Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast
Sexy Beast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Having only ever seen Ray Winstone in bit-part American roles, in which he's always very good, I decided now would be the time to take a look at some of his back catalogue. Sexy Beast seemed the most appealing place to start so here are some notes from my first viewing....

Quick plot summary, Ex-con Gary Dove (Winstone) is living a life of paradise in sunny spain with his wife (Amanda Redman) when its all disturbed by Don Logan (Ben Kingsley). Logan insists that Gary does one more job, Gary doesn't want to. That is pretty much the plot, wafer thin some might say, but director Jonathan Glazer manages to draw an excellent hour and a half out of this well-worn Gangster movie device. Ever seen Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels? Felt that it was all style no substance? Well, see Sexy Beast to have this confirmed. At its most basic level the film is an entertaining Brit Gangster romp, with Winstone practically born to play the gruff ex-con. But what sets it apart is that its trying to say things about temptation and desire and consequently its characters are more than the one note bores that populate all of Guy Ritchie's films.

Special mention needs to be made of Ben Kingsley here, though. His Don Logan is a force of nature,  so loaded with expletives that he hits this movie like a train and never lets go. I said above that he insists Gary do this one job and boy does he; every second he's on screen is both uncomfortable and exhilarating at the same time. Logan represents the temptation here, he shows how it can attack us all in places deep under our skin.

Brief word on the direction here; brave. Glazer clearly isn't afraid to task risks, take note of his tunnel digging exit. But occasionally his showmanship becomes a bit too much. For example, does the camera really need to go with the revolving doors as they swing round? No, it doesn't, but Glazer does anyway and in some sense that's to be commended. If only he could have reigned it in a little bit then this would have been a much more even picture.

No matter, the end result is as stylish as they come and, if the ship ever shows signs of sinking, its quickly re-anchored by Kingsley and Winstone.

Re-watching Alien

As Prometheus is hitting our screens in only days this seemed like the ideal time to re-watch Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece, here are some notes on what I feel makes this film great.....

Ridley Scott has always created wonderfully diverse worlds, but Alien remains his greatest achievement. Fairs fair, he doesn't do it alone, H. R. Giger's monster is a terrifying specimen and production designer Michael Seymour created sets of astronomical scale. But its Scott's direction that makes the difference, in and amongst all of this detailed design he generates an atmosphere of such claustrophobic horror that it has yet to be matched. Take the first hour, for example, we see very little of anything except the crew. And yet by the time the Chestburster makes its appearance the tension is bursting (what better word?) at the seams. Performances are also all top notch, especially Ian Holm in what is perhaps the most subtle portrayal of a robot ever seen.

As thrilling as it is beautiful, Alien remains the perfect showcase for how timeless the combination of stellar direction with fantasy handy-work can be.

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Game of Thrones Episode 9 - Blackwater

Game of Thrones never fails to entertain and this week's episode was no different as Stannis Baratheon finally arrived at Kings Landing. After being called in last minute, first-time Thrones director Neil Marshall (although in no sense new to his craft, see The Descent) prooves to be more than capable of time managing both character development and cross family warfare. Yes, the hacking and slashing had its place but we were also treated to some great one on one scenes. The clash between The Hound and Bron will be, for this reviewer at least, the scene that lingers longest in the memory. While Cersei's slow slip into drunken malice built up a strong sense of unease whenever she lashed out at Sansa.

As always, however, Tyrion achieves that remarkable thing of stealing every frame he appears in while simultaeneously enriching the chracters around him. His drawing out of trust and emotion from Varys is a case in point. Blackwater even gave him the chance to be around some of Game of Thrones' now trademark violence. No more getting bumped on the head and missing it all, this time he's in the thick of it. In fact everyone, audience included, is in the thick of it. Game of Thrones has always provided visceral television but this episode took this to new heights and, arguably, this is also Blackwater's drawback. Marshall does balance the action and character development well time-wise, but tonally this weeks outing seemed a little off. The action was so - for want of a better word - gory that the intense encounters sometimes struggled to carry the weight of earlier dips into Westeros.

However this is, as is always the case when reviewing television of such high standards, mere nitpicking and if you haven't caught this week's shot of high-octane sex and violence, do so as soon as possible.