400 Days, Action, Africa, Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Crime, David Yates, Documentary, End of a Gun, Greg Kwedar, Historical drama, John Dower, Johnny Simmons, Keoni Waxman, Louis Theroux, Malin Buska, Margot Robbie, Matt Osterman, Michael Nyqvist, Mika Kaurismäki, Monthly roundup, My Scientology Movie, Queen Kristina of Sweden, Reviews, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Gadon, Sci-fi, Steven Seagal, The Girl King, The Legend of Tarzan, Thriller, Transpecos
The Legend of Tarzan / D: David Yates / 110m
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, Simon Russell Beale, Ben Chaplin
Rating: 3/10 – “meh”; woeful only just about covers how bad this movie is, from the wooden performances, to the haphazard scripting, to Yates’s casual engagement with the material, and all the way to the creaky use of CGI to simulate the African backgrounds – at no point does The Legend of Tarzan ever feel as if it has any intention of putting any real effort into things.
400 Days (2015) / D: Matt Osterman / 91m
Cast: Brandon Routh, Dane Cook, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Tom Cavanagh, Grant Bowler, Dominic Bogart, Fernanda Romero, Sally Pressman, Mark Steger
Rating: 4/10 – four astronauts are locked inside a chamber designed to simulate the timescale of a planned mission, and the psychological effects of such a journey, but as the simulation nears its finish, the quartet find that things aren’t entirely what they seem; a mystery thriller that doesn’t need its sci-fi trappings (and where the mystery is unengaging), 400 Days plays out like an old Outer Limits episode but without the succinctness that show could provide, all of which leaves the viewer trying hard to make sense of what’s going on, and trying equally hard to decide whether or not they should be bothered about it all.
The Girl King (2015) / D: Mika Kaurismäki / 106m
Cast: Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon, Michael Nyqvist, Lucas Bryant, Laura Birn, Hippolyte Girardot, Peter Lohmeyer, François Arnaud, Patrick Bauchau
Rating: 5/10 – the story of Queen Kristina of Sweden (Buska), who in the ten years she ruled her country, did her best to bring enlightenment and peace for everyone, and who fought against her advisors’ insistence that she marry and secure her throne for the future; reminiscent of the Euro-pudding movies so prevalent in the late Seventies and throughout the Eighties, The Girl King lacks a coherent shooting style that isn’t helped by Hans Funck’s scattershot approach to the editing, but it does keep things admirably simple (if not too simple at times), and remains unexpectedly watchable thanks to Kaurismäki’s determined effort to convert Kristina’s reign (and her presumed lesbianism) into historical soap opera.
My Scientology Movie (2015) / D: John Dower / 99m
With: Louis Theroux, Marty Rathbun, Marc Headley, Tom De Vocht, Jeff Hawkins, Andrew Perez, Rob Alter
Rating: 7/10 – Louis Theroux, intrepid (and annoying) documentarian turns his attention onto Scientology, and attempts to understand why the organisation is so litigious and defensive about its practices; Theroux teams up with ex-Scientology bigwig Marty Rathbun to learn about what goes on behind the scenes, but succeeds largely in having childish spats with one of the organisation’s “security” team (very funny indeed), while organising a filmed representation of a meeting where Scientology leader David Miscavage threw a major tantrum, all of which leaves My Scientology Movie feeling arid for long stretches and not quite as illuminating as Theroux might have hoped.
Transpecos (2016) / D: Greg Kwedar / 86m
Cast: Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna, Clifton Collins Jr, Julio Oscar Mechoso
Rating: 5/10 – three Border Patrol guards find themselves in trouble with a Mexican cartel when they stop the wrong car at a checkpoint, and learn that one of them is in even deeper trouble than anyone knew; Transpecos makes good use of its New Mexico locations, and the opening twenty minutes point towards the movie being a tense, tightly constructed thriller, but sadly it soon degenerates into an unconvincing, meandering collection of scenes that are often dramatically inert, and which stretch the narrative in a variety of ineffective ways that it can’t recover from.
End of a Gun (2016) / D: Keoni Waxman / 87m
Cast: Steven Seagal, Florin Piersic Jr, Jade Ewen, Ovidiu Nicolescu, Jonathan Rosenthal, Alexandre Nguyen, Claudiu Bleont
Rating: 4/10 – retired DEA agent-cum-“ghost” Michael Decker (Seagal) rescues a stripper (Ewen) from her abusive boyfriend (by killing him) and finds himself helping her steal €2m of the man’s money – which doesn’t go down well with his drug czar boss; another Romanian-shot quickie from Seagal that keeps his stunt double, his running double, and his walking double in gainful employment, End of a Gun is made bearable thanks to a good performance from Piersic Jr, and Waxman’s ingenuity when shooting low-budget shootouts, but otherwise it’s business as usual, which is to say, pretty awful (and the less said about ex-Sugababes member Ewen, the better).