film

Rapid Fire Reviews #21 Just a Bunch of Movies!

Okay, there’s really no way to categorize this oddball bunch of films that I’ve recently watched. Within these ten films there are two films from Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, a recent film by Guy Ritchie, a 1990’s Sam Raimi flick, a heavily re-edited film from Orson Welles, both “Lady Snowblood” films, a couple of recent films featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, and even the new Jackass. Yes, this edition of the Rapid Fire Reviews is a weird one, there’s some duds in here for sure, but the highpoints are truly something miraculous! There’s something for everyone in this one, enjoy!

In The Mood For Love (2000)

Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, “In The Mood For Love” is considered by many to not only be the Hong Kong Filmmaker’s best work, but one of the defining films of the beginning of the twenty-first century. It’s certainly one of the most well executed films I’ve seen for extracting powerful emotions from simple, and yet complex, images and performances. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) find themselves moving into the same apartment building, next door to each other, on the same afternoon. They’re each organizing what furniture and boxes go to which apartment, often sending moving men to the opposite apartment, it’s a cute scene. The spouses of Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are never directly seen, but we hear from them occasionally in the first act- that is, before their partners discover that there’s adultery afoot. Both Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan pass each other in cramped hallways, brush shoulders in a concrete stairwell, and eventually begin hanging out more platonically, even if there’s a mutual growing interest in each other. Though they agree that they won’t stoop to their cheating partners’ level, it would make them just as bad. The film is both dreamlike and yet full of melancholy and sadness. The atmosphere surrounding this unrealized love is a painful romantic longing that’s perfectly pictured by Wong Kar-Wai. The director often uses songs repeated through his films, and this one is no different with sensual Nat King Cole songs like “Quizas quizas quizas”, “Perfidia”, and “Solamente Una Ves (You belong to my heart)” often playing over the two hanging out in the rain while sharing an umbrella, or as each one sits in their respective apartments leaning against the wall they share, longing for love, yet unwilling to act on that love. It’s also worth mentioning that this takes place in 1960’s Hong Kong, a different culture removed from the modern world’s stance on love and life. *Sigh* C’est la vie, this isn’t just a good film, it’s a great one, and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

The Grandmaster (2013)

Written by Haofeng Xu, Jingzhi Zou, and Wong Kar-Wai, and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, “The Grandmaster” is the famed Hong Kong Director’s adaption of the life of IP Man, the Kung Fu Master who would one day teach Bruce Lee the ways of Wing Chun. This biographical Kung Fu film is unlike any other Kung Fu film that I’ve seen, and it is likely the same for most audiences in the western world. With this film Wong Kar-Wai has made a historical epic that details the time and place that IP Man lived in, but it’s also about the smallest of details alongside the macro machinations of geopolitics and warfare. In the American cut (The only version I have seen at this point) the film’s plotting and story seem a bit all over the place, it may require a second viewing to fully grasp all of the details. However, of all the films made by Wong Kar-Wai that I have seen so far, it seems that he’s more interested in atmosphere, mood, and characters’ internal emotions more than story details anyways. Broadly the film is about IP Man’s introduction to Wing Chun in his early life, a secretive martial art known only to the privileged few among the elite class, and how he wants to make Wing Chun available for the masses. It also details the feuding provinces in the north and south of mainland China and the debate among whose Martial Arts forms are superior, and importantly, who should represent various factions or clans moving forward. There’s a small bit about the second Sino-Japanese war in the late 1930’s in which IP Man loses both of his young daughters to starvation. The story devotes a large portion of the runtime to the understated emotional connection between IP Man and Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of northern grandmaster Gong Yutian (Qingxiang Wang). “The Grandmaster”, at times, feels like a connective thread to some of the atmosphere seen in his earlier film “In The Mood For Love”, but it’s in his incredible detail in the fight scenes where this one stands out. The fight scenes of this film are masterfully filmed in slow motion with lighting that makes some scenes look and feel more akin to renaissance era artwork than your typical beat ’em up Kung Fu flick (which I also happen to love, no disrespect). If you’re looking for a more somber and reflective take on IP Man’s story than the crowd pleasing films starring Donnie Yen, then I highly recommend giving this one a watch. It’s contemplative yet powerful, and when a fight scene does pop up, it’s a visual treat! Watch this one folks, it’s worth your time.

