Wednesday, 14 October 2015

High Hopes / Grown Ups

Dir: Mike Leigh
Starring: Phil Davis, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville
High Hopes Cinematographer: Roger Pratt

"I want love, I want sex, and I want a family." Grown Ups.
Regular NB readers (all three of you) will know that NB is a huge fan of ML (Mike Leigh). The gritty mix of black comedy and drama really hits the spot for NB, and it also provides a nostalgic taste of life in England. With these two films, Leigh shows exactly why that is.

Both films have very similar themes (in fact, almost all non-biopic ML films have similar themes); a financially struggling young couple is pitted psychologically, and possibly physically, against themselves and the rest of the world, while sub-characters create drama and provide added social commentary.

"I just want everyone to have enough
to eat."
High Hopes 
High Hopes is really something special in this regard. The main couple (played to perfection by Phil Davis and Ruth Sheen) are grim and real, but likable. The bizarre series of sub-characters, including the neurotic older sister, a strange guest, a couple of toffs, and Davis' mum, bring the laffs and the drama.

What sets High Hopes apart is the strength of the characters as a combined whole, the believably positive ending, the flawless dialogue, excellent cinematography (from Roger Pratt who would go on to do Harry Potter, among other films) and endearing soundtrack. I can't rate it highly enough.

As with all good Leigh, in both films, Narry watched from the edge of his seat as the unstable characters had meltdowns, laughed from his belly during the moments of slapstick comedy and humorous dialog, and shed several tears at the dramatic finales.

Go watch.

Grown Ups Rating: Top Work
High Hopes Rating: Genius

Monday, 12 October 2015


Dir: Doug Liman
Starring: Hay-done Chris-10-Son, Jamie Bell

You might be wondering why NB has been watching so many stinky films. NB is wondering the same thing, so please send in your answers if you know.

Jumper, alas, is not about jumpers in the British sense of the word. Rather, it is the America definition of "Jumper"; that is, a person who can jump to any location merely by imagining it.

Of course, like any teenager with the ability to jump, our hero jumps into a bank vault and grabs a load of cash. Then Samuel L Jackon starts chasing him with his hair dyed white. Then Jamie Bell turns up. And the hero likes a lady. Also, it turns out his mum is a jumper too. Again, not the knitted kind.

Rating: Average

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Dir: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Bill Smith

They asked Narry Borman to star in this instead of Bill, but NB insisted they change the title to "Narry Borman is a Ledge." The Hollywood fat cats refused, so they got the Fresh Prince instead. Fools.

Not since he watched Alien has Narry B been so gripped to his seat. Like Alien, it's the lack of action and the expectation in I Am Legend that causes the tension. Director Francis Lawrence works this tension magically. This tension is helped along by the complete lack of a soundtrack (other than the occasional bit of Bob Marley... when will America learn that there are other Jamaican musicians?! Someone give Horace Andy or Burning Spear (see Leon) a spin, please!), and the atmospheric lighting.

Equally, not since The Never Ending Story has NB been so gripped by a human-animal relationship. The moment where (SPOILER) Sam dies is genuinely touching.

The only weak point here is the poor CGI... the digital lions look almost intentionally digital, like a digital lion has escaped from a computer, which isn't scary at all. The infected humanoids are also on the comical side... why a virus would give them extraordinarily loud voices, I'm not sure.

A few more notes on this film: There's a subtly placed advert for Batman Vs. Superman, and this was way back in 2007; There's one scene that has a ridiculous number of extras; There's a pointless shot of Will Smith exercising.

Rating: Top Work

Friday, 2 October 2015


Dir: Tony Kaye
Starring: Adrien Brody

Tony Kaye turns his jaded eye over education in America. Narry Borman was once a teacher, but he had to quit cos the kids bullied him. That also happens to Adrien Brody, but he deals with it properly: By looking after a street worker in a totally non-sexual way. Detachment avoids a lot of the cliches of films about schools. There's very little 'inspirational talk'... it's more about the grim reality of getting on with it, which has good and bad outcomes in this messed up world.

