Joseph Kosinski jumped head first into the CGI ocean with his 2010 revisiting of the Tron franchise, and despite a critical slap the film was an enjoyable updating of Disney’s neonclad world. Once announced that Kosinski was to return to sci-fi for his next film, with Tom Cruise no less, the hype train for Oblivion was building despite the ostensibly similar After Earth joining it in a crowded summer season.
The result is a fun film, with Cruise and Morgan Freeman bringing some gravitas to a fairly light story set in a beautifully realised world. Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough do their best in underwritten roles but the true star is the world itself. The future world is rich with detail and it’s a visual feast however the story itself is a mosaic of familiar ideas, so never has the draw or the endurance of the films it builds on.
Available on: blinkbox
Iron Man 3 (2013)
With Jon Favreau hanging up his directing gloves for this third Iron Man it was considered a wise move following the second film’s relative cool reaction. Hoisting in Shane Black to co-write and direct was a masterful move from Marvel however as his whip smart dialogue and cutting humour are a perfect fit with Robert Downey Jr. With a couple of over the top set pieces, a nicely affecting character arc for Tony Stark in a post-Avengers world there’s a lot to enjoy here.
There is commendable support from Rebecca Hall, despite falling into a couple of cliche traps along the way, and Guy Pearce once again honing his slimy corporate schtick (whatever happened to that nice Ed Exley?) but it is Sir Ben Kingsley who steals the show as The Mandarin.
This is a fine ending to the Downey Jr. era of Iron Man and the film rewards on a second watch.
End of Watch (2012)
Much has been made of the quasi-found footage nature of David Ayer’s End of Watch but there’s far more to this cop drama than that. It is the pairing of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as two young police officers on the beat in South Central L.A., making their way through the hard days with an infectious camaraderie. It is to Ayer’s credit that the two actors fall so easily into their characters and there is a sudden and immersive quality to the film, partially because of the style alluded to earlier.
Why it works so well is the realistic tone Ayer strikes. There is a genuine sense of fear while on patrol and when the film kicks in it is this gritty quality which is held in balance with what we learn about the personal lives of the two police officers.
If you missed it last year it’s well worth your time.
Available on: Lovefilm
Jack Reacher (2012)
Christopher McQuarrie’s sole previous directorial effort is the underrated The Way of the Gun and it’s good to see McQuarrie, best known for his screenplays, getting back behind the camera.
Jack Reacher is adapted from Lee Child’s One Shot novel, part of a growing series and this first outing for Cruise as Reacher may not be what everyone was hoping yet it has its moments. It isn’t a fast paced action thriller with an invulnerable lead character, what we have here is a good old fashioned crime thriller with some great set pieces and good turns by Robert Duvall and Rosamund Pike.
With another directing gig with Cruise in the pipeline (Mission: Impossible 5 no less) Jack Reacher may not be as thrilling as his first film, nor as tight as his writing work would suggest, but it’s a solid effort which was missold as an action movie. Dial down those particular expectations and let the slow burn take its time.
Available on: Now TV
Husbands and Wives (1992)
One of the many pleasures of the streaming services we use is the prevalence of some excellent films from the back catalogues of some great directors. Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives is a masterpiece of marital angst featuring some of Allen’s finest observations. He stars with Mia Farrow, Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack and the pall of married life is what gives the film its foundation.
Two couples, two marriages and two different ways of dealing with the erosion of affection and the dilution of attraction. It’s a brutally honest piece, still rippling with Allen’s keen interpretations but it is a complete triumph of emotional conflict. It’s what Allen does best, well – did best. Husbands and Wives was a high point in an exceptional time in the director’s career. From Hannah and Her Sisters to Radio Days to the mighty Crimes and Misdemeanours and the Oscar triumph of Mighty Aphrodite this film is fuelled by an inventive fervour and a confidence which has rarely been regained.
Available on: Lovefilm
Jean-Pierre Jeunet has done some very fine work with his collaborator Marc Caro (The City of Lost Children is an vastly underrated film, and thus, isn’t streaming at the moment) but with Amélie Jeunet cast his spell across the world and audiences fell quickly in love.
Audrey Tatou may have struggled to overcome the weight of the Amélie stereotype but there is little doubt that she is what makes the film as charming as it is. Her devotion to the happiness of the people who surround her makes for a very simple and visually beautiful story. It is has a vaguely nostalgic feel to the film, both the sentiment and the tone have a wistful quality and Jeunet’s sense of humour gives an infectious hold which each subsequent viewing.
Available on: Netflix
There are few comedies which stand the test of time as well as this classic disaster spoof from Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers. The joke rate is so high, and so successful that each viewing brings even more enjoyment. The deadpan tone and zany (yes, this is the definitive ‘zany comedy’) antics are the perfect companions with Leslie Nielsen’s performance in particular becoming a career-changing move.
Endlessly quotable, with some exceptionally silly visual gags make this a true comedy gem. Almost every actor in the film is known for their work here and it makes repeated appearances on lists of the best comedy movies for a reason.
Available on: Netflix
The Monk (2011)
Dominik Moll’s retelling of Matthew Lewis’s classic Gothic novel is a fine film, rather than a successful adaptation. Lewis’s prose and insidious atmosphere is a clear masterpiece and any film must create its own world, its own angels and demons if it is to be successful. Moll’s Monk has a particular ruby in its dusty atmosphere in Vincent Cassel, whose Ambrosio is a well crafted man with his conflicts pitch-perfect to convey the despair and duplicitous nature of our titular character.
Moll and Cassel capture the seductive draw of Ambrosio so potent in Lewis’s novel and the subsequent falling into temptation is well handled if without the mystery and necessary darkness. The film looks beautiful, the harsh landscape and verdant night gardens are a fine marketplace for the soul and its shadows are full of movement and life; Cassel elevates the film.
Available on: Now TV