The Adjustment Bureau: an aspiring politician accidentally sees behind the curtain of ‘fate’, and how he’s not fully in control of his own destiny, so he tries to re-write the books. This is the first romantic, heavily religious sci-fi thriller I’ve seen in a while… and juggling all those things hurts the film – but that’s only one of the minor problems. The ‘adjustors’ – who are never fully explained – are cringe-inducing. They wear old style clothing (ok), and their special powers are hats that allow them to walk through doors (ookaaaayyyy…..), and their Achilles heel is water (oh.)… Seriously – semi omniscient beings whose kryptonite is the most abundant compound on the planet! As for the other characters, there’s almost no attempt to develop anyone. It also feels like it’s been put together by the NYC tourist board, with no fewer than 10 photogenic locations. As the film went on some of the reveals and explanations were so stupid I was chuckling for minutes at a time. Emily Blunt’s totally watchable, but did I really just see Matt Damon in a big-budget b-movie?? Seriously, what’s he doing here? The final product is a totally ludicrous and non-sensical film; but you get the feeling that everyone involved knew that. It’s ultimately harmless, but totally stupid.
The Tourist: an American tourist has a bad case of mistaken identity when the police and Russian gangsters believe he’s a wanted criminal. Step back for a second and consider the following: biggest actress in Hollywood; biggest actor in Hollywood; Oscar-winning director; writer of Usual Suspects; re-make of an interesting French film; and Timothy Dalton! On paper this is cinematic gold, however, on celluloid, it’s so far off the mark. To call the casting of the mains ‘stale’ would be an insult to the word – Jolie plays a seductive siren (good English accent though!) and Depp is an eyebrow-wagging bumbling idiot. Both appear to turn up, force themselves through the motions, then laugh to the bank. What’s worse is that the stronger supporting cast all share a handful of short scenes. The slow-paced story uncomfortably meanders towards an unsurprising finale – that doesn’t make any sense in hindsight. Not unlike The American, this is more of a throwback to the classic thriller films (than their trailers would suggest), but where Clooney actually acts the part, a vacant Jolie just stares on as the lens slowly zooms in on high-fashion clad arse, legs and neck – a big indicator of how weak everything else about the film is. On the plus side it’s efficiently shot, classically lit and what you see of Venice looks nice. The final product is OK, and just watchable but if you want to see Jolie frolic with some Russians and a few plot twists, Salt was far better.
Seven Pounds: (Blu Ray) can’t mention any aspect of the story without giving it away, but this is essentially ‘The Will Smith Experience’ as he plays a stern, distant and socially awkward man with a questionable past. This film stews for far too long, not revealing any of the story for the first hour, starts making sense at the 1:30 mark and the penny finally drops at 1:45. For me this is far too long to rely on a single revelation, and will leave some viewers feeling short-changed or completely zoned out. The 5.1 mix is faint but atmospheric although the picture’s pretty colourless and a lot of the shots are deliberately unclear so this isn’t worth getting on BD, unless you really like Will Smith’s hair. Because they get so little screen time the supporting cast feel like a bunch of necessary extras. Not a lot else to say really, underwhelming.
(500) Days of Summer: follows a ‘complex’ relationship from the guys point of view. Everything about this was so indisputably ‘cool’ and left field – the characters, their dress sense, jobs, music tastes, soundtrack, visuals – that it wore thin very rapidly, pulling the film from quirky to cliched. Because the story’s not told chronologically, most of the good/funny bits are covered early, making the film peter out towards the end. The characters were all quite hollow, which led to some dubious acting; although it worked for Brick’s Noir style, Levitt was pulling some strange faces at times. It’s technically sound, very watchable and had some simple but effective scenes (expectations vs reality shot at the party). There’s a few funnies, although most are old jokes. And what sort of grown up takes genuine life advice from their pre-pubescent sister?! It’s a decent film about an everyday story that tries painfully hard to be much more than that. Too cool for school.
Cloverfield: a digital tape retrieved in Manhattan after a monster attack, played back in it’s entirety; cue mish-mash of relevant footage and soppy backstory. Because it’s all in first-person it throws you right into the action. Only fault I had was that it’s pretty hard work on the eyes, given that the camera’s almost always shaking but the immense 5.1 audio track makes up for this, flexing all main speakers and giving the bass a good workout. The film’s also good at playing on all the big fears: darkness, silence, gore, unknown creatures, terrorism, viruses etc. The special effects – both NY in tatters and the monster itself – are also great, and believable enough in most parts. The performances are alright despite the unknown cast – shaky cam may have masked some of the guff! Overall, this exceeded my expectations, and it could easily compete for the title of ‘best monster movie’ ever. Solid creature feature!
Gomorra: Italian crime film that half follows a young chav, tailor, ‘businessman’, two youths and mid-level gangster – who are all vaguely linked by “the war” (between rival wannabe mafioso gangs). Sounded good, and the trailer made it look like an epic, but it wasn’t the case. Because all the main characters share the screen you never have enough time to connect to them, which makes you feel nothing but indifference. I literally spent the latter half of the film contemplating whether or not to turn it off, and trying to figure when it would all come together – which it never really did. The soundtrack’s crammed with terrible Euro Dance & Pop. This film would have been better if I i) had Italian heritage, ii) was interested in Italian life, iii) wanted to know how not to be a gangster or run a crime ring. Totally underwhelming.