teenage years. I still remember Queenie from Margate calling up Adrian John for a natter every night on Radio Kent, so that’s the dramatic benchmark I’ll be holding this film up to.

But I bet there’ll be a villainous station owner.

IMDB says

A rude, contemptuous talk show host becomes overwhelmed by the hatred that surrounds his program just before it goes national.

I says

Well this was a nice surprise. Eric Bogosian is a late night talk show host on local radio. Station manager Alec Baldwin has big news for him… as of next week he’ll be syndicated nationally, but will his signature rudeness cut the mustard with the powers that be, and just who is he pissing off on the other end of the phone?

Talk Radio 02

Eric Bogosian taking his late night calls very seriously

This was based on Eric Bogosian’s play, and it shows. Most of the action happens over two show broadcasts, and the snippets we see outside those moments – added in for the film – seem very much tacked on. For largely all happening in one room with a static protagonist the film fair zips along and manages to keep a surprising amount of energy. Oliver Stone directed, and I think I normally associate him with a deal of ponderousness. Not so much here.

Eric Bogosian. Who he? Apart from looking like the missing link between Jeff Goldblum and Elliot Gould he didn’t seem familiar as an actor. I read one of his plays when I was auditioning for drama school and hunting for monologues so I’ve always assumed he was a playwright. Knowing what I do about the creative industries it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he has many feathers to his cap, but somehow it always does. It’s like being surprised Bradley Walsh has an album out. No, wait, it’s nothing like that.

Funnily enough the play I looked at for drama school didn’t yield any useful monologues. As I watched Talk Radio it occurred to me that this would have been a much better play to read… until I remembered that I had been looking for monologues for a playing age of 18-25. Talk Radio would suit me now at my, ah, more mature age.

Important things to note:

1. There wasn’t really an evil station manager. Alec Baldwin came close but ultimately any undoing was more as a result of Bogosian’s character. Nice to be wrong for a change.

Talk Radio 05

Baldwin on the right with an inadvisable haircut. Or John C McGinley as he’s better known. 

2. The credits list the actors Park Overall and Rockets Redglare. Those are incredible names. Scarcely more incredible is Rockets’ bio on wikipedia.

3. Michael Wincott. Wow. He was reprising his role in the stage version (as were Bogosian and John C McGinley) which is always good to see. I didn’t know he was also a stage actor (usually a given in the UK, not always in the US) but it makes sense. His voice, presence and stillness make a bit more sense in that context. But he is utterly different here to the measured villainous roles I know him from. He’s a street corner Jon Bon Jovi, a big-haired, stoned, hooting gutter punk. And it works very well.

Talk Radio 03

Women want him, men want to be him…

4. SPOILERS!

This is the quickest a film has ever spoiled itself in my recollection. The opening credits roll. The text ‘Based on the play Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian’ appears. Below it also appears ‘And based on The Life and Death of….’ blah blah blah. So. In the opening credits they plant a pretty strong implication about where the plot is going. Sigh.

END OF SPOILERS!

The Verdict

Thoroughly enjoyable with plenty of drama and also a few Queenie from Margate moments. An overwrought ending and dodgy flashback away from greatness though.

Coming Attractions

Plenty to pick from for me. Baldwin, McGinley, Redglare (he’s in Big!), Bogosian and more besides.

@BornToPootle

The Three Musketeers – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 72: The Three Musketeers (1993)

3 Musketeers 01

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

I talked about how much I like Raphael Sbarge. Oh, and we watched Risky Business.

The Choice

My turn to pick and I managed to narrow it down to:

Runaway Train (1985)

After Hours (1985)

Better Off Dead (1985)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

and the victor….

The Three Musketeers (1993)

The Link

Rebecca De Mornay

3 Musketeers 06

Before watching Risky Business last week I wasn’t really aware of her. In fact, judging by IMDb credits the only other thing I’ve seen her in is 2003’s Identity which I don’t particularly remember. In Risky Business she was upstaged, as was everyone else, by Tom Cruise. She was a slightly ethereal presence, but that matched the ethereal Tangerine Dream score. How will she fare in a rollicking adventure?

