Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Two directed by Ken Loach this week!
The Wild Goose Lake (2019)
Starring: Ge Hu, Gwei Lun-Mei, Fan Liao, Regina Wan, Dao Qi, Jue Huang, Zeng Meihuizi, Yicong Zhang, Yongzhong Chen, and many others.
Director: Yi’nan Diao
Genres: crime, drama
Synopsis: Two rival Chinese street gangs that steal mopeds have a battle that leaves at least one dead body and attracts the attention of police. The young leader of one of the gangs is named the suspect and a manhunt commences. He decides to hide out in a wilderness resort area near Wild Goose Lake and finds a soul connection while on the lam.
Impressions: I sought this movie out after seeing what the director and actor Fan Liao did in 2014’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice.” Disappointingly, Fan Liao has only a minor role as the head of the police out looking for the young gangster. The cinematography is good in covering all of the nooks and crannies of the area. The romance is OK. Not a satisfying story line for me, but overall pretty decent.
Etc.: Chinese film with English subtitles; imdb trivia: The film was shot in Wuhan dialect, instead of Standard Mandarin. Hence, most of Chinese audiences, like all foreign audiences, actually have to read the subtitles in order to understand what the characters are saying.
Awards: 17 wins and 36 nominations
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham, Orla Fitzgerald, Mary O’Riordan, Mary Murphy, Laurence Barry, Damien Kearney, Frank Bourke, Myles Horgan, Martin Lucey, Aidan O’Hare, and many more.
Director: Ken Loach
Genres: drama, war, historical
Synopsis: The story revolves around the Irish War of Independence in 1920, where Irish Republican Army soldiers fight guerilla warfare against the British invading force. Two brothers fight side by side for a long while until some major philosophical and political differences rise between them. When your land is embroiled in war, all things are colored in its light.
Impressions: I chose this one because of Cillian Murphy, director Ken Loach (who also directed “I, Daniel Blake” that I reviewed last week,) and because I wanted to learn more about the Irish and their ongoing efforts to break free from British domination. Some scenes were difficult to watch. I like how the director shows the romance that tries to blossom in the middle of all of this mess.
Etc.: filmed over 2 months in 7 locations in Ireland.
Awards: 7 wins and 24 nominations, including 2006’s Palme D’or at Cannes; trivia from imdb: The title was taken from the poem The Wind that Shakes the Barley by 19th century poet Robert Dwyer Joyce:
But blood for blood without remorse
I’ve taken at Oulart Hollow
And laid my true love’s clay-cold corpse
Where I full soon may follow
As ’round her grave I wander drear
Noon, night and morning early
With breaking heart when e’er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley.”
The poem is about a young man who joins the 1798 rebellion after his true love is killed.
Sorry We Missed You (2019)
Starring: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster, Charlie Richmond, Julian Ions, Sheila Dunkerley, Maxie Peters, Christopher John Slater, and many more.
Director: Ken Loach
Synopsis: Set in urban England, a husband and wife decide to sell their only vehicle so the man can put a down payment on a delivery van to work for a company (it is never named but the vans seem very much like amazon delivery vans.) This means his wife, who is a home health care worker, now has to use the bus to get around town to make her visits. The parents work from early morning to late at night, leaving their 10-year old daughter and delinquency-prone teenage son to fend for themselves most of the time. What the man eventually realizes is that the job that’s been promoted as a “sure-fire way to earn a mega income” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The movie shows all of the hidden costs the company doesn’t tell you about: the number of hours that have to be worked, all of the barriers to getting the package delivered on time, and the dangers as well. It also shows how the gig economy takes its toll on family life.
Impressions: My takeaway from the story is that too many people are working too hard for not enough wages to keep their family afloat. Families are suffering from what looks an awful lot like indentured servitude. We saw last week with, “I, Daniel Blake,” how someone unable to work gets treated by the system that supposedly is designed to help. “Sorry We Missed You” (after the card that is left for packages that weren’t able to be delivered) shows the working poor, living paycheck to paycheck, wearing themselves down, and not being available to be parents while they are doing it. The format is very simple but very effective in illuminating what’s going on in so many places around the world. The ones who suffer most, of course, are the children.
Etc.: filmed in 7 locations in Tyne & Wear, England; imdb trivia: “Like certain other Ken Loach movies, the cast is made up of unknown actors and non-actors. The absence of recognizable stars makes it easier for audiences to believe that the characters are everyday people with relatable struggles.”
Awards: 5 wins and 13 nominations
Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Starring: Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Burt Young, James Fox, Joe Viterelli, Gerry Becker, Maddie Corman, Tony Darrow, Paul Lazar, Vincent Pastore, Frank Pellegrino, Scott Thompson, John Ventimiglia, and many more.
Director: Kelly Makin
Genres: comedy, crime
Synopsis: Michael (played by Grant) is an auctioneer at a big art house in NYC. He falls for a teacher (played by Tripplehorn) in an urban high school and is ready to ask her to marry him after 3 months. When he asks, he learns that she is the daughter of a mobster lieutenant (played by Caan.) She will only agree to marry him if he doesn’t get involved with “the family business.” Easier said than done.
