The Intern (2015)

Nancy Meyers directs Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway and Rene Russo in this comedy where a delightful pensioner proves an asset to a .com entrepreneur.

A witty, warm hug of a movie. Sweet yet with a nice hidden edge. Fluffy yet perceptive. Glossy yet not off puttingly charmless. De Niro and Hathaway are two very different talents that share the problem that Hollywood doesn’t really know what to do with them most projects. This surprisingly sly and surprisingly spry Boomer fantasy warms up Bobby’s softer masculinity while dialling back his pantomime anger. Hathaway gets a role that feels made to measure for her glamorous looks, dorky outsider vibe and high maintenance flintiness. Sure, it is overlong and Meyer’s rich honky attitude towards wealth and work can be seen as toxic if you are looking for humbug. But you shouldn’t really be nitpicking such an assured old fashioned throwback. The Intern glides along entertainingly through areas of life most movies strain to avoid and it is put together as solidly as an antique oak coffee table in an era of Ikea tat.

8

Snatch (2000)

Guy Ritchie directs Jason Statham, Brad Pitt and Dennis Farina in this London gangster farce where an illegal boxing match and a diamond heist cross paths and ensemble chaos ensues.

Guy Ritchie’s best, featuring a baby faced Stephen Graham and the unlikely moment in cinema where blue 70s comedian and kids quiz show host Mike Reid meets Oscar Winner Benicio Del Toro. Alan Ford’s pugnacious gangster steals the show as the embodiment of mundane, graceless evil. Though Brad Pitt’s incomprehensible gypsy fighter is a lotta laughs too. Either you go with the forced energy and faked posturing of these things and have a blast or you see them as a dirty little waste of time. This one is the best case for the former.

8

The Train Robbers (1970)

Burt Kennedy directs John Wayne, Ann-Margret and Ben Johnson in this western where a group of hired guns try to reach a derailed train full of stolen gold before a posse catches them.

A fun little western. 70% of it is just horses riding through landscapes but the shoot-outs are enthralling, the attitude elegiac without being dour and Ann-Margret and The Duke have a nice platonic bond. Sturdy.

7

Le Mépris (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard directs Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance in this tale of lust and movie-making in Italy.

Tyrannical Hollywood producer wants to fuck Bardot. Comes across as spitefully misogynistic and brightly dull. I’m watching some of these “greatest films ever made” after them not being in my cultural life for 40 years and realising I haven’t watched Face / Off in the past 5 years. I could be spending my time more effectively.

4

Movie of the Week: 99 Homes (2014)

Ramin Bahrani directs Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern in this thumping drama about a struggling construction worker who joins the payroll of a callous evictions profiteer after he is dispossessed by the same man.

When they compile lists of the forgotten or overlooked classics of the last decade this will be prominent in all of them. A Sweet Smell of Success for home owners. A Wall Street for vapers. A muscular, unleashed, moving Glengarry Glen Ross. A Big Short not interested in smugly lionising or crassly humanising the corrupt suited scumbags who profit from the misery the system produces. Like all of the above films have their seductive devil figure, this one has Shannon. A beast of a character actor – imposing, righteous, untrustworthy. Here he justifies his role’s parasitic business practices with unwavering belief and ire. Watching him patiently de-house a family with scripted rigorousness and calm scheduled aggression is just one of a series of powerhouse scenes. For the first hour, 99 Homes plays like wave after wave of distressing panic attacks. The pace and the emotional impact, the constant intelligent distress Bahrani causes to his more sympathetic protagonist, and to us, is masterful. Then the corruption comes. Always gripping, never cloying this a financial thriller, a battle for a soul, relevant. Yet it does fumble the final moments. Reaching for an overly dramatic conclusion where Garfield’s ostensible hero can get away clean. It doesn’t achieve it. But for a film this ambitious and effective not to completely join its loop isn’t the end of the world. It is not exactly a happy ending, certainly not a falsely triumphant one.

9

The Rhythm Section (2020)

Reed Morano directs Blake Lively, Jude Law and Sterling K Brown in this trainee assassin thriller where an orphan from a terrorist attack goes from junkie to killer.

An unpleasant variation on a genre difficult to get wrong. The visuals and storytelling are murky and jagged. I assume they are supposed to be impressing on us the lead’s paranoid and emotionally hollow state but instead it removes us from caring about the plot as it unfolds. I felt very disassociated from what was happening onscreen. There are a few immersive action sequences that are impressively executed but not enough to sate your adrenaline fix. And if we are boiling it down to bone and skull then the half-assed conspiracy mystery that strings this together is merely an excuse for Lively to try out a series of looks. Her Golden Age Hollywood glamour is muted by the miserablist wardrobe. She gets to be bruised smackhead, shivering trainee, buttoned up incompetent. Only a scene where she poses as a high class call girl delivers the goods. No one has bought a ticket to see Blake Lively underfed, suffering and looking dowdy. And looking at the opening weekend numbers, no one did.

5

The Grudge (2020)

Nicolas Pesce directs Andrea Riseborough, John Cho and Frankie Faison in this reboot of the haunted house curse franchise.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an entry in the choppy and often incomprehensible Ju-On series. This one steals the colour chart from Mindhunter and has a cast of seasoned character actors… but I dozed for the final half hour.

3

Waves (2019)

Trey Edward Shults directs Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown in this teen drama where a young black wrestling jock’s perfect life starts to unravel and his sister is left discombobulated by the aftermath.

The rare joy of going to see a film with little to no idea of what is going to happen. I was impressed by Shults’ post-apocalyptic thriller It Comes At Night and all I knew taking my seat was this was his next release. What unfolds is unpredictable, chaotically so. One of Waves pleasures is it could go any which way. We see Tyler slowly cracking up as pressures come in from all side but have no idea what his redemption will be. The film is so overwhelmingly colourful, noisy and frenetic (scenes skip forward before they are fully finished like a faulty CD) we are given no choice but to just submit to its bleak unfolding. There’s no respite to second guess it or figure out where exactly all this erratic stress will land. Then it pulls off a particularly difficult narrative switch… the lead tags another character in as our central focus. It works here, and the change of pace and outlook is reformative. Waves is a bit too messy and indulgent to be seen as a true success. And it would appear that Trey Edwards Shult wants to put his name on every production credit… I’m pretty sure some of those shared ones are undeserved. You’re a director, you are going to be in the room, but let the technician who executed the task have their dues for their job, please. And the soundtrack is very much what an adult man thinks the cool kids are into. But I think this will mean a lot to teens who discover it. And there’s enough magic, thump and genius here that I might revisit it before films I enjoyed far more easily. Harrison puts in another great turn (see: Luce) and Sterling K. Brown relishes his best role since his showy breakthrough in American Crime Story.

6

Just Mercy (2019)

Destin Daniel Cretton directs Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson in this courtroom drama based around real life attorney Bryan Stevenson, a black Harvard graduate who went to Alabama to set up his own practice specifically to represent men on Death Row.

Does a figure like Bryan Stevenson deserve more recognition? Yes. Do we want to see the incredibly charismatic Michael B Jordan in more lead roles? Yes. Does this movie have to go through the expected motions quite so unwaveringly? No. Flavourless.

4