The Three Musketeers and me

Well that’s a tricky question, isn’t it. The Three Musketeers is one of those stories that’s revived every 10 years or so with a new batch of stars for the ensemble. Exactly the same, but different (as my first headmaster used to enjoy saying). So for me, the Three Musketeers who remain iconic are Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay alongside Michael York’s D’Artagnan.

3 Musketeers 04

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan

It was on TV regularly when I grew up and I don’t think it’s been bettered. Whether this is a generational thing or if it’s widely thought to be the definitive version I’m not so sure. I suppose Dogtagnan may also have been an influence…

I do also have a soft spot for The Man In The Iron Mask (1998) however, which features (wait for it)… Gerard Depardieu, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovitch and Gabriel Byrne as the musketeers. Not a bad bunch, all told.

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan

But as far as this particular version goes… I bought the cassette single of All For Love by music’s three musketeers: Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting. I find that slightly mind boggling now. The film came out in ’93, so I would have been 12. At that age I was obsessed with Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, buying a new album by one or the other every week I could afford it. While Bryan Adams had a bit of rock cred, I’m still surprised I bought the single. But I have never seen the film. I’d seen a version with Oliver Reed et al, why did I need one with Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Charlie Sheen and Chris O’Donnell?

The Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan. Srsly.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have high hopes, but it feels sort of festive as we approach Christmas. A big nonsensey bit of swashbuckling to snooze to on a Christmas afternoon…

IMDB says

The three best of the disbanded Musketeers – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – join a young hotheaded would-be-Musketeer, D’Artagnan, to stop the Cardinal Richelieu’s evil plot.

I says

Kiefer, Charlie, Ollie and Chris may be the big names up front, but only Tim bloody Curry plays Richelieu! And Michael Wincott is his second in command. Things started to look good pretty early on. But then it just sort of puttered away.

The Three… no hang on… Tim Curry, wahoo.

Charlie Sheen was originally considered as Porthos and I think that would have suited him better – as it is Porthos and Aramis kind of blur into one braggart. In the other versions I mentioned earlier Porthos is Oliver Reed or Gerard Derpardieu. Oliver Platt is a fun presence in things, but he’s harder to believe as a swashbuckler (unless he’s prowling the halls of the West Wing with a cricket bat in hand of course). And Kiefer is doing his best proto-Jack Bauer, but it just made me want to watch a bit of 24 (don’t worry, I quickly disabused myself of that notion).

It’s fine. It’s certainly not the worst film we’ve seen as part of CRFC (by a long shot), but there’s just no real need for it. We’ve had this generation’s version a few years ago with a pretty mediocre cast, so perhaps it’ll be more fun to ponder who I’d cast in a current Three Musketeers than talk about this version any more… Let’s see….

Porthos (braggart, brawler) – Tom Hardy could certainly have a bash at this.

Athos (secretive, drink problem, more of a loner) – Cillian Murphy. Oh those wounded eyes…

Aramis (Pious, but also a ladies man) – I’d love to see Oscar Isaac give this a go. When he smiles the world is a better place.

D’Artagnan (the young firebrand hero) – Maybe just because I’m thinking about Star Wars at the moment, but perhaps John Boyega could be worth a go… Or Ferdia Walsh-Peelo from the incomparable Sing Street – his energy would be infectious in the old duffers above. Have you seen Sing Street? You should see Sing Street.

The Verdict

Well I want to watch my version. Or the Michael York one. What? There’s a version with Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen? Pull the other one mate.

Coming Attractions

It’s Tim’s choice and I’ve given him a who’s who of 80’s and early 90’s Hollywood to pick from, plus a few curveballs. I’d like to see more of Michael Wincott, Tim Curry is always worth a watch and Julie Delpy could take us into some different territory. We shall see.

@BornToPootle

Risky Business – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Film 71: Risky Business

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re looking for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems, oddities and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.

