Week's Films to Stalk: 16th to 22nd November
Welcome to Filmstalker's Week of Films to Stalk, and this week there are many good films on television in the UK.
Despite this being for the films in the UK, it's not just about what's on, but it's about finding some films you haven't seen in a while and discussing films that should be seen again, or perhaps shouldn't – SWAT anyone?
Is there something you've seen seen that should be on the list, or something that shouldn't even have been mentioned? Or do you just disagree with something I've said? Get reading and writing.
About a Boy
Days of Thunder
Diamonds are Forever
House of Flying Daggers
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Picnic at Hanging Rock
The Long Good Friday
The Man in the Iron Mask
The Naked Spur
The Russia House
The Talented Mr Ripley
20:00 - 22:30
FiveLife: The Missing
Directed by: Ron Howard
I've never seen The Missing, and I won't this time around since it was on last night, but I am keen to see it despite the initial view that Tommy Lee Jones might be seriously miscast. Then there's Cate Blanchett, and how can she not be good in anything? Well, I've seen a few dull performances from her, but that usually is down to the film rather than her, and with Ron Howard directing this novel adaptation, there's got to be some good in there. Mmm, looking back on that there are a few too many “if's”.
Blanchett plays a frontier woman whose daughter is kidnapped by an Apache Indian, her father reappears in her life and they form an difficult truce as he goes off in search of her.
21:00 - 23:15
Directed by: Ridley Scott
There's really nothing to be said about this, other than I think this might be his best film ever. I know there are going to be Blade Runner fans leaping all over me, but this film is perfect. It's dark, moody, atmospheric and really does stand the test of time – some of Blade Runner definitely does not and hence the recent reshoots for the final cut. I'm putting my money on Alien, especially as Sigourney Weaver just starts her journey as the superbly unlucky Ripley. A film many Directors have tried to better through sequels, and haven't really come close.
22:35 - 00:40
E4: Sleepy Hollow
Directed by: Tim Burton
I'm not a great fan of this film, but I know that others are. I don't really know why I didn't take to it the first time I saw it, there was something about it that I just didn't find engaging at all. I know though that I'll come up for flack on this one too as it is a well liked Burton film. I seem to remember that it was all a bit too silly and tongue in cheek for me.
23:35 - 02:20
Film4: L.A. Confidential
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
A classic film full of classic moments, and one I really should add to my wishlist, if it's out on Blu-ray. It has Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe giving two superb performances and playing off each other wonderfully, and with that the rest of the actors seem to be giving it their all too. Kim Basinger is captivating and utterly engaging, and with this film you suddenly wonder why she hasn't been acting in films of this calibre for her entire career because she's really good. Then there's the great Ellroy story which seems to have been the best adaptation of his to date.
00:30 - 02:50
ITV4: Mystery Men
Repeated: ITV4 23:15 – 01:35
Directed by: Kinka Usher
Another film I haven't seen is this much talked about oddball comedy with the strangest bunch of superheroes trying to save the world. They are pretty inept, and their powers seem downright idiotic, such as the possessed bowling ball that its owner can throw at villains...it might sound daft, and it is, but it seems that there's a clever script and some amusing moments to be had.
01:15 - 02:35
BBC2: Quatermass 2
Directed by: Val Guest
This is the first film to use the number to denote the sequel, did you know that? I didn't until now. The Quatermass Experiment was a television series that came out in 1953 (I think it was a radio series before then), and could be said to be the British equivalent of Orson Welles War of the Worlds, just without the American mass hysteria. The original tells the story of an astronaut returning to Earth who is infected with some alien organism and begins to change. It spawned films, another series and more American friendly film versions.
This film sees Doctor Quatermass upset that his designs for a Moon Colony have been turned down by the government, so he concentrates on investigating the recent meteorite crashes on Earth. Investigating one he finds a destroyed village and a colony that looks much like his one designed for the moon. The colony is inhabited with aliens who are bent on inhabiting Earth, and one of his assistants has just been infected by a strange and foreign gas.