The Gentlemen (2019)

Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, with story contributions from Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, “The Gentlemen” is a return to Guy Ritchie’s comfort zone of filmmaking, and personally, I quite enjoyed this revivification. This film is more along the lines of Ritchie’s earlier films like “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” than his more recent diversions with “King Arthur: Legend of The Sword” or “Aladdin”. That’s not to say that a filmmaker can’t, or shouldn’t, experiment with their cinematic boundaries, Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” films and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” were delightful surprises! It’s of my opinion that Guy Ritchie seems to do much better with realism than anything fantastical or supernatural in nature. He seems to be far more connected to the real world, and the inherent drama and thrilling sequences possible within that arena. The story here, with Ritchie’s signature whiplash editing, follows an American expat in England with a criminal empire focused entirely on the procurement and distribution of Marijuana. That American is Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), and he’s looking to sell his empire and live out the rest of his life in luxurious retirement. Pearson eventually finds a potential buyer in Matthew (Jeremy Strong) a secretive, and thorough, businessman that prides himself on efficiency. Obviously, things go haywire from there with several layers of storytelling from other characters’ points of view who are themselves retelling the story to other more relevant characters, like Ray (Charlie Hunnam), or Coach (Colin Farrell). The cast has excellent performances, if a bit hammy at times, though the reveals, double crosses, and surprise developments in the story were enough to keep me entertained for the runtime. It’s a return to Guy Ritchie’s cinematic stomping grounds, and I do recommend giving this one a watch!

Lady Snowblood (1973)

Written by Norio Osada, with story elements by Kazuo Kamimura and Kazuo Koike, and directed by Toshiya Fujita, “Lady Snowblood” is not only a damn fine revenge film, but it also directly inspired Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies. Born out of a need to seek vengeance, quite literally, Yuki Kashima (Meiko Kaji) isn’t just a female warrior bent on bloodlust, she’s an Asura- a wrathful demi-god whose desires cannot be satiated. Let’s back up a bit though, what is this warrior’s purpose? Well, her father and young brother were murdered by a small band of criminals, and three of the four raped her mother in the process. Her mother had begun her mission of revenge, killing one of the criminals but getting caught in the process and sentenced to life in prison. Yuki’s mother conceived her behind prison bars and sent her into the world with but one goal, one purpose, to become her mother’s wrath incarnate and kill those who wronged their family. We get informative flashbacks of Yuki’s training, but the majority of the film is devoted to her tracking down the remaining criminals and violently killing them. I won’t ruin any of the surprises along the way, but it’s a tightly shot and edited revenge flick, and it’s easy to see the similarities to “Kill Bill” and where Tarantino took inspiration from. The cinematography is vivid and playful, the kills are all drenched in candy-cane red blood that sprays from Yuki’s victims like fire hydrants. If you enjoy films like those from the “Zatoichi” film series, or especially the “Lone Wolf and Cub” films, you’ll find a lot to love here. Highly recommended.

Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)

Written by Kiyohide Ohara and Norio Osada, with story elements by Kazuo Kamimura and Kazuo Koike, and directed by Toshiya Fujita once again, “Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance” is a sequel that left me wanting the satisfaction that the first film elicited. Meiko Kaji returns as the fierce Yuki Kashima fresh off of her successes from the first film, but in hot pursuit by the authorities for her murderous actions. Eventually she’s worn down and essentially lets her self get caught, but while on the way to be hanged, she’s offered a way to avoid her capitol punishment by the Government’s secret police. Word of Lady Snowblood’s violent revenge had gotten around and the secret police decided they could use her as a spy to retrieve a vitally important document from a well known political activist, Ransui Tokunaga (Jûzô Itami). Eventually Yuki grows attached to Ransui and becomes sympathetic to his cause. She refuses to kill him and things evolve further from there, but it’s all a bit jumbled. If the political machinations of Japan’s government in the late 1800’s seems like a curious choice of story elements after the exquisitely defined, and streamlined, first film’s revenge plot- you aren’t alone. The first film is simply superior to this one. Yes, there are violent fight scenes, but none of it feels as purposeful as in the original film. It’s not exactly a “bad” film within the Samurai genre of cinema, it’s just a bit muddled and a little boring. Somewhat recommended.