Previously On…

Hackmania 2017 is over, six Gene Hackman films were watched and the winner was… Me and Tim of course, we got to watch six Gene Hackman films. Read about them here and here.

The Shortlist

Timecode (2000)

Risky Business (1983)

Collateral (2004)

Into The Wild (2007)

Once Around (1991)

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

The Link

Tom Cruise

Tom’s the one on the right

He’s a funny old one, isn’t he? There are some massive Tom Cruise films I’ve never seen, but plenty I have – Legend, Interview With The Vampire, Born on the Fourth of July, Mission Impossible and A Few Good Men all hit when I was at impressionable ages. He’s never less than solid, he’s seldom more than engaging. Oblivion is dull as ditchwater but he holds it together well enough, whereas Edge of Tomorrow (or All You Need Is Kill, or Live, Die, Repeat) was a surprise pleasure. And boy does he look good running.

Risky Business and me

I know the scene from Risky Business. Well, not really the scene. The shot. I know that shot where Tom Cruise slides into shot in his undies. But that’s about it.

I assume it’s a sort of Ferris Buellery thing, but I haven’t seen that either. The whole 80s American teen thing has never really tickled my fancy. I have seen Breakfast Club, that’s one… and… does Lost Boys count? I saw that once… St Elmo’s Fire? Nope. Pretty In Pink? Nope. Sixteen Candles? Fast Times At Ridgemont High? Weird Science? Noooooooooooooooope.

IMDB says

A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.

I says

Firstly, and most importantly, someone sound the Raphael Sbarge alarm.

Mr. Sbarge on the right

I didn’t even recognise him, he’s so young in it. My love for Mr Sbarge stems from his dulcet tones playing Carth Onasi in the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The game itself is fab and directly led to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, and the joys of romancing NPCs in games. Largely down to how frickin’ great Raphael Sbarge’s voice acting was. That game man, that and Fable hooked me back into gaming which has become one of my great pleasures.

Anyway. Just imagine the Raphael Sbarge alarm is going off through the rest of this. Next up, Curtis Armstrong. Sure, Tom Cruise looks like Tom Cruise and is all eyes and grin, but I want a film about Curtis Armstrong’s character. He has moxie, chutzpah and other such words. He looks like a slacker, has moxie and is going to Harvard. He sets everything in motion only for Tom Cruise to slide into the frame in his undies and steal the film away.

What’s that I can hear under the Raphael Sbarge alarm? Why, it’s only the Joe Pantoliano alert!

We last saw Joey Pants in buddy cop romp Running Scared. He played a whiny criminal. And here? A whiny (yet slightly smooth) pimp. You need whiny? Get Pants.

And then I suppose we ought to talk about Tom Cruise… He looks almost no different in this than he did in The Firm, despite the intervening years. And he didn’t look that different in The Firm to how he looks now. That’s some dark magick he’s involved in. He’s Tom Cruise. He turned up fully formed. After the scene where he slides in in his undies he dances around the house, ending up throwing himself onto the sofa and gyrating. He was always that Tom Cruise – Oprah shouldn’t have been a surprise.

And the film? That ol’ thing? It’s not what I was expecting. It’s almost a teen sex comedy, and it’s almost something quite searing about capitalism. The Tangerine Dream score makes the film seem like it’s meant to be taken more seriously than I thought, backed up by the odd slow-mo shot. Tom Cruise getting a call-girl because he doesn’t seem able to get a date makes it seem like it’s meant to be taken less seriously. It reminded me of Wolf Of Wall Street in an odd way. It’s up to us to find Cruise reprehensible, the film isn’t going to do it all for us. But the camera zooming in on the black of the sunglasses lens / Cruise’s soul did enough to flag up the intentions. In a society that’s teaching kids to commodify everything, of course making a quick buck from pimping out prostitutes follows.

