I’m a sucker for a good underdog story, and never has there been more of an underdog than the American Samoa national football team. They hold the record for conceding more goals than any other national team in history in a match against Australia in 2001 when they lost 31-0. They are the lowest ranked team in the world having never won a game, scoring only two goals in 17 years. Next Goal Wins documents their attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil 2014 with the help of a new coach with experience in top flight football. Like Enron this is not a film about what happens but more about what happens to the people involved. Next Goal Wins includes a great selection of beautiful people from the coach looking for redemption to the first ever transgender international footballer. It is undoubtedly a film with designs on warming the heart but delivers this lovely warmth without an overdose of sentiment or overbearing.
Based on the autobiographical memoir of U.S Marine sniper Anthony Swofford’s contribution to the First Gulf War, Jarhead represented director Sam Mendes’ attempt to move away from the stripped back nihilistic overtones of American Beauty and Road to Perdition to a more emotionally charged stripped back and nihilistic tome of war and its effects. Unfortunately, it’s not all that emotionally engaging and ultimately feels somewhat stripped back and nihilistic.
I think its Jake Gyllenhall’s fault. Yes, his portrayal of Swofford is functional and he tries to find the right mark but it’s just that little bit off. He’s a good actor but he’s not great and I don’t know if it’s just me but I cannot shake Donnie Darko from my mind whenever I see him, like he is still the moody teenager pulling faces. Zodiac is a stunning film and in my opinion could have been the best film of this century so far had Gyllenhall not been in it. That sounds very damning as I still need to watch Brokeback Mountain, Prisoners and Enemy in which he has received praise for his acting. Also the intriguing trailer for his upcoming film Nightcrawler might show a new improved Gyllenhall. But back to Jarhead… so yeah, it’s good but not great, like it could be something much better. Visually it’s rich and paced well and does accurately depict the boredom, isolation and momentary insanity of the First Gulf War but it does not engage the viewer as other films have done to greater effect. See Full Metal Jacket again instead.
Alex Gibney is one of those documentary directors whose films never disappoint. His catalogue of films starting with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room back in 2005 is filled with current, important and masterfully crafted documentaries (The Armstrong Lie (2013), We Steal Secrets; The Story of Wikileaks (2013), Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010), Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)).
His skill as a director is making films filled with great characters and Enron tells the story of a spectacular financial crash caused by a number of these characters. Going through the process of explaining how an energy company swindled the books and made billions through irregular financial transactions might not sound like the most exciting story ever told, but Gibney shows his ability to bring the people at the core of the collapse to the front and centre, effectively putting a face to the transaction history of a company who tore apart America and left thousands of people bankrupt.
I was one of the billion or so people who paid money to see this in the cinema when it first came out and was suitably blown away by the all action, laugh-a-minute, superhero pinnacle of cinema history. I hadn’t watched it since with the plethora of other Marvel films taking up my precious, precious time, and not being a hardcore Marvel fan or superhero nerd I have become somewhat passive to the latest releases and upcoming trailers trying to drum up interest. I can’t be the only person a bit bored of it, right? I know there is a massive fan base out there who sit until the lights come up and the cinema workers start sweeping around their feet in the hope of seeing a hidden post-credits scene, so these films will not stop coming.
Admittedly, I was not that impressed on rewatching The Avengers. So Loki is a really weak bad guy who is actually working for another bad guy who in turn is working for another bad guy and not being a superhero nerd I have not got a fucking notion who any of these guys are. The nerd may be salivating at the slightest glimpse but I couldn’t really care less. The integration of each Avenger into the group is overplayed to the extent that it gets nauseating and the climactic battle sequence is only a shade away from a Transformers movie (that’s quite damning). Now saying that, I can appreciate the CGI and the wit of it all and I think the reason so many films come out is so that you cannot linger on the one you just watched because on close inspection you can see the film’s failings. It’s kinda like going to a Lordi gig… the joy is in the spectacle not the music.