Mr. Arkadin (1955) The Comprehensive Version

Written by, directed by, and starring Orson Welles as the titular Mr. Arkadin, “Mr. Arkadin”, also known as “Confidential Report”, is a fun spin on a tale with a few similarities to Welles’ most well known film, “Citizen Kane”. Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden), a small time American smuggler in Europe with his girlfriend Mily (Patricia Medina) hear a rumor that the famous Russian Oligarch Gregory Arkadin has a dark secret, with only the name Sophie to go by. The two decide to blackmail Arkadin, but when they arrive to Arkadin’s castle in Spain, they find themselves on a different path. After Van Stratten secures a meeting with the mysterious figure, they’re understandably taken aback when he admits to knowing of them both, their criminal activity, and instead hires them to track down elements of his past. You see, Arkadin has amnesia and cannot remember anything before 1927. He awoke in a town square in Switzerland with a large amount of money on his person and not knowing a single fact about who he was or how he arrived in Switzerland. So, Arkadin wants answers and he’s willing to pay the young couple since they’re skilled enough to bring rumors to his ears and attempt a blackmail scheme on him, he thought it was cute, but it showed their mettle, so he hired them on the spot. The two decide that Van Stratten should be the one to travel abroad and track down any trace elements of the Oligarch’s true past while Mily stays near Arkadin to keep an eye on him. Van Stratten goes about finding and interviewing various people that claim to know who Arkadin was before he became Arkadin. Throughout this process Van Stratten keeps up a line of communication with Arkadin’s daughter Raina (Paola Mori)- much to Arkadin’s displeasure. Raina is the only person Arkadin seems to really care about, and once the true reasoning behind everything comes to the surface, it’s easy to see why Arkadin would want to keep his past hidden from his daughter. I’ll leave the final plotting details to those willing to seek it out, but I quite enjoyed this one from Orson Welles. It was filmed quickly and on a moment’s notice for some scenes, being a French-Spanish-Swiss co-production meant there was a lot of production juggling going on. Though throughout the film I was constantly mistaking the lead Robert Arden for Rod Sterling, the original host of the Twilight Zone, and that was mildly distracting, but my own issue. Arden was a mostly “fine” actor for the role, but his performance wasn’t anything to write home about if I’m being honest. He did the job decently enough, but he was a bit dull in the overall scheme of the film. There’s just enough of Orson Welles as Mr. Arkadin for him to be a powerful presence, but not enough to overpower the film to his hand either, which is good. I’d place this film roughly in the upper-middle of Orson Welles films, not his worst by far, but not near the heights of what he would accomplish in the filmmaking world either. Mostly recommended.

Darkman (1990)

Written by Joshua Goldin, Daniel Goldin, Ivan Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, and Sam Raimi, and directed by Sam Raimi, “Darkman” is a comic-book film starring a character created by Sam Raimi, without the comic-book. In an interesting turn of events, Sam Raimi wanted to make a superhero movie in the 1980’s after his first two Evil Dead films, but no studio would let him near their precious IP, he had gone to bat for both “Batman” and “The Shadow”, but neither would turn out for the Horror filmmaker. So, he made his own character and the studio eventually greenlit Raimi’s film after years of negotiations. Thus we have “Darkman”, a fairly decent comic-book flick that has a handful of flaws that can be forgiven when looking at the picture as a whole. The story at hand is that Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a skilled scientist who gets caught up in the corruption racket of corporate criminal Louis Strack Jr. (Colin Friels) by way of his girlfriend and District Attorney, Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand). When Julie goes after Strack for bribing several members of the zoning commission, Strack counters by sending his goons to Westlake’s lab to retrieve a memorandum proving his guilt. When the goonsquad arrives they violently attack Westlake and trash his lab to obtain the memo, horrifically scarring Westlake in the process. Julie is led to believe that Westlake died in the attack and we now have our Darkman origin. With enhanced strength, a mutilated face and hands, unstable mental capacity, and an inability to feel pain, Darkman goes about the rest of the film trying to piece his life back together through revenge against the men that ruined his life and through attempts at rekindling the romance that he and Julie shared beforehand. One particularly memorable villain was Struck’s main henchman, Robert G. Durant (Larry Drake). His willingness to play up his villainy with heaps of ham and cheese was a delight. The only part of the film that I found to be somewhat lacking were in the two leads of Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand. Now, both are excellent actors, obviously, but I didn’t buy the supposed chemistry between them, and I honestly believe Liam Neeson was miscast at this time in his acting career. Ironically, I think he would have been perfect during his post “Taken” career, by that time he’s learned how to portray grit and a brooding menace far better than attempted here, but it isn’t a bad performance. I believe a more animated actor in the early 90’s may have been a better choice for such a manic character. He’s a little too “collected” for the role and I didn’t really believe his outbursts, perhaps someone like Robin Williams or even Harrison Ford at the time may have been more appropriate for the role- but they came with higher costs, so I understand the dilemma. It isn’t a horrible outcome for the film at all really, I could just see there being a better version of this for the lead character. Don’t let me turn you away from this one though, “Darkman” is joyful, chaotic, brimming with unabashed glee, and filled with horrific imagery. Raimi’s boundless sense of wacky and brooding tonal changes are all over this film. Something that can’t be said for something like Raimi’s “Oz The Great and Powerful”, a film that could have been made by any nameless studio director. Luckily, this film also has Bill Pope as it’s cinematographer, a name you should know if you’re looking for insanely kinetic and visually electric cinematographers. Pope’s been the cinematographer for films such as “The Matrix”, “Spider-Man 2”, “Scott Pilgrim VS The World”, “Baby Driver”, and last year’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings”. His inclusion is always a great sign for a movie’s chances of being, at the very least, visually interesting. I do highly recommend this one, give it a shot!