The Verdict

Wolf of Wall Street: The College Years

Coming Attractions

It’s my choice next, and I’ve got plenty to pick from. As I mentioned earlier, there are some really big Tom Cruise films I should have seen, but then there’s also Raphael Sbarge… He’s not actually in that many films, appearing more on TV and voiceovers. If I’m in the mood for whininess I’m sure Joe Pantoliano is prolific. And there’s also Rebecca De Mornay, the hooker with a heart of gold in Risky Business, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else at all… Who knows!

@BornToPootle

Hackmania – The Chain Reaction Film Club

Last time we were deep into Gene Hackman’s filmography and I promised Tim and I would continue (catch up if you’re new here – my friend Tim and I are working through films we’ve not seen or are overdue a rewatch linking to each film by a shared actor. At the mo we’re only linking to Hackman films, just because). And so we shall. Welcome to Hackmania 2017!

Film 68: Mississippi Burning (1988)

Mississippi-Burning-14

Some fine smell-the-burning-cross acting

Hackman and a youngish Willem Dafoe are FBI agents investigating the disappearance of three civil rights activists in Alabama. Dafoe is the ranking officer but Hackman, a Southerner who’s gone out and seen a bit of the world, is a loose cannon who don’t play by no rules.

This was an interesting one and I really wish I’d seen it when I was younger. It’s based very closely on real life, but with fictional names sprinkled over the top. And there’s plenty to recommend. However when I read about it after watching I was intrigued, and not that surprised, by the controversy that surrounded its release. I watched this in the same year I’ve watched Selma and Detroit. These films have a major focus on the black figures who were involved. By contrast Mississippi Burning is more of a white folks affair. So in a film dealing with trying to ensure black people were able to have a voice (by making sure they could vote unmolested) it also kind of doesn’t give black people a voice.

The other film we’ve watched as part of CRFC that deals with the civil rights struggle was Crazy In Alabama. It was before I started blogging the entries but is worth a quick mention here. Two intertwining stories: a young white boy befriends a black boy and they spend their summer hanging out until the local sherriff takes exception to the mixing of races and breaks up a party. In the process the black boy is killed by the sherriff and the white boy witnesses it but is too scared to come forward at first. Second story: the white boy’s aunt has decapitated her abusive husband and takes his head with her on a road trip to become a star in LA. It’s a horrendous mash up of coming of age, civil rights, women’s rights, zany comedy and issue-based drama. And once again sidelines the people most important to the story. I was reminded of it last week as well, because Surburbicon does the exact same thing. A Coenesque black comedy uses 50s racial hatred as… set dressing? Something like that. It introduces a serious and all too real threat to a black family to mirror tension in the main knockabout storyline, and barely gives them any lines in the process. I found it to be one of the most baffling and reprehensible things I’ve seen this year.

FILM-SUBURBICON-REVIEW

Suburbicon: the bit that wasn’t in the trailers

All of that is to say that in the context of a Hollywood that regularly sidelines the marginalised in their own story, I can see why Mississippi Burning attracted ire. It’s certainly not as bad as Crazy In Alabama or Suburbicon, but a film lauding the FBI as saviours when they were simultaneously trying to destroy Martin Luther King in real life is a bit much. At a time when we can also watch the likes of Selma, however, I think there is a place for it.

Phew.

Oh, one more thing on Mississippi Burning. The sherriff of the town where this really happened sued the producers (despite names etc being changed). The case was dropped when the studio’s lawyers pointed out that if he wanted to go to court they would have to show the evidence they had that showed the sherriff was in part culpable for the deaths of the activists. Sit. The fuck. Down.

Film 69: The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation 1

Listening in to the great white telephone

I’d been looking forward to this for ages. It’s appeared on the shortlist a few times, gets regularly referenced by critics and film makers alike and generally sounds like a great premise. From IMDb:

‘A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple, on whom he is spying, will be murdered.’

Earlier this year I saw the French film Scribe in the cinema. It deals with a character who is given tapes of bugged phone conversations to transcribe and slowly realises he’s in the middle of a shady conspiracy. It was an ok watch, but didn’t quite live up to the premise. I remember thinking at the time that I couldn’t wait to see The Conversation to see how it should be done and… well… The Conversation was ok, but it didn’t quite live up to the premise.

