Monday, 1 October 2018

David at the Movies: not strange enough

THE LITTLE STRANGER


The poster is scarier than the movie. This has had rave reviews from the critics. Since it’s based on a famous novel, I was expecting something in the league of The Innocents (1961), but this one is a plodding story with a leaden script.

It’s 1948. A timid young doctor (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to the crumbling country mansion where his mother once worked as a maid. The imperious Mrs Ayres (Charlotte Rampling – always good at imperious) lives with her war-wounded son and neurotic daughter. After a child dies a violent death strange things start to happen.

Not strange enough for my taste. Mysteriously pounding doors made us jump in The Haunting (1963) but we need a bit more than that to make us jump now. Are we meant to wonder if the haunting was imaginary? Presumably not, since everyone is affected. Perhaps the house itself is evil, like the one in The Fall of the House of Usher. Plenty of atmosphere here but more clarity needed. 

The ghost, if it was a ghost, moved v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Too slowly for me. I was bored.

KING OF THIEVES



A quartet of elderly crooks decide to give their pensions a boost by robbing a safe deposit vault in London’s Hatton Garden. The four old geezers are played by Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent and Ray Winstone. Since these are four National Treasures, they are played as lovable – albeit foul-mouthed – old curmudgeons: Victor Meldrew in quadruplicate! Michael Gambon as an antiquated chum who will fence the jewellery and diamonds makes it a geriatric quintet. The only youngster is an electronic expert (Charlie Cox) who they think must be a pouf because he disguises himself with long hair. There are a few hiccups in their plan to drill through to the vault from the basement next door – the drill burns out at one stage - but we know they will make it and bring off one of the biggest heists in crime history. And get caught.

How do we know? Because this is the third movie version of the true-life break-in of 2015 which was hailed as the Crime of the (young) Century. The title character (Michael Caine) came out of jail in time to see the movie this summer.

This is an easy story to like, despite its over-familiarity, because these are actors it would be hard to dislike in a caper in which no one gets hurt (other than the depositors and who cares about those affluent bastards?). Ray Winstone had a meatier robbery role in Sexy Beast (200), and Michael Caine is barely stretched to play a criminal mastermind. Tom Courtenay has to be a bit deaf and a bit daft; Jim Broadbent has to be bad-tempered; Michael Gambon has to be borderline-doolally; Charlie Cox has to be not-quite-eye-candy. Those are the goods, and everybody delivers them. Nuff said.

THE MEG


My first movie in six weeks and it’s this piece of tosh, which is probably best seen in 3D. A team of ocean-ographers accidentally liberate a giant shark which has been lurking in the ocean depths since the dinosaur era. Jason Statham, who specialises in sub-marine rescue (as well as fast driving!), is called in to deal with the creature which has developed a taste for fishing boats and their crew.

As the poster suggests, this is basically a mash-up of Jaws and Piranha. Filmed in the seas off China with a largely Chinese cast, it delivers what monster movie fans expect: an escalating series of disposable extras being disposed of. Jason and the scientists are in constant peril, but we sort of know who will make it to the end of the movie – and who won’t. Jason flashes his pecs in a shower scene, which for some fans is already worth the price of admission.

Jason Statham flashes his famous pecs
21st century CGI delivers a much better shark than Stephen Spielberg was able to muster in 1975. But Jaws had a screenplay which was original back then (from Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel) but has gone stale with repetition. Despite its recycled script, The Meg has terrific pace and some seriously jumpy moments. Yes, it’s hoary old hokum, but it’s hugely enjoyable.

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