Total Recall (Remake): in order to take a break from his life Douglas Quaid visits Rekall, a company that implants false memories to distract people from their pitiful existence. I went into this expecting a big steaming pile of shiitake mushrooms, but was pleasantly surprised by how daft and enjoyable it was. Not a whole lot has been changed from the original movie – other than the edges being filed down – but there is so much action that you didn’t really have the time to think about the story more than 30 seconds. Fist fights, gunfights, robot fights, chases, explosions, floating cars, and loads of future tech – all set in a spectacular world that evokes the metropolises featured in the likes of Minority Report, Fifth Element, iRobot, and more recently, Dredd. Whilst it will never win any awards for acting, originality, politics (Great Britain and the Australian sub-human Colony – LOL) or even being a required remake – the 2012 Total Recall gives the original a modern facelift, putting an emphasis on the ‘instantly forgettable CGI-heavy Sci-Fi action romp’ angle.
Seven Psychopaths: whilst working on his screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths” a struggling writer gets caught up in his best friend’s dog-snatching scheme. This film takes crime-thriller genre head on, and turns all of the well-worn tropes on their heads for fun, and to make a stale genre more entertaining. More than anything else, the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – to the point where, if you like the absurd, risqué and offensive humour, you will have a sore face by the end: the epic imagined gunfight/showdown in the graveyard had almost everyone in the cinema crying with laughter. There’s lots of top acting from the leading men (Rockwell storms the film, although he does have the best character and funniest lines) but the ladies on the other hand – other than Walken‘s wife – don’t get much of a look-in. So there’s an entertaining story, good characters, lots of jokes – but there’s a catch: the film is let down by trying to be far too self-aware and ‘filmy’ to the point of being a quite ‘wanky’. There’s a scene in the middle film where the characters have just had a load of action and are driving to the desert, while talking about the middle of the ‘seven psychopaths’ script, where the characters are driving to the desert after an action-packed first half… I was almost chewing my fingers off with cringery. Seven Psychopaths ends up being a violent, sweary, funny and entertaining black comedy caper, with a promising ‘real’ plot is hampered by the quirky/indie emphasis of the ‘film-within-a-film’ sub-plot.
1. She thinks she’s hot Shih Tzu
2. The non-violent one
3. The seemingly normal one
4. He won’t take any Shih Tzu
5. The Passive-aggressive girlfriend
6. The one with the bunny
7. The one with issues
Cassandra’s Dream: two brothers in financial trouble turn to their wealthy uncle for help… First off, this has more simplistic teenage-level melodrama than a papa roach album. It’s also full of good actors doing terrible acting, with dodgy accents… it’s hard to tell if it’s the shit script, stock characters (forenames only – a major pet hate of mine), soap-opera story or just bad direction. The characters are established through teeth-grindingly clichéd dialogue, not to mention that the entire story can be guessed at least ten minutes ahead at all times. To top it all off, it’s yet another Woody Allen film set in a romanticised version of a city, crammed with ra-ra artisan characters who have old-timey sensibilities (like a countryside drive in the old motor to a meadow picnic). By the time that Tom Wilkinson gets to inject a bit of acting and class in to this the film is already dead. Cassandra’s Dream is a piss-poor excuse for a tragedy; the biggest example of which is that this is what Allen’s career had come to.
S.W.A.T. – a drug kingpin offers $100M to anyone that will bust him out of prison; a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team is assigned to make sure he checks in to the big house. Most evidently, this bad boy has every single cop film cliché you could find in the ‘big book of cop film clichés‘. The unit’s best hot-shot is a maverick that gets results, but he’s bounced off the team (because of his ill-tempered partner) by pencil pushers; another wildcard officer sees potential and puts both their careers on the line reinstating him – would you like some more platitude sauce with your hackneyed sammich sir? Not content with having a copy/paste story, every sloppy racial / cultural / actor stereotype is also present; Samuel L. is very angry-with-attitude, Renner has a short fuse, macho man Michelle Rodriguez pops up in her white vest, everything’s too familiar, right down to the ‘uncool vegan loser’ and ‘big fat black mama’ that shouts “mmmmmmmm hhhmmmmmmm”. The action is big, loud and decent, if a little ridiculous – like a Die Hard / Michael Bay movie. It’s all so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly be anything other than a cheesy, tongue in cheek satire of the genre? Surprisingly enough, despite not having an ounce of originality, S.W.A.T. is super-strength, all too watchable, well-executed, cheese-tastic, guilty pleasure action material.