Impressions: I laughed out loud several times and was reminded of laughing like this while watching “The Wedding Crashers.” Hugh as the hapless gentleman auctioneer stands no chance against the very charismatic and insistent members of the “family.” Hearing Grant “talk gangster” is worth watching it for all by itself. Really good cast.
Etc.: filmed at Knickerbocker Bar & Grill -33 University Place, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, all in New York City, New York, USA; imdb trivia: The band in the steak house plays a revised version of the main theme from Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954.) There are several interesting bits of trivia on it at imdb.
Killshot (2008) (make sure you find the right movie by this name)
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Thomas Jane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brandon McGibbon, Rosario Dawson, Hal Holbrook, Lynne Deragon, Brandon McGibbon, Peter Kelly Gaudreault, Michelle Arvizu, Richard Zeppieri, Alexis Butler, Hal Holbrook, Robert Gow, Catherine Hayos, Lynne Deragon, and many more.
Director: John Madden
Genres: drama, crime
Synopsis: Rourke plays a First People assassin named Blackbird who returns to the reservation he grew up on and the small nearby town to hideout after a job goes wrong. He hooks up with a psychotic local punk (played with great relish by Gordon Levitt) that draws attention to them, which is the worst thing for them — and for those who notice them. A couple that are estranged (Lane and Jane) get pulled into the mess and try to stay alive with these two bad hombres on their heels.
Impressions: I picked this one because of Rourke and Lane whom I like. Killshot had the makings of a really good movie – look at the cast! – but it felt like two separate movies being spliced together, one focused on the criminal enterprises and the other focused on the relationship of the estranged couple. Other directors and editors have been able to pull it off but not here. Lane was a weak link in the casting, but maybe it was just the grimness of her character. Rourke felt like a big fish in a kiddy pool. Gordon-Levitt hammed it up just a little too much. Dawson played her role well. Hal Holbrook had a small role but did it so well. The standout performance in Killshot was Jane. He played it just right. Whatever happened to him?
Etc.: based on Elmore Leonard novel; filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Detroit, MI, US; and Toronto, Port Perry, and Uxbridge, all in Ontario, Canada. Several other actors were considered for the characters played by Jane and Gordon-Levitt.
Killing Them Safely (2015) Alternate title Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
Starring: Rick Smith, Tom Smith
Director: Nick Berardini
Synopsis: In the 2000’s the Smith brothers started producing tasers and it wasn’t long before tasers became standard gear for law enforcement across the land. They were (are?) promoted as a safe and an ingenious alternative to using firearms, pepper spray, batons, etc. or physically tussling with combative, aggressive, or otherwise dangerous individuals. And they are – if used appropriately and are not targeted for anywhere around the chest area. Various challenges to appropriate use and target area come down to inadequate training. The company left it to the individual police departments to do their training, which was a big mistake. Overuse of taser, where individuals were tased multiple times, and police becoming taser dependent are identified as big areas of concern. New warning labels say don’t use it in the chest area, as when it is it brings a risk of heart fibrillation leading to death (regardless of age!)
Impressions: I just did quick google of how many taser deaths and see one estimate was 49 people in the US for 2018 died by taser vs. 994 lethal police shootings in 2020. The documentary did its best to condemn the taser manufacturers rather than the police officers wielding them. Not a bad documentary but seemed biased.
Awards: 2 nominations
The Silencing (2020)
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Zahn McClarnon, Caleb Ellsworth-Clark, Josh Cruddas, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Lisa Cromarty, Leland Assinewai, Kayla Dumont, Shaun Smyth, Jason Jazrawy, Brielle Robillard and many others.
Director: Robin Pront
Genres: action, crime
Synopsis: Coster-Waldau plays a man who lives far out of town on a piece of land he’s turned into a nature preserve in honor of his teenage daughter who went missing. He blames himself for her loss because he was in a liquor store buying a bottle of whisky after she said she was walking home, upset because of his drinking. His wife has moved on and is now pregnant with a First People’s territory deputy. Five years have passed and the number of missing teenage girls is starting to add up. It dawns on the nearby county sheriff and everybody else that a serial killer is loose. The weapon of choice has everyone spooked, and how the victims are hunted and then found makes this killer particularly dangerous. Before his daughter’s disappearance, Coster-Waldau’s character was an avid hunter and trapper, which gives him the skills to help law enforcement from both jurisdictions track down this nasty monster.
Impressions: The weapon the killer uses, an atlatl, is the star of the show. The old dog who watches the deer cams is another star. The way the monster hunts people in the forest is very nerve-wracking. It has the makings of a great movie, but poor editing did it damage, so it’s only good. There were decent twists and turns in it which kept me on the edge of my seat.
Etc.: filmed in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; The spear-launching tool used in the movie is called an atlatl.
Awards: 1 nomination