Killing Gunther (2017)

Written by, directed by, and starring as the lead, Taran Killam (oh no… the triple threat), “Killing Gunther” is a Mockumentary style action-comedy that may have been best for a sketch on SNL- but not as a feature length film. Blake (Taran Killam) and a bunch of other contract killers are extra salty that the number one assassin in the world, Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger), is hogging all the business for himself. So, this band of misfits decide to work together and kill Gunther. For the majority of the film these fools try again and again, in increasingly pathetic attempts, to Kill Gunther- but he always seems to be a step ahead of them. Personally, I’m not a fan of the “staged mockumentary” as a storytelling device so you have to go the extra mile to get me engaged with this style of movie, but wow this one was painfully bad. The only saving grace is that when Arnold does finally show up in the movie, he gives it his all and he’s having a good time doing it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t arrive until about an hour and ten minutes into the movie’s hour and a half runtime. His performance is truly fun and entertaining, but it can’t make up for the slog of bad comedy and wasted time until that point. I can recommend the last fifteen minutes of the movie to you- but that’s it.

Cosmic Sin (2021)

Written by Corey Large and Edward Drake, and directed by Drake, “Cosmic Sin” is cinematic diarrhea. I’m not usually this harsh, but this is just an insult to filmmaking. First and foremost, Bruce Willis no longer cares about acting in movies. He’s clearly just there for a paycheck and to mumble his half-awake ass through some dogshit dialogue. I thought “Killing Gunther” was going to be the worst film in this edition of the Rapid Fire Reviews, but “Cosmic Sin” takes bad to a whole ‘nother level. At least in “Killing Gunther” Arnold actually seems to enjoy being the star of the film. Bruce Willis, in this movie at least, is insufferably boring and dull. The plot, if you can call it that, is that in the year 2524 Humanity has colonized a couple of planets, but never encountered intelligent life in the cosmos- until now. Okay, so the logic of the story is very unclear at times, the visual geography of most scenes are sloppy and poorly depicted, and when someone does open their mouth to say anything other than “Fuck”, it’s mindless gibberish meant to mimic speech. Anyways, once General Ryle (Frank Grillo) is aware of the event of First Contact with an Alien Species that seems violent at the outset, he orders the Alliance to seek out James Ford (Bruce Willis) A.K.A. The Blood General, and seek his counsel on the situation. However, all The Blood General suggests is the exact same thing that got him the moniker Blood General to begin with. Ford had been discharged from the Earth Alliance’s Military for stamping out a rebellion of one of the colony planets by using a ‘Q-Bomb’ and killing seventy million people in the process. Those were just Humans though, imagine what he’ll do to Aliens that transfer their consciousness through a virus like Zombies. Wait… but they’re also like, towering crow humanoids with tentacles where their mouths should be? The movie doesn’t even know what’s going on, so why should I? Characters make a weak attempt at debating the morality of brutally killing the first intelligent life that Humanity has encountered, but after that brief objection they all agree that blowing them all to hell is the appropriate response after receiving no actual intelligence about these aliens whatsoever. Ugh, the future depicted here is also so drab and uninteresting. Almost nothing about the future seems to be futuristic, or even all that different from today’s world. Humans still use projectile based weapons (i.e. guns), locations look basically the same, the only difference about a bar that a few characters drink in is that the bartender is a cheaply made robot butler of sorts. It’s just awful, seemingly every choice was the wrong one in this production, most of the blame goes to Willis for taking ninety percent of the small film’s budget as income and then sleepwalking his way through it. The only person I feel bad for in this movie is Frank Grillo. He’s actually a hard working actor that gives some great performances sometimes. If you’re looking to see him in another recent film that’s actually good and worth your time, check out “Cop Shop” it came out last year, and I featured it in the last edition of Rapid Fire Reviews. I do not recommend this one, obviously.

*For more about Bruce Willis’ decline into mumbling laziness, check out this episode of Red Letter Media’s “Half in The Bag” detailing a discussion on the Phenomenon:

Jackass Forever (2022)

Directed by Jeff Tremaine (Many of the concepts for the sketches and pranks in the film were created by the usual crewmembers of all previous films; however, notably, filmmaker Spike Jonze and Comedian Eric André had a hand in crafting several of the sketches as well) “Jackass Forever” is the fourth, and likely final “Jackass” film in the franchise. By now if you’ve seen any of “Jackass” before, you know what to expect and whether or not this is for you. Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee-man- all the regulars are back in action (with the unfortunate lack of Bam Margera due to personal issues, everyone wishes him the best of luck in recovery), and they jump back into the fray for all the familiar gags you’ve come to expect from the “Jackass” crew. There are some delightful, and disgusting, surprises along the way as the gang goes balls out *quite literally* to make each other, and you, laugh til they’re blue in the face. So, what I can tell you is that this one made me laugh, made me wince with empathy, and a few stunts did leave my jaw dropped at the comedic insanity of it all. Was it gross? Oh yes. Was it stupid? Most certainly. Did I have a great time watching it? Yes, yes I did. Highly recommended for those who know what they’re getting themselves into.