Horrible Bosses: three friends are having major issues at work and decide it would be best if their bosses weren’t around any more… so they hire a ‘murder consultant’. The three bosses (Spacey, Aniston, Farrell) are all well cast and solid comedy characters. The three goons pull off the comedy of errors pretty well; albeit in a Hollywood shouty fashion, especially the little guy. However, it’s Jamie Foxx in the cameo role that and outshines and outfunnies everyone else put together with immaculate comedy timing. Worth noting that Aniston looks amazing, and gets to say some unbelievably filthy lines – ‘I fingered myself so hard I broke a nail’ – for the guys, this has been a looooong time coming! The majority of the jokes are consistent, and pretty funny, although mostly lowbrow crude/sex orientated – which is a shame as it had massive black comedy potential. It’s also well shot and has the advantage of being one of those films that everyone can relate to – who hasn’t had a boss that was a Psycho, Maneater or Tool at some point?! Horrible bosses is far better than it looks, and a contender with Bridesmaids for Comedy of the year.
The Way Back: book-to-film epic about a group of escaped convicts and their unbelievable journey – a 4,000 mile walk from a Siberian Gulag prison to safety in India. The biggest selling point is the fantastic cast, and nobody drops the ball here. Farrell‘s great as the tough inmate and Harris is superb as Mr Smith the American – Ronan as the girl and Sturgess as the lead are also enjoyable to watch. Furthermore, for having such a variation of accents there’s only one real lapse! In saying the above, the characters and drama are both pretty much by-the-numbers. Because of the scale of the journey the film’s quite long (133 mins) and the decision to railroad the entire Himalayan trek through in a few minutes of montage equally saved the film from being ridiculously long, but deducts from the size of that task (having spent the best part of an hour in Siberia and an hour in the desert). It also does particularly well to avoid laying it on thick with cheesy human adversity, resulting in a successful balancing act between a Historical Epic and keeping it firmly on the ground – there’s nothing glamorous about this journey. Watching the characters come out of their shell and bond throughout journey, coupled with the survival techniques makes for inspired viewing and saves this from being just lots and lots of boring walking. The Way Back reminded me of old-fashioned adventure films, pitting tiny humans against landscapes so monumental and beautiful, yet brutal. Seeing such stunning scenery, photographed this well is just begging for a great Blu Ray release. You know what you’re getting with this, and with the opening title letting you know how many people survive the trip; emphasis isn’t on the destination, but how you get there.
London Boulevard: the story of an ex-con fresh out of a stretch in the joint, determined to go straight, and avoid the trap of falling back into London’s underbelly. This has two too many stories playing out, in separate dedicated chunks, that never really come together: we’ve got Farrell and Knightley’s relationship, the gangster aspect, beggar’s retribution and sister saviour – any of which could be the main plot of a normal film and would have made a solid story – rather than being side-stories all competing for prominence. As the locations flip between the streets of London and a country manor you realise that this is an outsider’s rose-tinted view. On the upside, it’s rather well shot and the acting’s pretty good: David Thewlis is indisputably the most watchable (and has the best lines, including “if it weren’t for Monica Bellucci she’d be the most raped actress in European cinema” quote of 2010 for me). Farrell‘s also pretty decent – despite regressing into a South African accent now and again. Ray Winsone‘s growing a bit tiresome, and needs to branch out or give it up – he plays the same character, with the same lines (just changing the names) in pretty much every film – the likability factor isn’t helped when these characters are outrageously racist. The final product is a Guy Ritchie imitation, but with less flare, less interesting characters and too many strands. Other than the memorable ending, the rest of London Boulevard is passable at best.