13:00 - 15:15
ITV1: Diamonds are Forever
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Blofield and his evil cronies are back, as is Sean Connery after accepting a huge pay increase to come back to the character. Criminally the makers dropped George Lazenby, or rather I think it was criminal that they dropped the new style Bond character and returned to the old, wise cracking one. Lazenby's Bond was the first real attempt at hardening the character, something they tried again with Timothy Dalton and finally started to succeed a little with Pierce Brosnan, but it was Daniel Craig's Bond who really succeeded in that vein. However Lazenby was gone after one shot, and Connery took a pay increase and a half to go
15:00 - 17:00
Directed by: Delbert Mann
Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story has been remade so many times I think I'd run out of appendages to count them on, but why not, it's a great story, and about Scotland too. This one stars Michael Caine, Lawrence Douglas, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins and Donald Pleasance. The story is set around the time of the English occupation of Scotland, just after the Battle of Culloden. It sees a young man sold by his Uncle into slavery and set aboard a ship heading for America. However the boat crashes and the young man and his new found friend start heading back to Edinburgh. On their way they are involved in the murder of a Scotsman working for the English, and the English are scouring the country looking for them, and any other Scottish rebels and clansmen they can find.
It's great adventure, and is one of the few films that addresses the destruction of the traditional Scottish way of life and clans by the English, a sad time in Scottish history, but it does it with great flair and an exciting tale throughout. Whichever version, it's a great story. I wonder which is the best Kidnapped though?
15:10 - 16:30
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Now, I've given this a Filmstalker Hotdog because I view this film with such fondness, and it's quite a departure for Ridley Scott – it's turning out to be his weekend on television just now. Legend stars Tom Cruise, again another surprising role, as a young man from the forest who gets caught up in the greatest adventure of his life. The evil Darkness, played wonderfully by Tim Curry with the most amazing makeup effects I've ever seen, is to destroy light from the world by killing all the magical unicorns in the land. Jack, played by Cruise, is set to save the last one and free the Princess whom Darkness has captured and is keen on bedding, she's not so for obvious reasons.
It's a magical tale with some amazing sets and sequences. Some moments you'll be connecting with other films in Scott's early career through the tone and style, as long as you take your mind off the magical creatures in front of the screen. Cruise is interesting, but it's Curry that really steals the show.
15:40 - 17:30
Five: The Naked Spur
Directed by: Anthony Mann
I remember this all too fondly. For me The Naked Spur is one of the great westerns, most notably for James Stewart in the lead, but also for the reluctance with which he plays the part. He's doing a job that he's not really suited to just to earn enough money so that he can buy back the ranch that his ex-fiancée ran sold while he was in the army. He's a reluctant bounty hunter, and this prize will give him the money necessary to start his life again. However his bounty tries to turn the people he's travelling with against each other, and soon there's tension and double crossing.
The film also stars Janet Leigh and Robert Ryan. The beauty of it is in the reality of the characters and how they behave. Things aren't all black and white, and the distrust and bitterness of Stewart's character has him thinking only of money and the prize rather than that of the value of human life, and it's his journey and character development through the film that is really the crux of the story. Wonderful film.
17:30 - 19:30
Directed by: Richard Lester
Oh guilty pleasures, I have many...in film I mean, and this is one of them. Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, Anthony Hopkins, Ian Holm and Roy Kinnear star, so it's not a small film by any means. Harris leads a team of bomb disposal experts who are called to an ocean liner that is filled with explosives ready to sink it at the whim of a calculating criminal, played by Hopkins. It's a great fun film with some pretty tense moments, and Harris and Hopkins are fantastic in it.
17:45 - 19:40
ITV2: Small Soldiers
Directed by: Joe Dante
Joe Dante made Gremlins, and you can see that influence here – he also directed episodes of Police Squad, The Howling and Piranha. In fact now that I think about it this is really just Gremlins with brand new creatures, and a slightly younger audience. However, it is fun, just not as much fun as Gremlins was.
21:00 - 23:55
Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Hirschbiegel directed this superb film about the last days of Hitler and his regime which made Hollywood sit up and notice, then they took him onboard to make The Invasion, didn't like it, and reshot most of it making it a crappy Hollywood film. Now if you watch this it doesn't take a science degree, or an understanding of film, to realise that this guy is not going to make you a Hollywood film. What the hell were the idiots thinking when they sat there and were surprised by the Hirschbiegel offering? Anyway, this is an excellent film and it is what this Director should be judged on.
