Soldiers of Fortune (2012): Despite a perfectly great idiotic action movie plot idea about rich people getting their kicks in a warzone, and an absurdly overqualified cast including Christian Slater, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames, Dominic Monaghan, James Cromwell and Colm Meaney, this is not the joyful return of Cannon-size action cinema dumbness. Instead, this is one of those action films that thinks it is a good idea to keep all its better action sequences for the final twenty minutes or so, instead trusting on bad characterisation and boring back and forth to keep its audience awake. Director Maxim Korostyshevsky does at least make the film look slick but he never really goes all out on the kind of crazy a film needs if it wants to sell Slater as a former special forces operative or Meaney as his evil nemesis. It’s all much too blandly realized for how stupid it is, making neither that part of its audience happy that might have gone in expecting a serious action film, nor those (like me) expecting entertaining crap.
The Bishop Murder Case (1930): The only Philo Vance
adaptation starring Basil Rathbone (quite a few years before he became the
iconic Holmes with the worst of all possible Watsons) falls into the difficult
time period when most Hollywood filmmaking was still very much transitioning
into sound film. Consequently, half of the actors involved mug like your worst
idea of silent movie acting, others shout as if everyone around them were deaf,
while only one third of the cast – thankfully including most of the major
players – has already assumed the more workable idea of screenacting that would
dominate screens for the next fifteen, twenty years. That’s a liveable enough
quota, but unfortunately, directors David Burton and Nick Grinde fall into that
early – and quite avoidable – talkie style of stiff, unimaginative visuals full
of characters set up into stiff, unnatural tableaus, declaiming much of what
they have to say visibly into the direction of the camera. The mystery at the
film’s core is actually pretty okay if you like this sort of thing but thanks to
the visual blandness and the general sluggishness of the affair, using the word
“entertaining” to describe the film would be rather too much unless you are a
much more patient soul than I am.
I’d say it might still be interesting for historical reasons, but then there
are early talkies in the genre that are actually fun too watch, so why not watch
one of them instead?
The Legend of Barney Thomson (2015): Robert Carlyle’s debut
as a feature film director – he does take on the title role too – is rather fun
if you like Douglas Lindsay’s source novel (and sequels), like our humour on the
macabre side, or just want to hear people say all those dulcet sounding curses
the Scottish are known and loved for. It also happens to be rather
funny, showing off Emma Thompson and Carlyle himself in particularly good form.
The film does a lot of clever stuff with the quotidian grotesque (Scottish
gothic?) and uses stereotypes in a way that’s actually funny instead of