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Review Catch-Up: Fast and Furious presents, Hobbs and Shaw

Written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce and directed by David Leitch, “Hobbs and Shaw” is an action film spinoff from the Fast and Furious films chronicling the over-the-top antics of the Fast franchise’s two most memorable antagonists. Forced to work together to save the world from a MacGuffin that could inexplicably kill us all, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) must put their differences aside to track down the deadly super-soldier Brixton (Idris Elba) and stop him from implementing this nefarious plan. Once the duo are on the hunt they run into Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent on the trail of the very same viral MacGuffin and ends up injecting it in her own body to get away with the super-weapon. As you might expect, the movie is a loud, dumb, and highly entertaining series of action set-pieces with some vehicular mayhem thrown in for good measure.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are the reason to see this movie. Period. Their charisma, banter, and one-liners are pitch perfect and thoroughly entertaining throughout the whole runtime, no matter how massively stupid the plot or action sequences get (and trust me, they get VERY stupid). Vanessa Kirby was a pleasantly surprising addition to the cast offering, providing some solid action performing and that touch of heart you may need to remind you that you’re still human while watching this one. Though, admittedly, Hobbs’ scenes with his daughter (Eliana Sua) are damn cute, if fleeting. Charisma and Machismo are the fuel for this movie and everybody knows that, which is why I was overjoyed that Idris Elba let his performance as Brixton go so far over the top that it seemed appropriately cartoonish at times. Which is apt- this movie is an adult cartoon essentially, these super spies and international security agents are not men- but super heroes in suits and leather jackets. At least the movie is evidently self aware of it’s own absurdity- which forgives a LOT of it’s flaws and faults, for me anyways.

While the paper-thin (what are they doing again?) plot to save the world from imminent destruction may not be the most engaging, that’s not why anyone came to see this movie- at least it shouldn’t be. It’s all about the spectacle, set-pieces, and humor. If you enjoyed the older, but equally absurd, action movies of the 1980’s like “Commando”, “Rambo: First Blood Part 2”, “Robocop”, or “Top Gun” then you’ll likely get a kick out of this one. However, I must note that even a few of those movies I referenced have plotlines that are smarter than this one. There’s also a few fun surprise cameos that I won’t ruin for you, but they were delightful and perfect additions to this series.

The final act is a a complete mess when it comes to any kind of continuity. The final fight in Samoa has sequences of abject darkness in the early morning, to a raging storm, or a sunny day depending on the emotion they’re trying to convey for the shot. I have to say it’s absolutely ridiculous, but by this point they’ve earned the complete disregard of all reality. Whatever, I have no expectations of logic or physics at this point in the film series, I just want to be entertained with this completely fun and dumb guilty pleasure. While this film resides within the larger framework of “The Fast and Furious” world, I wouldn’t be surprised if this pairing became a franchise itself- I’d certainly go see a few more outings with these two powerhouse stars. There’s even rumors that Keanu Reeves may join a sequel if one musters up enough interest, and to that possibility I say, bring it on.

Final Score: 1,000 punches and 1 fist bump

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Review: God’s Pocket

Written by Alex Metcalf and John Slattery, and directed by Slattery (best known for his performances as Howard Stark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Dominic Cooper’s ww2 era take on the character) “God’s Pocket” is an adaption of the novel of the same title by Pete Dexter in 1983. “God’s Pocket” is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances as he plays the lead, Mickey Scarpato, and while the film as a whole is a middling affair in low level gangster dramas in 1970’s Philadelphia- his performance is what ultimately makes the film worth a watch.

I don’t want to sour on the film’s other aspects though, there a few solid aspects to take note of here, it’s just that the story that pulls everything together isn’t as engaging or immersive as others in the genre. The film is really just a good exercise in acting and performance as the production is filled with skilled actors like Eddie Marsan, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, and a serious character role from John Turturro as well. The direction handled by Slattery is generally impressive for a first time director as well, he has a good eye for framing and putting the actors on display, which is saying something for how grimy and dimly lit the world they inhabit happens to be.