21:30 – 23:15
BBC2: Donnie Darko
Directed by: Richard Kelly
Oh what can you make of this film? Is Richard Kelly an absolute genius, or is he just managing to make something so confusing that you can't really understand it and that makes it a misunderstood classic, for perhaps the wrong reasons? Is this a classic film, or just a series of sequences that are all rather confusing?
23:00 - 01:00
Film4: The Machinist
Directed by: Brad Anderson
This is one film that I do feel a little embarrassed about saying that I haven't seen as yet, it's something that I wanted to see as soon as it arrived in the cinema, but I was just too busy, there's always something else to see. Christian Bale made a career defining performance here and he was stunning by all accounts. He plays an industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year and is beginning to doubt his own sanity. Definitely worth watching this weekend.
01:40 - 03:35
Channel4: Ripley's Game
Directed by: Liliana Cavani
This is the sequel to The Talented Mr Ripley, which is actually on later in the week. What is surprising is that it just doesn't hit the mark as well. Is that to do with the change of cast perhaps? John Malkovich plays Ripley, and I actually think he's a superb choice for the character, Ray Winstone, Dougray Scott and Lena Headey also star and so this isn't a small film at all. Any ideas why it isn't quite as spot on as the original? Is it the chemistry of the original cast? The script?
16:25 - 19:00
Film4: Henry V
Directed by: Laurence Olivier
Olivier has made this superb classic film which, if you're a Shakespeare fan, is a superb treat, and if you're a classic film fan you'll love it just as much although for different reasons. The full title is The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France and is a creative version of the stage play which begins at the Globe theatre and soon expands in concept and location to that “Breach up the walls...” moment. You may not know that this was partly made in order to boost the morale of British troops fighting in World War II.
19:05 - 21:00
Five: See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Directed by: Arthur Hiller
“Cows, cows, cows!” - that is my overriding memory of this film which pairs together the fantastic team again of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, one playing a deaf man and the other playing a blind man, and together they try to lead each onwards to solve a murder that they witnessed. One saw the killer, the other heard them. Comedy ensues, and belly rumbling comedy too.
21:00 - 23:20
Channel4: 21 Grams
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Danny Huston and Benicio Del Toro star in this superb drama about three different individuals who are brought together through converging storylines. I don't want to say too much about it because a few hints here and there can sometimes spoil the story. I recommend this for your viewing pleasure, great performances, particularly from Penn, and a great story.
21:00 - 23:25
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Spider-Man surprised, it really did, because it leapt up there and started battling for the top position of the best superhero and comic book adaptation film along with Batman and Superman. Personally I'd say it's second to Batman, Nolan's version or not, but I know others will disagree. Raimi produces a superb action film and brings Spider-Man to life in this origin story.
21:00 - 23:55
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Gladiator, and another Ridley Scott film this week, he really is taking over and we're seeing a wide range of films from him on television. It's a great adventure epic, and as always I say the greatest moments for me are the stunning return to the top of Oliver Reed in a blistering performance, and his last, the superb Richard Harris, and Joaquin Phoenix. All provide great performances, and that's not to say everyone else isn't, the other actors including Russell Crowe, Djimon Hounsou and Connie Nielsen are superb, but for me those are the stand out actors and moments. Over time this is going to become a classic alongside the epics like Ben Hur, there's no doubt of that.
23:20 - 01:00
BBC1: Jersey Girl
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Oh dear. Even Kevin Smith has some not so nice things to say about this film, and that's worrying. However I thought I'd include it because it's interesting to see what he's coming up with outside his usual range of work. I wonder how his horror film is going to come out? Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez star...need I say anymore?
01:45 - 03:15
ITV1: Raising Cain
Directed by: Brian De Palma
John Lithgow and Lolita Davidovich star in this not so good Brian De Palma film which is all rather confusing, however it does feature some rather innovative moments, particularly of the psuedo split screen walkway moment. Lithgow plays a well renowned child psychologist who is becoming obsessed with the upbringing of his daughter and is becoming increasingly disturbed by his own upbringing by his psychologist father, a man who carried out some rather strange mind experiments on him.
