Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

The Long Good Friday
Bob Hoskins is at his energetic, scene-chomping best in The Long Good Friday, a London crime drama about a mob boss trying to make a name for himself as a legitimate businessman when someone starts killing off his friends and associates. The set up is a simple one, but the twists and turns in The Long Good Friday come quickly and frequently, and Hoskins roots the whole film with his portrayal of a man who is charismatic and likable while at the same time being sinister and monstrous. Helen Mirren plays Hoskins’ love interest and puts in a great turn as a character who could easily have been made to seem like some bimbo, but true to form, Mirren plays her with wits and intelligence. With a killer 1970’s score, a top notch script, and a killer lead performance, this is the movie that Guy Ritchie has always wished he could make.
4 out of 5

Director Jeff Nichols scored a big hit with his film Take Shelter, which topped a number of end-of-the-year lists in 2011. His follow-up Mud is a very different kind of film, but once again shows the immense talent that Nichols has for telling small-scale stories in rural towns with only a handful of characters, and making every minute of them compelling. Mud is the story of two boys – Neckbone and Ellis – who discover a vagabond named Mud living in a boat in the woods. Mud is a drifter who is in hot water with some people, and so he’s hiding out to both evade the law and try to make contact with his estranged girlfriend Juniper. He convinces Neckbone and Ellis to help him repair the boat so that he can have a means of getting away once he and Juniper reunite, but sure enough, the boys run afoul of the very people Mud is trying to avoid. Mud has the feel of a Southern gothic, and even though it is a film very much grounded in reality, an air of mysticism and spiritualism hangs over everything. This is mostly because of the stories Mud tells, about the significance of things like snakes and bonfires. Much like the two boys, the viewer will find themselves entranced by Matthew McConaughey’s performance, which manages to be just the right balance of sleazy and compelling. The film’s finale is especially effective and tense. All told, Mud is another terrific entry into Nichols’ filmography, and between Mud and Take Shelter, I’m very curious to see what Nichols directs next.
4 out of 5

The greatest compliment that I can give Pompeii is that it is watchable – much more watchable than I anticipated. If you have seen Gladiator and any of Roland Emmerich’s films, then you know exactly what you’re getting into with Pompeii. Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) plays a Celt who is captured when he’s young and forced into becoming a gladiator. Of course, in spite of his horrible living conditions and the constant brutality inflicted upon him, he still manages to be sensitive and kind. After arriving in the city of Pompeii, the Celt (as he’s known…y’know, instead of the Spaniard like in Gladiator) teams up with another slave being made to fight in the arena. He’s black, by the way, and has the same relationship with the protagonist as Djimon Hounsou had with Russell Crowe in Gladiator. The similarities don’t end there – the gladitorial arena fights all feel very familiar, and Kiefer Sutherland plays a poor imitation of Joaquin Phoenix’s sneering antagonist. Then, halfway through the movie, the volcano blows its stack and it turns into a generic disaster movie with everybody trying outrun the fiery hell that’s raining down upon them. This is brainless entertainment all the way though. There’s nothing unique or new on display here. I’ve gotta give the movie credit for not wimping out on the ending, but that’s not enough to save it from stupidity. Still, Pompeii is significantly better than I expected. If you want some turn-off-your-brain sword-and-sandal action, then…well, you could do worse, but not by a lot.
2 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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