The plot at the core of this story follows Leon, Mickey Scarpato’s step-son, who is killed after berating an older black man to the point that he cracked Leon over the head with a lead pipe. The fellow construction workers that witnessed the act stand up for the elderly black man when questioned by the police and cover up the act by citing a falling piece of machinery. Somehow word gets out that there may have been suspicious acts surrounding Leon’s death and from there we witness several converging storylines. Leon was a scoundrel of a young man that did nothing to earn any respect or sympathy with the audience so that while he is quickly dispatched after showcasing his boisterous and proud belligerent nature, the characters may mourn his loss, but we have nothing to connect with. We can see how a death effects a community, but afterwards the film solely exists to see just how bad things can get for ole Mick as he tries to stay above water in financing his stepson’s funeral and keeping a well known local columnist from digging into his life, but sometimes it feels like, why should we care? Thankfully we have the acting efforts of the cast to fall back on and inform us of the atmosphere of the lives they lead. Philip Seymour Hoffman shines here just as he does in everything else. At one moment Mick can seem at his exhausted end with frustration boiling over into a melancholy sadness that lies behind his eyes, but he can react to other character’s influences quickly and go from threatening to empathetic in one quick motion.

“God’s Pocket” may not be the gangster drama you were looking for, but it’s unique contents of absurdism and melancholy make it worth a watch. Philip Seymour Hoffman and the rest of the cast earn what the story lacked. That, along with some solid direction from John Slattery, is enough for me to give this film a recommendation. Just don’t go into this one seeking something a little more Goodfellas.

Final Score: 18 screwdrivers and 1 lousy corpse

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Movie Pitch: Adaption of “Endurance” Ernest Shackleton’s fated Antarctic voyage

Recently I finished the book “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible voyage” and ever since I’ve been obsessed with what a film adaption of this tale would look like. Below I’ve assembled a cast and crew that would create a unique and vibrant adaption of this actual voyage. This is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his attempt to organize a crew, and a ship, to travel to the southern pole and become the first to traverse the Antarctic continent from sea to sea as his previous journey south ended with him being beaten to the south pole by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. This attempt would also go awry, as fate would have it, the crew of the endurance would never make it to the Antarctic coast. At about a day’s journey from their destination the Endurance became trapped in floating pack ice in the Weddell sea.

For months the crew of the Endurance stayed on ship hoping for the ice-floe to give, but its grip only tightened further until they had to abandon ship before the ice crushed the Endurance. Thus the crew camped out on the floe, surviving blizzards, sea life, starvation, and boredom until it broke up and they could make a break for land. It was a grueling journey with flares of mutiny, dog sledding races, soccer matches, theatre shows and musical entertainment by way of banjo. That doesn’t even cover the second half of the journey, which consisted of Shackleton and several crew members sailing in a twenty foot lifeboat across 800 miles (roughly) of raging seas in some of the most dangerous waters on the planet. The true story is thrilling, harrowing, and full of the extent to which humanity can struggle and fight just to live another day.

I haven’t, however, casted for the entire crew of the endurance. The Endurance’s crew consisted of 28 members including Shackleton, but I have tried to cast for the majority of crew members that have some sort of standout personality or that have moments over the course of their journey that play into a compelling narrative better. I’m sure there are regulars in the film casting world that would be capable of such scale and lengthy film shoots. I honestly see this as being a very long film because of the nature of the story, as a lot of it is the crew lying in wait on the floe, and later waiting on Elephant island, but it is sparsed with more intense times throughout. What has to be considered here is the essential world building, and the immersion of the story, as it is in the world of 1914, during World War One. I’d suggest longer takes and shots, lingering on thought and expression at times. Look at “The Hateful Eight” (Ironically this is a film I initially did not enjoy but have come to find it to be more of a masterpiece in some regards) and how patience in camera work made for better and more intuitive character moments, it also helped to set the mood for the narrative.

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Iñárritu proved incredible skill as a director in both “Birdman” and “The Revenant” winning two Best Director oscars for both, two years in a row, with “Birdman” receiving Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture as well. Shackleton’s story does share similar themes that “The Revenant” also tackled, ‘Man versus Nature’ and the grit to go through extreme hardships, but the Fate of the Endurance and her crew is a bit different. There is no revenge here, just man tempting the fates of nature and getting a horrid hand of cards dealt their way, but striving nonetheless. It is about the neccesary implementation of optimism and hope, even in the darkest of times. Alejandro Iñárritu has done groundbreaking things with his cinematopgraphy choices in both “The Revenant” and “Birdman” and I believe he could do wonders with this material.

Writers: Steven Zaillian and the Coen brothers

Steven Zaillian was one of the main screenwriters on “Gangs of New York”, which is in my opinion one of the very best films set within a historical context. That film is grounded and has a good sense about the world that it has to efficiently emulate and become. Combined with the Coen brothers who have an extensive record of creating films within very specific time settings (from “The Big Lebowski” to “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and  “Inside Llewyn Davis” among others), not to mention their outright skill in the writing department AND the fact that they’ve been known to join in on the writing efforts of other films at times (“Bridge of Spies”). This is a team that has the credentials and the skill to pull this film off.

