Swiss Army Man: a marooned man befriends a washed-up corpse, who turns out to be very useful for getting them back home in one piece. Both leads are very strong; Radcliffe turns in a superb physical performance paired with equally strong deadpan comic delivery. Paul Dano is also great to watch, but feels more like he’s cruising in his typecast weirdo role. Together, they have undeniably fun ‘bromance’ chemistry that really elevates the film. Tonally, “eclectic” doesn’t do this film justice: it’s creepy, uplifting, strange, beautiful, depressing, funny, weird, innocent, unique, entertaining, and batshit crazy – all at the same time. It shifts and shimmies between all of its quirky ideas so quickly that it stops you even thinking about how and why all of the surreal things are able to happen. It like the kind weird films you’d have expected to come out of Japan in the early 2000s, and most resembles cinematic oddities like Rubber, Happiness of the Katakuris, and a little bit of Be Kind Rewind. It feels like the filmmakers were really wanted to bring up some observations about our modern values and way of living… but because of all the farting, trouser compassing, and fart-based jet skiing & flying the film ends up avoiding any deep or meaningful insights altogether, coming across as superficial a ‘pop philosophy 101’ class. Swiss Army Man is truly a film like no other, and one which defies categorization; and it really does need to be seen to be believed… however, it does feel more like a collection of individually ‘cool’ ideas, jokes, and moments that would be better suited to a barnstorming music video, or more focused, upbeat, and magical short film.
Filth: a detective gunning for promotion is also heading for a breakdown, but how long can he keep his many plates spinning? This is the latest movie adaptation of an Irvine Welsh book, and feels like it’s going for a “Trainspotting for the teenies” angle. It would be silly to complain about the content of a film called Filth, but in case you need a heads-up: it’s crammed with deviant sex & sexuality, drug use, violence, and oodles of fantastically creative swearing, amongst other things. The over-emphasis of the of the craziness going on in Bruce’s mind – hallucinations, binges, sex, porn – don’t really detract from the story, because Bruce’s nose-candy nose-dive IS the story. Despite all the headline-grabbing controversial content crammed into this, the main talking point is undoubtedly James McAvoy’s performance; in an era where leading men no longer required to be likeable or even remotely empathetic, he works wonders with the few tiny slivers of humanity he gets. My biggest concern of the picture however is it’s extremely unflattering – and wholly unrealistic – take on Scotland and it’s culture: if it’s not films about the Loch Ness Monster, it’s about the druggies of Trainspotting, Red Road, NEDS, and now Filth – the Scottish tourist board must really hate our film industry.
The Front Line (a.k.a. Battle of Highlands): a lieutenant is sent to the front line to investigate potential betrayal and espionage among the South Korean army. The main plot point is as compelling as you could ask for in a War film: North and South Korea sacrificing over 50,000 soldiers to continually fight over one ‘strategic’ hill that would shape the border when the country is divided – control of the hill flipped between North/South over 30 times during the Korean War, it’s unbelievable. Interestingly, it’s politically neutral – there’s no ‘bad guys’ as both sides are painted as simply following the mad orders from above. The battle scenes are scarily realistic and intense, peaking in a brutal, heartbreaking, final 25 minutes, as the story takes one last turn. The performances are solid, soldiers come across as realistic & human, and are developed enough that you care about them – there’s more emotion than most war movies, although there are points where it’s tipped into manipulative melodrama. This also helps the impact of the toll of war on these guys; shell shock / injuries / senseless violence / limb-loss. The side-story about the box used to swap supplies is also a nice touch. There’s not much colour in the movie, grey, greens and white snow are about as bright as it gets, and there’s a hammy song repeated several times, but they’re minor complaints.The Front Line delivers everything required of a war picture, and can easily stand up there alongside Assembly as the best Asian War films I’ve seen.
District 13: Ultimatum – It’s slightly further away in the near future and something’s still rotten in
Denmark Paris as bent cops, politicians and corrupt gangs continue to take advantage of the everyman! This ups the ante from District 13, opening with a the supercop – in drag – pulling off a 20-minute-long mind-bendingly intricate bust – capturing baddies and fighting his way out of a triad/yakuza heavy restaurant. Everything about the action is bigger, better, harder, faster and more creative than the first film (fight scene with the painting is so cool). I’d also like to point out some of the most hardcore stuntmen I’ve seen in all my years, hat’s of to those guys. Despite bigger stunts, bigger swat teams, bigger explosions and so on, this doesn’t really hit the mark as the socio-political commentary totally smothers the film, and it’s so, so cheesy this time round; especially when all of the rivaling gangs unite to bring down ‘the man‘ – Bleurgh! In saying this, scenes like the +50 Urban ninjas scaling elaborate walls and storming a political embassy are still great to watch. It has some good bits but this really does feel like a sequel for the sake of a sequel – only worth catching for the sensational action sequences.
The Dark Knight: (Blu Ray) Opens up with one of the best bank jobs in history and almost everything going forward is first class; especially the story, enemies, drama and action – it’s all just so epic. Heath Ledger’s absolutely on fire as the anarchist Joker, genuinely looking insane – watching his lips, tongue and ticks should freak anyone out – and he nails the offbeat humour with conviction to spare. Bale continues to make Bruce/Batman believable as the human-turn-superhero. Katie Holmes magically transforms into Maggie Gyllenhaal; no complaints from this reviewer. Eckhart’s great, despite only being able to half-act in the last hour. Lt. Gordon wins my ‘Worst husband ever’ award, no contest. Downsides: it’s a tad long and has lots crammed in (the last half hour could have been in a third movie, and a great posthumous send-off to Ledger?), Batman’s voice is ridiculous and Two-Face / Dawes / Scarecrow don’t get nearly enough screen time. The picture’s great with fantastic detail and stunning aerial shots, but once again the bombastic sound dominates the disc – every gunshot, explosion & Batmobile ride rocks you to the bone. The constant thrills and spills topped off with slick visuals and a great cast make The Dark Knight far superior to the strung-out character study of Wayne that was ‘Batman Begins’. With a final movie just being announced I’m drooling at the prospect, although I don’t fancy the chances of it topping this.