Scribe

The French Gene Hackman

Were parties really shit in the 70s? My overiding memory of The Deer Hunter isn’t the famous Russian roulette sequence, it’s the interminable party. Likewise The Conversation is going to stick in my mind not for the tense eavesdropping or encroaching paranoia but for the inexplicable party Gene Hackman’s character hosts at his dingy workplace. Maybe Francis Ford Copolla and Michael Cimino were both invited to the same duff party and these films are them cathartically working through the experience. I’d just get drunk in the kitchen and throw up in the garden meself.

The Conversation 2

Bwah bwah bwah bwabwabwabwabwaaaaaah

Gene Hackman plays the sax a few times, and doesn’t even have the decency to play Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. I mean, what’s the point? Ok, so that wouldn’t be released for another 4 years but so what. A very young chubby cheeked Harrison Ford makes an appearance though, which is nice.

The Conversation 3

I could just squish those cheeks!

Film 70: The Firm (1993)

I wrote about The Client during Sarandon Season, and this is one of the other trio of John Grisham thrillers I missed growing up. We’ll tackle The Pelican Brief soon enough I’m sure.

Tom Cruise is a hotshot graduate lawyer with job offers aplenty. He goes to work for a small firm in Memphis who seem to have some shady dealings… with THE MOB!

The Firm 1

Name’s Tolar. Avery Tolar.

Gene Hackman is the improbably named Avery Tolar, a senior partner at The Firm with a devil-may-care attitude. It’s nice to see him playing a character who is having a bit of fun – most of his characters seem dourly irascible, but Avery has a bit of the mischevous spark he showed in Bonnie and Clyde or Scarecrow. Or, uh, Superman.

There was almost an incredible bait-and-switch but sadly my hopes were dashed: when Cruise enlists the help of a private Eye called Eddie, we cut to their office and a glammed up Holly Hunter (who can do no wrong). Cruise asks if he can go in and see Eddie and I was really hoping Hunter herself would be the private eye. A nice little bit of subverting expectations and giving a woman a role other than secretary/wife/prostitute (seriously, those were the only female roles in the film). But no, she’s the secretary to Gary Busey’s private eye. Hey ho. And then to make matters worse she has to give Busey head.

The Firm 2

Holly Hunter I will watch in anything. Gary Busey… not so much.

It’s a perfectly functional film with plenty of head scratching wait-but-why-do-they-not-just… moments that Tim hates. My biggest gripe though was to do with Cruise cheating on his wife (Jeanne Tripplehorn). It happens on a business trip with Avery Tolar. Wait, hang on, it’s not Cruise and Hackman getting it on. No, Hackman is getting fresh with a call girl and sends some over to Cruise. Cruise is married though and not a dick, so says no and wanders off. Cue witnessing an altercation between a man and woman, coming to the woman’s aid and, you guessed it, boffing her right there on the beach. What a dick. Photos appear later on, used as blackmail material against Cruise. And then comes the reveal: she was a plant. She used her wiles to ensnare Cruise in a bit of slap and tickle purely so photos could be taken and leverage could be gained. Poor old Tom Cruise is innocent and his marriage saved. Because of course he couldn’t possibly have said no to such a tempting succubus. Wiles were used. Wiles! Urgh.

The firm 3

He’s powerless against her, powerless I say.

That makes six Hackman films on the trot and while there are plenty more tempting ones to try (I’m looking at you March Or Die, B*A*T 21 & Enemy Of The State), The Client is also a pretty good jumping off point to get back to more chain reactiony Chain Reaction Film Club. There’s Tripplehorn, Cruise, Hunter and Busey to pick from plus Paul Sorvino (he played a mob boss would you believe), Ed Harris, David Strathairn and Hal Holbrook to name but a few. It’s Tim’s choice next though, so who knows where we’ll end up.

@BornToPootle