21:00 - 23:10
Film4: House of Flying Daggers
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Visually this film is stunning, and the story is wonderful too. There are doubters though who compare it to the few other big budget Hollywood Asian martial arts inspired films that are out there, not realising that there are a host of other Asian films out there. Forget the rest, this has a wonderful love triangle in the heart of the story, and as I said the visuals are just stunningly beautiful. I love it.
22:05 - 00:00
More4: Fight Club
Directed by: David Fincher
How could I not rate this film with a Filmstalker Hotdog Award? Well I actually think that this is on the fence, I do think that it's going to be one of those films that you can't watch too many times or too often because it will start to tarnish your initial memory of it. It is a superb film, well told, and a great twist, but without the twist how does it stand up without it? I think that after a good few viewings it does start to falter slightly from that original viewing.
22:30 - 00:45
ITV4: Falling Down
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
I love this film. The character that Michael Douglas plays so superbly well and with tons of passion encapsulates so many different aspects of the way all of us feel. Now don't leap up and down and think that means that I think we're all like that character, he demonstrates every single frustration that modern day humans feel, but there will be at least one that you can identify with. Douglas plays a modern man backed into a corner in his life, and so far he's just taken it all as it comes, however one day it's too hot, it's all too much, and he just decides he's had enough. A great film that has a strong performance from Douglas and really does have so many things to say.
23:05 - 00:45
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Yes, there is a film that is more cheesy than SWAT (which is also on this week), and in it Sylvester Stallone plays an unconventional cop who is on the trail of a serial killer. There's big macho action, big macho cars, and a lot of macho one liners. It's a lot of fun.
23:40 - 01:35
ITV1: The Beach
Directed by: Danny Boyle
I saw this for the first time a few weeks ago, after doing this very column, and it was okay but there was such a good story in there almost ruined by too much of Danny Boyle trying to layer on too much style and cool sequences. Plus there's just too much of Leonardo DiCaprio over acting.
23:10 - 01:35
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Cracking film, and features some cool performances from Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini and Peter Stormare. In fact I think it's one of Cage's best performances to date – I wrote greatest performances there, but I quickly deleted that. It's a dark thriller that sees a private investigator looking into the source of a snuff film and the girl that might have been murdered in it. The investigation takes him into the seedy underworld behind the snuff films and slowly he finds himself begin to descend with his investigation.
00:10 - 02:20
Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
Another film I am ashamed to say I haven't seen yet. This is the continuing story of a blind man who makes a living as a gambler and masseur but is also a masterful swordsman. He meets two Geisha's seeking revenge and together they find themselves teaming up against the local gang leader. Oh, did I say it's also a musical?
00:45 - 02:45
ITV4: The Shadow
Repeated: ITV4 22:30 – 00:30
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
I enjoyed this film, as much as people like to say negative things about it, I thought the story and world of The Shadow was excellent and I really loved the portrayal of the character by Alec Baldwin, who I love as an actor. The setting is 1930's New York and the story sees The Shadow's nemesis Shiwan Khan developing a nuclear weapon to explode in the heart of the city. The Shadow has two powers, invisibility and the power to cloud people's minds. I really do love this film and despite the flaws I think it ranks up there in the comic and superhero adaptations.
21:00 - 23:00
E4: Days of Thunder
Directed by: Tony Scott
It's been a while since I've seen this, and look it's not Ridley, but his brother Tony. There's a run on their films this week that's for sure. We see Tom Cruise as the racing driver who starts in the high pressure and fast paced racing of NASCAR racing and it includes some great action sequences and superb crashes, however the story isn't anything really new, but the racing helps build it up.
00:25 - 02:20
BBC1: Dead Ringers
Directed by: David Cronenberg
I have to say I never really took to this film. It's certainly interesting, but film wise I'm not really that sure that it attracted me. In fact it really did just gross me out, and from memory I don't think that anything really drew me into the story. Can someone argue otherwise?
