Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Great Experiment

Right, I have decided that I don’t go to the cinema enough; at least not enough to consider myself an avid movie watcher. Something I once prided myself upon. So to remedy this, I have devised a plan that I will go to the cinema AT LEAST once a week. Doesn’t matter what’s on, I’ll just pick the best of what’s on that particular week and go see it. Or something I really want to see.

This could result in me seeing utter tripe (likely), or discovering a gem of a film I wouldn’t necessarily watched otherwise (less likely, but I’m an optimist). Also though, because I am now married and will be dragging Jenny along to films that she might not want to see at all, occasionally I shall let the choice of film be hers. Hopefully that won’t backfire horribly.

In my first week of my experiment, I went to see two, count ‘em, TWO films: Source Code and Your Highness. Here are the reviews:

Source Code is the new film from Moon director Duncan Jones. I really liked Moon, the whole tone of it and understated direction were superb and it deserved all the plaudits it got. Source Code is a bigger budget version with similar(-ish) themes.

The plot involves not time travel, but time reassignment, as marine Jake Gyllenhal relives the last 8 minutes of a train passengers life and tries to find a bomb and bomber on said train, in order to avoid any further catastrophe in the present. If that sounds confusing, the best comparison I can think of is Quantum Leap with a bit of Groundhog Day thrown in.

All the usual time travel clichés are present and correct, but there’s a pleasing mystery that runs throughout the whole movie. And the bits out of the memory, in the pod in which Jake’s characters is plugged into the Source Code (well, sort of), are just as compelling. This isn’t a great review as I can’t really go into too much detail without spoiling it for you, but I’d highly recommend you see it.

The cast are all top notch (aside from Jeffrey Wright’s almost pantomime performance), the central mystery propels the movie forward without ever becoming boring, it zips along at a cracking pace (I think it’s only about 80 minutes long), and there’s a cute little voice cameo that fits in with something I said above.

Although the ending bothered me. It doesn’t sit right with the established rules of the Source Code and seems a bit too much of a Hollywood happy ending, but it certainly didn’t spoil the movie or anything like that.

A solid 8 out of 10.

Now, I find Danny McBride pretty funny, which is lucky because if I didn’t, this movie would probably be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Your Highness is a medieval comedy, in the vein of 80’s fantasy epics like Legend or Krull, but where those movies were family friendly, Your Highness has boobs and swearing.

Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re making a comedy at the very least you have to have some great gags. Your Highness had a few, but nothing that had me full on laughing like an idiot. Yes, the many variations on the word ‘fuck’ are funny a few times, but when that turns into your safety net to cover up the lack of actual jokes, you’re in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, it is funny, but not consistently. At times it seems to think it’s an actual serious movie, and there are spells with no laughs at all, which for a comedy is a crime.

Also, because it’s common knowledge that it was filmed in Northern Ireland, it’s a little distracting as you’re constantly looking for places you recognise. Next time I’m at the Giant’s Causeway I’ll be looking for a dead, dickless Minotaur.

Anyway, it’s good for a few laughs, but don’t go expecting a comedy classic.

5 out of 10.

Update: I’ve seen another TWO movies. Oh. Em. Gee.

First up, Fast and Furious 5: Rio Heist. Which is a stupid title and they should have stuck with Fast Five which was much better.

Now I wasn’t a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise at all. People told me I should watch it when the first one came out in 2001, and I tried to, but I got bored about half an hour in and switched it off. I’m not a big car movie person, and this movie was all about cars and nothing else.

Not so with Fast Five. Yes, while fast cars are involved, it’s more of a heist movie that just happens to involve fast cars. It also involves brawls, foot chases, gunfights and The Rock laying the smack down all over the show. Now, I love The Rock. And think he’s great in these sorts of movies, so instantly my interest for this installment was peaked when I heard he was in it. He just the perfect guy for this type of movie, and oddly lends it a weird sort of credibility.

As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s mad as a bag of spanners and defies all laws of physics, especially in the final chase involving two cars dragging a tonne weight bank vault through the streets of Rio, and has one of the least charismatic leads I’ve ever seen in Vin Diesel (who speaks and looks like he’s ‘special’) but if you switch your brain off (much like Vin) it’s a fun way to spend two hours.

Also, there’s a scene at the end that sets up a sequel, which I’m presuming will be called Speedy Six.

A stupidly enjoyable 7 out of 10.

Onto Thor.

It was always going to be tricky translating Thor to the big screen, especially now that the Marvel movies are all interconnected, in preparation for the upcoming Avengers. So, we’re supposed to believe that Thor (a Norse god) lives in the same universe as Iron Man? Well, yes. And for the most part, it works. As long as you don’t think about it too much.

Anyway, on to Odin-son itself. Much has been written about how Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean background gave the Asgard scenes real gravitas and believability, and I’d have to agree. What could have descended into a sub-Flash Gordon farce, actually feels real and despite the grand setting (Asgard looks amazing) is wholly convincing. However, the slightly Shakespearean theme of a jealous brother is a little too simple for my liking. I would have liked Loki to have had a little more motive than just jealousy.

The main problems I have with the movie are the time frame and the setting. It all seems to take place over a weekend and there are literally only three locations in the whole thing: Asgard, the small town where Natalie Portman lives, and the crater caused by Mjolnir, where SHIELD put up a research station. I never felt as though there was anything massive at stake, and Thor’s exile was what? Two days? And he fell in love and became worthy of Mjolnir again in that time. Please.

Despite these problems, and the overly simplistic plot, I thought Chris Hemsworth was great as Thor. The trailers had me a bit worried, but he plays him brilliantly, in both the Asgard scenes and the fish out of water scenes when he arrives on Earth. He gets some good laughs, as well as a few more dramatic bits, like his argument with his father just before his exile.

The action is ok. Not great, but ok. The fight with the Ice Giants at the start is exceptional, and the scene at the SHIELD base is fine. But the fight with The Destroyer sucks, as does his fight with Loki, the climax of which is Thor demolishing a rainbow bridge. Seriously.

I might be being a bit harsh, not knowing of any Thor comic lore before seeing this, but it was still a pretty good origin story.

6 out of 10.

The experiment continues...

...with what, I don't know yet.

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