TALK OF THE TOWN
The Town is the second film directed by Ben Affleck and it adapts Chuck Hogan’s hard-hitting Boston crime novel, Prince of Thieves, reissued as The Town. Unlike Gone Baby Gone, Affleck has also cast himself in this film. He plays Doug MacCray, a veteran bank robber who comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Charlestown in Boston. He rips off banks with his gang and he never really thinks about what he is doing until he meets bank manageress Claire Keesey (played by Rebecca Hall) during one of their robberies. Their paths cross again after the robbery and what starts as an insurance policy to check that she can’t identify MacCray or any of his accomplices turns complicated. Affleck shows here that he can handle action like an experienced pro as director and he also turns in a performance that is measured, accomplished and quite subtle in places. Support is very solid too: Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as FBI agent Adam Frawley shows that he can be more than just Don Draper and Rebecca Hall makes what could be quite a limited role her own, treading the fine line between vulnerable and intelligent. Pete Postlethwaite as the evil florist (seriously!) Fergus, who has MacCray by the short and curlies, is very entertaining on screen and the actors playing the other members of the gang acquit themselves well, especially Jeremy Renner as the psychotic James Coughlin. Chris Cooper’s cameo as MacCray’s old lag dad is small but pivotal. Heist movies have always provided fine entertainment on the big screen and The Town is only let down by an ending that feels like it’s tacked on to provide MacCray with some redemption. But it’s still a very impressive thriller with some top-notch performances and assured directing. Director Affleck may have a future in Hollywood…
I went to see Buried last week. A film made by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes and starring Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan in next year’s Green Lantern), it is truly a one-hander in the ultimate sense. Reynolds plays lorry driver Paul Conroy who was working in Iraq and has now been captured by an insurgent group. So Conroy is trapped in a wooden coffin somewhere in the country, waiting to be rescued with only a mobile phone for company. Buried isn’t a film that you could rewatch because it is rather harrowing but you have to give credit to Reynolds, who embodies the all-American here, a man who has been left to dry by the company that sent him there. He shows that he is actually a pretty decent actor as Buried stands or falls on his performance. The cinematography is suitably claustrophobic throughout and Cortes really does manage to give you enough to keep you watching for its 90 minute duration. Buried feels a little bit like a Seventies film as it doesn’t employ the gimmicks of something like a Blair Witch but its lo-fi feel does place the viewer in the box with Conroy. And you just know that it isn’t going to end well. From the start, you have this feeling. But the journey is engaging and unsettling at times and Reynolds is very good. Incredible to think that he’ll be flying around in a green CGI costume fighting space monsters next summer. Buried is an interesting curio and one that holds the viewer’s attention while he or she is watching it. So it’s definitely a smart choice for people interested in cinema…
Every now and again, a magazine comes along that changes popular culture forever. While we’re waiting for that magazine, I thought I’d share some thoughts about Clint, Titan’s new magazine ‘edited’ by Mark Millar. It’s a strange beast: clocking in at around 100 pages, the first issue is dominated by comics and peppered with a few ‘features’ including an interview with comedian Jimmy Carr. Let’s start with the comics. The first strip is an installment of Kick Ass 2, which premieres first in Clint and if you’ve read the first comic series, then you know what to expect. It’s a bit of fun and Romita Jr’s art looks pretty at the larger print size. Next up is Turf, Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards’ comic series originally published by Image and represented here. It’s not a bad start although Ross often covers up Lee Edwards’ gorgeous art with too much dialogue and the writing could do with a little bit of editing. The next strip, Rex Royd, by comedian Frankie Boyle, Jim Muir with art by Michael Dowling, is an absolute stinker. Reading like the demented child’s version of a Grant Morrison script, its incompetent writing is matched by the pisspoor art. Not its finest moment. Nemesis, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven, reprints the Marvel Icon series and contains all of Millar’s staples as a writer: extreme violence, some swearing and some gratuitous action. Finally, Space Oddities is a three page ‘Future Shock’ type short which rounds off the comics content. The features here all wouldn’t be out of place in a 1995 lad’s magazine like Loaded or FHM. Clint suffers from a schizophrenic ‘editorial’ slant: is it a 1990s lad’s magazine or is it a comic anthology? This is a major problem for the reader as if they’re comics fans, they would already have picked up Nemesis and Turf and if they’re not, then they won’t give a shit anyway. The lad’s magazines market has shrunk away to almost nothing: Loaded, which used to shift half a million in its heyday, now does about a tenth of that, and the rest are just chasing the crumbs from the table. So it seems rather strange to be trying to capitalise on that. And comics just don’t sell on the UK newsstand. 2000AD potters along doing around 80-100,000 a month and that’s had over thirty years to build its brand up. So while I wish Clint well, as it’s always nice to have another outlet for British comic content, I am not convinced this is going to find its market through reprints and shoddy originated content. There were rumours that it was going to feature people like Ian Rankin and I’m hoping this will be the case as it needs a far better class of writers to make it anything like Mark Millar’s initial boasts. It also needs an actual editor on board to maintain some kind of quality control which should include ditching Boyle’s teenage drivel. The Jimmy Carr feature isn’t bad but the rest are pretty weak and pointless. Clint isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever read but it’s certainly a long way from the best…
PROS AND CONS OF BEING A JOURNALIST
What I do has its ups and downs. The downside is when work is sparse on the ground, you end up envying people with a regular income. But the upside is that you do get to do some genuinely fun things. Back in August I went along to London’s lavish Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair to meet Sylvester Stallone, director of The Expendables, and cast members Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham. The suite was packed with members of the press as the trio answered questions on the film. Stallone was the most vocal of the three and he admitted that there was a lot of pressure for him.
“Sometimes you come onto a film and you’ve got a major turkey and it’s not even Thanksgiving but this time it’s the other end of it where there’s a great expectancy and you’re thinking ‘jeez I didn’t expect this when we started making it.’ So you begin to think: ‘Is this going to live up to its ideals.’ It’s complex. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Statham echoed this. “All the expectations were on Sly. That’s why you choose to work with people who know what they’re doing. A lot of the time we don’t get such a luxury in that choice,” to which Stallone quipped: “You’d better go with Christopher Nolan now!”
Dolph Lundgren agreed with his two co-actors. “This movie is like the World Championships and you feel like you just want to live up to it.”
Stallone and Lundgren appeared together in Rocky IV twenty-five years ago and the conference was wondering whether the dynamic had changed between them and how Stallone prepared to appear on screen with Lundgren again.
“That’s a good question,” Stallone responded. “For the first part, I’ve never trained harder than I did for Rocky IV. Dolph is a world-class athlete so we got to know each other pretty well. Then time has changed. We’ve gone through ups and downs, marriages and then meeting this time was really a pleasure because of all the actors I’ve worked with, he’s remained the most grounded and humble. Plus I’m dying to kick his brains in!”
The conference lasted for around 20 minutes and then they were led out. Stallone stuck around outside the hotel to sign autographs, pose for photos and admire a group of very expensive sports cars that were parked outside the hotel. The charm offensive for The Expendables obviously worked as talk is afoot of a sequel already.