00:05 - 02:00
ITV2: About a Boy
Directed by: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
This is a great fun film, and one that sees Hugh Grant give an interesting performance rather than his usual bumbling character. In fact, to begin with, he's rather unappealing. However the appearance of a young boy in his life begins to change it, and he begins to open up from his bachelor and self obsessed life. It's a nice story and an amusing one.
15:00 - 17:00
Film4: The Man in the Iron Mask
Directed by: Mike Newell
What a classic film starring Richard Chamberlain, Louis Jourdan, Patrick McGoohan, Jenny Agutter, Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson, and many other big names in another Dumas story which involves the Musketeers. The King of France has a secret identical brother who he is keeping imprisoned on an island with his face hidden in an iron mask to prevent identification. However the Musketeers know, and D'artagnan is off to try and free him, and train him to take the place of the no good King.
23:05 - 01:10
Directed by: Clark Johnson
Aha! This one's for Louise. The fun SWAT is back on, fun and over the top sequences, but still a whole heap of fun. Basically the SWAT team save the day in increasingly difficult circumstances. The team comprises of such names as Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez and LL Cool J, and what Jackson and Cool J are doing here I'm far from sure. However, it is fun, despite what some say.
23:20 - 01:30
Film4: The Long Good Friday
Directed by: John Mackenzie
This is the original British gangster film, and something to see before the insane Paul W.S. Anderson destroys it. Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren star in this superb story of a gang boss attempting to make something better for himself and for the city he rules over by working with the Americans to bring investment into the docks. However there's someone at work trying to destroy his plans, and kill him. It also stars Pierce Brosnan as a hitman far from his more modern characters, but Bob Hoskins powers through this film and gives his career defining performance. It's a superb film with a very strong story that'll certainly entertain, surprise and keep you on the edge of your seat.
21:00 – 23:40
Film4: The Talented Mr Ripley
Directed by: Anthony Minghella
One of Matt Damon's outstanding performances as he plays alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law who are also very strong. There's also Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jack Davenport. Damon plays Ripley, a man who has been sent to Italy to bring back a rich and spoiled playboy whose father wants him home. Instead he decides to kill him and assume his identity. Well written, directed and performed.
23:35 – 01:25
Directed by: Terrence Malik
This is the original Natural Born Killers and stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek star in this film which is based on real events of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree from the 1958 where a teenage girl and her boyfriend in his twenties killed her entire family as well as several other innocents. The film is beautifully shot and takes a surprisingly non-sensationalised and non-judgemental view to the events, with superb performances from both Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, this is an excellent film that gives a strong and rich story without the violence and stylised approach of other films.
American Gangster (Filmstalker review) 18
Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star as gang leader and cop who are each moving up in their professions. Washington is playing the first real American crime lord who can rival that of the mafia, meanwhile Crowe is playing a cop who realises that he's becoming the new big name and wants to try and bring him down while those around him turn their backs.
The classic poem comes to the big screen, again. This time with motion capture and some almost photo realistic effects. With a great voicing talent and some wonderful looking action there's also a 3D release to be had with this film.
Brick Lane 15
The story of two Bangladeshi sisters in the eighties, one who moves to London for her arranged marriage and the other who remains home in Bangladesh. While the sister in London struggles with her unhappy life, her sister seems to have adventures and happiness, but she stays with her lot and tries to make her life work. However her life has a different idea.
The BBC wildlife television series becomes a feature length film. It follows the migrations of four different animals and looks at their lives and the impact the planet has had on them.
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Hei yan quan)
Well I can't really find anything too much out about this film, has anyone see it and can comment?
The Jane Austen Book Club 12A
Mario Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace and Jimmy Smits star in this film where a group of people meet to discuss the works of Jane Austen and begin to find surprising connections between the relationships in the novels and those of their own lives.
The Wayward Cloud
Here's the blurb from IMDB for the film from Taiwan: “Hsiao-Kang, now working as an adult movie actor, meets Shiang-chyi once again. Meanwhile, the city of Taipei faces a water shortage that makes the sales of watermelons skyrocket.”
A strange film that tells the story of a pair of slackers who try to dispose of a dead body in the basement of a drive-in movie cinema but unfortunately there's a satanic cult meeting down there too.