Some more films, and TV
It's been a while since I did any of my low-rent, amateur film and TV critic slots. Time to amend that, while tasting a full-throttle Chilean wine that has a whiff of petroleum products about it. Most odd.
No country for old men is the Coen brothers' celebrated adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, and it's a gripping film, with a dollop of Ethan and Joel's quirkiness wrapped around a dominant core of ruthless violence. The secret of the film's success is an awesome performance by Javier Bardem as a menacing psychopathic hitman, who relentlessly pursues his targets with a complete lack of empathy and a scary singlemindedness. He's the sort of dude you really, really wouldn't want to have on your tail. Not a perfect film, but a very good one. Cast note: Kelly MacDonald, a Glasweigan, plays the wife of the main lead - she was really good in the excellent political drama series 'State of Play', a few years ago, and also Richard Curtis' 'Girl in the cafe'.
Killing time on a recent long-haul flight, I really enjoyed Before the devil knows you're dead. It's a brilliantly constructed film with a disjointed chronology, where part of the story is told backwards - we start two-thirds through, then track back to the build-up, and then look at the repercussions. It's hard to describe what happens without plot-busting, so I won't try, other than to say that the theme here is a severely dysfunctional family who end up comitting crimes against each other, on a number of levels. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars, from among a star-studded cast, with another brilliant performance. Notably directed by octagenarian Sidney Lumet.
Another film with a disjointed chronology that I also enjoyed quite a bit is Michael Clayton, a conspiracy thriller starring George Clooney as a legal fixer who runs into some trouble. Clooney is brilliant, but for me the most interesting performance is by Brit Tom Wilkinson as Arthur, a crazy lawyer who's flying solo and needs to be brought in. Tilda Swinton also puts in a strong performance in a film that keeps you gripped until the rather cheesily tidy (but still satisfying) ending.
What about TV? Well, I was pleased to see Gavin and Stacey do well in the BAFTAs, because it's brilliantly done and surprisingly addictive. Rob Brydon is a comic genius, too. And, rather guiltily, I confess that we've also been watching the BBC's Apprentice, which despite appearing horridly staged (they seemed to have recruited candidates solely on their ability to make good car-crash TV), is a bit addictive. When I can, I'm also trying to keep up with the brilliant Mad Men.