The Firm (2009, directed by Nick Love)


Dom (Calum MacNab) is a working class teenager living in London sometime in the 80s.  (The music on the soundtrack is early 80s but the clothing and the haircuts are all late 80s so who knows what the specific year is supposed to be.)  A chance meeting with the charismatic Bex Bessell (Paul Anderson) leads to Dom getting involved with Bex’s football firm.  A supporter of West Ham United, Bex and his group of football hooligans travel across the UK, engaging in fights with other firms.  Despite the fact that their lives seem to be structured around it, nobody in these firms seems to really care much about football.  Instead, it’s all about the fighting.

At first, Dom is happy to be a member of the firm.  It gives him something to do in his spare time and the other members of the group all seem to like him.  Bex takes him under his wing and soon, Dom is even starting to dress like Bex.  However, as Bex becomes more and more violent and grows obsessed with defeating Yeti (Daniel Mays), the leader of a rival firm, Dom starts to realize that he needs to find a way out.

The Firm is a loose remake of Alan Clarke’s 1989 film of the same title, which featured Gary Oldman giving one of the best performance of his career as Bex.  The original version was a character study of Bex, who was presented as being a newly minted member of the middle class and who was addicted to the rush of being a weekend hooligan.  The remake focuses on Dom, who was a minor character in the original.  If the original was meant to be a socio-political critique of the UK in the 80s, the remake is a coming-of-age story that almost feels nostalgic.  Dom eventually realizes that being a football hooligan isn’t for him but the remake seems to suggest that he’ll always value the memories.

The remake can’t really compare to the original, mostly because the remake doesn’t have Gary Oldman’s ferocious performance or Alan Clarke’s focused and gritty direction.  Taken on its own, though, the remake is not bad.  Calum MacNab is likable and relatable as Dom and Paul Anderson gives a good performance as Bex.  Anderson doesn’t try to imitate Oldman but instead brings his own spin to the character.  At first, Anderson’s Bex seems as if he’s considerably more buffoonish than Oldman’s Bex but, in the context of the remake, it works.  In the remake, it’s easy to underestimate Bex but give him a strange look or say the wrong thing and he’ll headbutt you just as quickly the Gary Oldman did to anyone who crossed him in the original.  The remake doesn’t have the original’s political subtext.  Instead, director Nick Love focuses more on historical nostalgia, stylized fight scenes, and the camaraderie that Dom initially finds in the firm.  The fights in the original were brutal and not always easy to watch.  The fights in the remake are exciting, up until it becomes obvious that Bex is losing his mind.

The remake of The Firm doesn’t do much to improve on the other but, when taken on its own terms, it’s a watchable story of football hooliganism.

 

“Old Growth,” New Ideas


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

One of those books that take all of 15 minutes to read, hours to look at, and days to fully absorb, it’s almost easier to catalogue what Niv Bavarsky and Michael Olivo’s handsomely-produced new Fantagraphics Underground hardback, Old Growthisn’t about rather than what it is — but if we were about taking the easy way out around these parts, then this book wouldn’t find itself under the ol’ metaphorical microscope in the first place.  It’s a challenging and multi-faceted work, then — but it’s also cleverly disguised in such visually arresting and tonally “light” trappings that it doesn’t necessarily feel like anything other than an utter delight.

Don’t, then, let anyone tell you that fun and hard intellectual work are necessarily mutually exclusive, because they’re certainly not — but it’s well beyond interesting to note how Bavarsky and Olivo almost use the former to lull you into the…

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Artist Profile: Wes Wilson (1937– )


Wes Wilson is a California-based artist who is one of the pioneers in the field of psychedelic art.  In the 1960s, he designed several concert posters and handbills for The Filmore in San Francisco and, in doing so, established the visual style of counter culture.  Wilson is credited as being the first artist to design posters that made it appear as if the letters were melting or moving.  Subsequently, many artists have copied Wilson’s style but Wilson was the first.  In many ways, Wilson’s style of design has come to symbolize the 1960s.  Wilson remains active today, mostly as a painter though he still does the occasional poster.

Here are a few of his posters from the 1960s:

1966

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1967

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And from 2014:

Scenes That I Love: Winston Wolfe Says Goodbye In Pulp Fiction


Today is Harvey Keitel’s 81st birthday.

Harvey Keitel is one of those actors who has given so many great performances that it’s difficult to pick which one is his best.  He’s almost always great, even when the film sometimes isn’t.  That said, I’ll always have a lot of affection for the character of Winston Wolfe, the cleaner that Keitel played in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Keitel doesn’t show up until the final third of Pulp Fiction but once he does, he pretty much takes over the entire film.  For me, though, my favorite Winston Wolfe moment comes at the end of his story, when he says goodbye to John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson and essentially reveals himself to be kind of an old-fashioned, almost dorky (if impeccably dressed) guy.

Happy birthday, Harvey Keitel!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Katharine Hepburn Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Yesterday was the birthday of one of the most iconic screen legends of all time, the one and only Katharine Hepburn!  In honor of her life, career, and legacy, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Bringing Up Baby (1938, dir by Howard Hawks)

State of the Union (1948, dir by Frank Capra)

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959, dir by Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962, dir by Sidney Lumet)

Music Video of the Day: Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3 (2000, dir by Kevin Godley)


Earlier this week, I watched The Sopranos on Prime.  I started with the very first episode and then I watched all the way up until that famous black out at the end of the final episode.  It took me about 6 days to watch the whole series.  In case you were curious why I haven’t posted many film reviews over the past few days, it’s because my mind has been preoccupied with the New Jersey mafia.

Needless to say, I’ve now got the Sopranos theme song — Woke Up This Morning — stuck in my head and it only seems appropriate to select it for today’s music video of the day.  Now, I should point out that Alabama 3 did not write Woke Up This Morning for the show.  (And the version in this video is, needless to say, a bit different from the version that most people know from the opening credits of The Sopranos.)  In fact, Woke Up This Morning is not about the mafia at all.

Instead, the song was based on the true story of a woman who, after years of being abused by her husband, finally killed him.  She stabbed him to death but “got yourself a knife” doesn’t have quite the same impact as “got yourself a gun.”  The song was a minor hit when originally released.  It became a much bigger hit once it was featured on The Sorpanos, though its doubtful that Tony Sopranos and his misogynistic crew would have approved of the song’s actual theme.

Originally, David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, wanted to start every episode with a different song but he was overruled by HBO, who felt that viewers would be confused unless they heard the same song at the start of each episode.  However, Chase did end each show with a different song.

Enjoy!