Rating: Good

Mission Impossible / Mission Impossible 3 / Mission Impossible 4 / Mission Impossible 5

Dir: Brian De Palma
Starring: Tom Cruise
Comment: The original is best. Or so they say. NB disagrees. It probably has the sharpest script, and there's some really nice shots, but the original lacks the CRUISE FACTOR. For example, in the famous scene pictured, Cruise is wearing glasses. Glasses!! Come on. Tom Cruise doesn't need glasses... he has telescopic eyes that can see through walls.
Cruise factor: 1/5
Rating: Good

Dir: JJ Abrams
Starring: Tom Cruise
Comment: I skipped 2 cos it looked silly, even in comparison to 3, which is pretty silly. After the understated original, MI3 turns up the CRUISE FACTOR several notches. The best moment is when Philip Seymour Hoffman (why did he spend his precious little time on this earth making such a stupid film, I wonder) inexplicably has the chance to do away with CRUISE when he turns his back, allowing TC to pick up a gun and shoot him. Wahey! Also, Tom Cruise runs really fast in this one.
Cruise factor: 4/5
Rating: Good

Dir: Big Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise
Comment: Things just got KER-AZY! Brad Bird, who also directed Ratatouille (go figure) just turned the CRUISE FACTOR up to 5. That's right folks... FIVE (5)! In MI4, CRUISE jumps out of the world's tallest building. Bam! He blows up the Kremlin. Boom! He jumps out of a moving car! Kablamo!
Cruise factor: 5/5
Rating: Top Work

Cruise in various action poses
Dir: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise
Comment: For my money, as a stand alone film, this is the best in the series. It tones down the stupidity a little bit in exchange for a sharper script, and excellent pacing. The first hour is as about as good as a major Hollywood film like this can get.  CRUISE is looking a bit old in this (he is 50 years old) but he can still RUN REALLY FAST and HOLD ON TO A MOVING PLANE.
Cruise factor: 4/5
Rating: Top Work

Edge of Tomorrow / Man from UNCLE / Turn Left Turn Right

Dir: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruze
Comment: Surprisingly so good! As you might see for my other posts, NB has been getting into Tom Cruise lately. Hold on, hold on! He's a terrible actor but, as I've come to realize, he's the American Jacky Chan, so stop taking him seriously and enjoy the cheese. Having said that, Live Die Repeat is actually very sharp, and combines a clever plot with solid action sequences. Enjoy it.
Rating: Top Work

Dir: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill
Comment: So bad. It's like a 2-hour long trailer. People keep acting cool, but if they've got no cache, it's hard to give them credit. Style over substance.
Rating: Poop

Dir: Jonnie To
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro (and his near-perfect hair), Gigi Leung
Comment: A fun love story set in Taiwan. It predicates on the idea of being 'meant for each other,' which the film really labors over for a while in terms of showing how terribly compatible they are. Still, it's a sweet movie, and you can watch on YouTube. Yarp!
Rating: Good

The Searchers / In A Lonely Place / Out of the Past

Dir: Jacques Torner
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas
Comment: Great film noir with an amazing cast. When Robert Mitchum's on form, he really steals the show. The romance angle was a bit weak, but the convoluted plot makes up for it.
Rating: Good

Dir: John Ford
Starring: John Wayne
Comment: You've got to love a good western. Cowboys, Indians... pillaging. And director John Ford is pulling out all the stops here as The Searchers clearly influenced a lot of later filmmakers.
Rating: Top Work

Dir: Nicholas Ray
Starring: Humph
Comment: Another solid bit of noir from Nicholas Ray, who's a surprisingly versatile director. A lot of tension is built up not only in terms of the murder but also the romance with the blonde, and it's the interconnection between these two plot lines that makes Lonely Place so good.
Rating: Top Work

Spring / Upstream Color / Ask Me Anything

Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorehead
Starring: Justin Taylor Pucci
Comment: Like (but much better than) Before Sunrise, but with scary scientific monsters. Yeah, you read it right.
Rating: Good

Director: Shane Caruth
Starring: Shane Caruth
Comment: From the Primer guy. Maybe NB's head wasn't fully engaged with this film, but I didn't really figure it out until afterward. Intentionally obscure, but quite well done.
Rating: Good

Director: Alison Burnett
Starring: Who cares
Comment: Really bad. I'd head good things about it being underrated... It's got an awful cliche of a script and it's just not enjoyable.
Rating: Bad

The Descendants

Dir: Alexandar "Bring the" Payne
Starring: George Clooney

Like The Way Way Back, The Descendants is written by Community regular and all-round baldhead, Jim Rash, along with direct Payne and co-creator Nat Faxon. Considering their comedy pedigree, The Descendants is actually a very touching and sincere film about a man who is forced to reassess his life when his wife is in a tragic accident.

But what really is it about? It's about finding peace despite tragedy. And it's about dealing with betrayal and being honest. Also, it's about Hawaii. This is probably the first flick NB has seen that shows so much of that stunning group of islands... why aren't more films produced there?

Well directed, acted and scripted, I'd recommend The Descendants unreservedly.

Rating: Top Wok