Cast:

Ernest Shackleton (Expedition Leader): Liam Neeson

With Shackleton being of Irish descent I believe Liam Neeson is uniquely qualified to pull off the stoic optimism of this legendary explorer excellently. While Neeson has recently evolved into an action star in the last decade he has the gravitas and grit when needed, just look at “The Grey” (For the ‘Man versus Nature’ argument) and Scorsese’s upcoming film “Silence”, a story of jesuits sent to 17th century Japan to retrieve a fellow jesuit wherein Neeson portrays the mentor of the jesuits. Shackleton was a born leader and it was under his authority and compassion that led them all to survive. Shackelton’s mantra of unity and show of humanity was infectious among the crew, often leading them all to rise to his example and treat each other with tremendous compassion. He broke the barriers between the classism that was more present in society at the time. He ordered everyone to perform all tasks, he even washed the floors himself and served the men hot milk (One of the few morsales of food and liquid available at the time) when trapped on the floes. To Shackleton, survival and maintaining the morality of the crew was far more important than any scrap of glory once he knew they would never make it to the Antarctic coast, he simply changed gears and made new goals, mostly that of the crew’s survival and return home. Liam Neeson could portray that confidence, optimism, and sense of checked urgency without folding under the immense pressure that Shackleton was constantly facing. Plus-an argument that could be made for each of these actors included below- who wouldn’t want to work with the director that just won two best director oscars and won one best picture, but was nominated for it twice?!

Thomas Orde-Lees (Storekeeper): Martin Freeman

Orde-Lees was a particularly sassy fellow as far as the rest of the crew was concerned. Labeled a prima donna by some of the crew, he held one of the most perceptive journals out of everyone as he so often complained of others’ nuisances, in his eyes. After Freeman’s performance in “The World’s End”, among many other films and shows,  I am convinced that Martin Freeman could pull off the slightly adverse crew member with his somewhat grumpy demeanor and general negativity towards their odds of survival.

Frank Worsley (Captain/on South Georgia trip): Michael McElhatton

As Captain of the Endurance Worsley needs a character actor with a presence, and Michael McElhatton has presence in spades. You might know him as Roose Bolton, Ramsey’s father, from Game of Thrones. This role would be far less antagonistic than that of the Bolton clan but his projected power in leadership that he portrays on Game of Thrones would most likely transfer to film well. He was also chosen to go with Shackleton on his treacherous journey to South Georgia Island from Elephant Island as Worsley had become adept at navigating in the ever worsening conditions ever since their departure from “Patience Camp” on the pack ice.

Frank Wild (Second-in-command): Eddie Marsan

Eddie Marsan may have portrayed a pushover in the film “The World’s End” but I believe he not only has the smaller framed look of Wild, but the acting ability as well. Wild was an important player in this journey as he often was confided in by Shackleton, and he took on many roles once everything had turned from exploration to that of survival. Marsan has had an incredible amount of side character roles in television and film and is well rounded enough to be able to pull this off efficiently.

Huberht Hudson (Navigator): Tim Roth

Hudson was an indespensible asset on the Endurance as he helped them to find their position while lost at sea on their floating savior/menace of ice. Tim Roth is equally indespensible in every film or show I’ve seen him in and I believe he’d only add gravitas to the ordeal.

Thomas Crean (2nd officer/on South Georgia trip): Sean Bean

While not as commanding a role as he’s had before, this role would be a bit different for Bean. A tough everyman for the English in 1914 Crean proudly became the ‘Father’ of a set of puppies on the trip proving to have a heart of gold under that rugged exterior. Crean is also one of the few characters that travels with Shackleton through the 800 mile journey to South Georgia Island. You need strong willed character actors to portray the enduring battle for survival, and Sean Bean can emote strength, loyalty, and respect effectively. Crean was a man that followed orders, but didn’t quit when it got tough, for he was tougher.

George Marston (Artist): Daniel Radcliffe

As with “Swiss Army Man” and “Horns” Daniel Radliffe seems to be choosing odd yet fun roles since his departure from the wizarding world of magic and nothing would set him apart from that realm of storytelling more than a hard dose of realism set against the backdrop of a dying breed of conquest and adventure at the beginning of World War One. Marston may not have been the biggest standout character among the journey, but he has a unique perspective from the other crew as the journey’s official Artist, he could play with the material within common sense for the character and make smaller moments shine whereas others may not be able to do as much with the role.

Frank Hurley (Photographer): Simon Pegg

Hurley had an interesting perspective within this journey as the photographer of the expedition, he took (and saved) all the pictures and film we currently have today. In fact the picture at the top of the article was taken by Hurley and has Frank Worsley and Lionel Greenstreet in the picture with the Endurance in the harbour of South Georgia Island below, the last stop before getting caught in the pack ice. As such a character, one that frames and views people and spaces, Hurley has qualities that I think Simon Pegg would excel at portraying. Pegg is exceptionally good at imbuing heart and he has a genuine authenticity that would play well into such a character.

