QuickBites : Joe / The Monuments Men / Robocop / The Machine (2014)

Four QuickBites


The Monuments Men


And don’t miss…

The Machine


Just a swift glance at four movies that I’ve made acquaintance with in the last week or so:  one I had heard great things about; two not-so-great and the last and best I hadn’t heard of at all.

First up is Joe from director David Gordon Green, which is being hailed as Nicolas Cage’s return to form after boring us to tears for years with so-called ‘quirky’ roles.  This concept is also known as forgetting that you were once an actor and now just generally acting the asshole.  Perhaps it took bankruptcy for Cage to come back to reality; in which case it was bad news for his bank account but good news for movie buffs, because in fact Cage’s return actually began last year with The Frozen Ground. 

This outing isn’t as good as that one but Cage is outstanding as a small-town ex-con who is trying his best to work on some serious anger issues.  For which, read ‘murderous mayhem’.  Based on the novel by Larry Brown and adapted by him for the screen with Gary Hawkins, it’s a bit Southern Gothic predictable; but the performances from Cage and the wonderful young Tye Sheridan (from last year’s Mud) raise it above its source material.  Although some of the dialogue, I have to say, could have used subtitles as I didn’t have a clue what was being said in certain scenes.


Next up was The Monuments Men, obviously a bit of a labour of love from George Clooney who not only stars in it, but also directs and co-writes (with Grant Heslov) the screenplay.

It is based—loosely, apparently—on the exploits of some World War II soldiers who were tasked with retrieving stolen art treasures that the Nazis were bent on looting and, if they couldn’t get to keep them, on destroying. The cast is great and includes Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and in an atypical role, Bill Murray.

It’s not been well-received at all but I think that its idea that Art remains important even when—or particularly when–people are acting like utter shits, is highly relevant.  And dare I say it, I found it rather moving.

I’ve never been particularly fond of war movies but this one is done in an old-fashioned style that made me think of watching Sunday afternoon features with my late dad.  And dad, you would have enjoyed it too.


Another one getting an unfair bollocking is the remake of Robocop.  Listen, this was never going to match up to the original 1987 cracker and God knows the violence is toned ‘way down; but it does what it sets out to do which is reboot a familiar tale with enough tweaks to keep it interesting.  Fresh from his success as my favourite-ever cop in the American version of the TV show The Killing is Joel Kinnaman and supporting him is the great Gary Oldman who seems to make you believe him in just about anything.  Also very welcome is Michael Keaton who looks as if he is having a great old time as the one-shade-only bad guy.  In the director’s chair is José Padilha.

But seriously, Samuel L.  Jackson again?  I could really do with seeing a lot less of that guy in 2014 (The Winter Soldier aside, obviously).

A good solid science-fiction remake and, like The Monuments Men, weirdly moving.


Another science-fiction film, only recently released and easily the best of the group here is The Machine from writer and director Caradog W.  James. 

Do you recall that bloated, hideously overlong Spielberg and posthumous Kubrick ‘collaboration’ A.I. Artificial Intelligence from some years back?  Well, this may deal with the same themes—what is consciousness and what makes us human—but it is infinitely better in execution, even though it was made for less than a million sterling and comes in at a nice tight hour-and-a-half.

Although the story of a massive military complex trying to build the ultimate fighting machine may sound like something you have seen a hundred times, this is streets ahead, dealing as it ultimately does with the genesis of an entirely new phase of existence.  Shot almost entirely in Wales, it is visually beautiful, with cinematography by Nicolai Brǔel and a highlight being a mesmerizing ‘dance of the android’.  It has a very pleasing retro-soundtrack by Tom Raybould which is reminiscent of John Carpenter; and best of all are the two leads, who play so well together:  the Hugh Jackman-lookalike Toby Stephens and the utterly gorgeous Caity Lotz (so good in the horror film The Pact in 2012) and who rather impressively performs all her own stunts.

The Machine is very, very highly recommended.

Author: Charley Brady

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