17 August 2013

Random Film Round-Up

 John Carter (of Mars)

I'm not really sure what all the fuss was about this; terribly reviewed, and shunned by audiences at the time of its release, it's...really not that bad. It's by no stretch of the imagination great but it's not the dud that it was reported to be.

The world-building is top notch - whilst maybe not a born-and-bred action director, Andrew Stanton's eye for detail is second to none - Tylor Kitsch is actually bearable in the central role, and Mark Strong continues the proud British tradition of Hollywood villainy, along with adding to his own hand of intriguing villains played. The action sequences are a little flat and lack any real oomph, but the story carries it along, despite some turns towards the odd. Lynn Collins is most ill-served by this, her character skipping between warrior maiden and damsel in distress whenever the plot deems it appropriate. It's a shame, because the warrior maiden part is surprisingly well played - the damsel in distress is not.

Overall, it's clear that it ultimately suffers at the hands of itself - John Carter is, after all, one of the archetypes upon which most superhero- and science-fiction is drawn from. Moments that may well have been original back in the late 19th century here feel derivative of the very things derived from them, in a spectacular moment of circular logic that is nearly impossible to get yourself out of. Still, for what it is, it's fun enough, and there's just enough interesting about it to have kept me watching until the end.


Odd one this - ostensibly adapted from a book, it comes to us by way of director Oliver Stone to craft a tale of murder, drugs and treachery. It's got Taylor Kitsch in it (apparently I'm on some sort of Kitsch binge...disaster) and he's...not bearable in this. Neither's Aaron Taylor-Johnson - they're both playing unlikable young drug dealers who stumble upon a particular intense strain of that there crazy pipe weed. They're also both in love with the same woman, here played by the ever-terrible Blake Lively.

She gets kidnapped because reasons - mostly because they refuse to work with a Mexican drug cartel, who aren't willing to simply accept having their plants and distribution network under their control. Oh no, they want the two's 'expertise' (of which they have none) to help grow and sell the product. It more or less escalates from there, with double-crosses, corrupt government agents (John Travolta, continuing to fuel rumours that he's had something done to his face - I vote all nerve endings removed), and an utterly stupid ending that plays out twice. The first one would've actually been a decent place to leave these 'savages'. But no, that one was just in the girls head, and the real ending is an abrupt, deus ex machina moment that is just...dreary, really.

If there is good about it, it's Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek doing seedy villains, the former delightfully sleazy, the latter sultry yet intimidating. If only the rest of the piece were as good as its antagonists, we might've seen a better film. Alas, actors making hamfisted jobs and heavy-handed writing abound, and this was not an enjoyable experience.



Seeing as Henry Cavill is now part of the Superman pantheon, I thought I'd finally give this a go. Coming from the stable of Tarsem - who previously gave us the shallow but visually striking films The Cell and The Fall. He bucks the trend somewhat here with a surprisingly interesting take on the Theseus legend from ancient Greece.

Cavill is decent if a little stiff in the central role, but it's made up for by some excellent supporting work from Stephen Dorff, Mickey Rourke and Luke Evans, all in slightly over-the-top mode, as is appropriate for a story that features gods fighting among men.

The story does some interesting things, trying to figure out what in reality might've inspired the legend, whilst at the same time allowing for the flights of fancy so common in Greek mythology. All of the battles - aside from exhibiting a curious beauty within the chaos - showcase same excellent fight choreography, and the set and costume design are wonderfully intricate. All of this gives rise to the film's best part - its interpretation of the Minotaur part of the legend. A vast, impossibly strong henchman of the evil Hyperion who wears bull-shaped helmet, it's a neat twist and the battle it produces is spectacularly brutal.

It does plod along at times, particularly at the start, but once it allows itself to get going, it's a great ride.

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