Harry McNeish (Carpenter/on South Georgia trip): Walton Goggins

McNeish would be an especially fun role to have Walton Goggins in. As the only member of the party to really step forward to begin a mutiny, before having Shackleton firmly stand his ground as the authority figure, McNeish has a special amount of conflict within his character. He is also one of the crew chosen to go with Shackleton on the trip to South Georgia as his loyalty and ability to influence others came into question. Goggins is rightfully getting more recognition in the film world due to his scene stealing role in “The Hateful Eight”, and I feel he could do this role justice.

Charles Green (Cook): Charlie Day

In my opinion Charlie Day should be in more and bigger roles whenever possible. His antics on the show “Its always Sunny in Philadelphia” are ridiculous and entertaining, but out of the other roles he’s popped up in, I believe I see talents greater than that of Charlie Kelly, ‘King of the Rats’ (Although I do love that character). Green was noted as having a squeaky voice and being conscientious- yet scatterbrained. Does this not sound like the character type Charlie Day has become known for? As the chef that continually serves the crew in the worst of conditions Charlie could have ample opportunity to flex the role and show off his ability to weather any storm and survive, if he can bring anything from the Charlie Kelly character- it would be his skill in survival.

John Vincent (Seaman/on South Georgia trip): Adam Baldwin

You may remember this Baldwin from a little sci-fi show from the early 2000’s called “Firefly”. As Jayne on that show Baldwin expressed a lot of what we’d need for Vincent, essentially a strong strongman (Vincent had been an amateur boxer and wrestler before taking on work on the open seas) that attempts bullying behavior among the crew and is thus also picked by Shackleton to go on the journey to South Georgia, he’s loyal, just slightly antagonistic. Adam Baldwin could excel in this role.

Timothy McCarthy (Seaman/on South Georgia trip): Sharlto Copley

This may be a smaller role on the journey but as one of the capable seaman on the trip Copley could have great fun in being an eternal optimist in the worst of it. He was also chosen to go on the journey to South Georgia and maintained a sunny attitude once proclaiming “Another fine day” to McNeish when switching shifts at the till, to which I believe McNeish later recorded in his journal as “Insufferably optimistic”, but don’t quote me on that.

Lionel Greenstreet (First Officer): Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is an actor with an incredible set of range, just watch “Kate and Leopold”, “The Wolverine”, and “Les Misérables” to get an idea. As an outspoken officer aboard the ship Greenstreet held his level of authority and was well liked. Later in the expedition he ran one of the dog teams and ended up killing an 800 lb Weddell seal with the help of Dr. Macklin. Jackman would be yet another indespensible asset to the film.

Leonard Hussey (Meteorologist): John C. Reilly

John C. reilly has done serious roles before (“Gangs of New York” for example), and he would fit in well here. Hussey had little qualifications going into the trip but Shackleton eyed his potential crewmates with more than just record and experience although those were ample qualifiers as well. He relied on gut and intuition. It paid off with Hussey as he was rather proficient at his work.

Dr. Alexander Macklin (Surgeon): Christoph Waltz

Macklin was a worldy man having been born in India and traveled globally before his family returned to England where he began his certification to become a doctor. When he was interviewed by Shackleton for acceptance on the expedition he asked Macklin what was wrong with his eyes, as Macklin wore glasses, he humorously replied “Many a wise face would look foolish without them” That clinched the decision for Shackleton and he was aboard the Endurance. After they became trapped Macklin was put in charge of a team of dogs, his quickly became the best team of all the men, running sledges through the ice from the ship before it was crushed entirely. They also held races in the ice to abate boredom and apathy. Once getting to Elephant island Macklin and the other surgeon remained on the island to attend to Rickenson (one of the seamen) as he had a heart attack upon reaching the island, and Blackboro as he’d gotten gangrene on one of his feet and eventually had it removed. Christoph Waltz has the charm and wit to pull this character off well enough, plus giving him a worldly background would be easy for such a wordly actor.

Perce Blackboro (Stowaway): Paul Dano

Paul Dano does sadness and uncertainty incredibly well, see “Swiss Army Man” for a perfect example of this. As a stowaway who is caught and given work only to have an awful time after that, Dano would excel in this young character’s fear of being stranded on the ice. Even worse is the fact that he loses a foot due to gangrene after they leave the floe in the boats, being awash in freezing cold saltwater consistently for seven days straight without being able to move and almost no sleep and even less food will do that. Dano is amazing at emoting during times of struggle and strife, and this role is full of that.