Prometheus: a team of crack scientists travel to a distant planet to discover humanity’s beginnings, however, what they find could finish us all off! The opening aerial shots of breathetaking, sweeping landscapes are geography porn, it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the entrance fee alone. The rest of the film looks just as great, with sumptuous visuals, well-designed costumes & sets, and totally seamless impressive CGI. To match this, the acting roster’s impressive, although it’s absolutely owned by Fassbender‘s portrayal of David the android; he’s efficient, calculating, and believably robotic – surprisingly, he’s also by far the most interesting character, and the film’s biggest driving force. Charlize Theron’s role disappointingly amounts to nothing more than “hottie in a cat suit”. Frustraitingly, the film spends most of the runtime raising, contemplating and flirting with massive questions & themes – religion, evolution, why are we here, meeting our makers… – It’s just a shame that it spends next to no time resolving or answering any. As for being an Alien prequel, it feels intentionally distanced, with not much more than a fleeting post-script that is clunkily added-on. All in, I think Ridley’s hoping that the big loud grand spectacle will serve as a distraction from the fact that the story is neither strong, nor particularly original – which is epitomised best in Fassbender’s time in the fancy, flashy galaxy simulator thingmy-bob.
Lockout: a wrongly convicted man is made to enter a maximum security prison, mid-riot, in space, and rescue the president’s daughter, thus winning a pardon. No, it doesn’t feature Snake Plissken, but bulked up Guy Pearce‘s supercop ‘Snow’ gives the character a good run for his money; he entertains and kicks ass in equal measures, and despite clearly having fun, he’s well above and beyond what is required in an action film this silly. It’s not just Pearce, as the two main baddies in Vincent Regain and Joseph Gilgun (despite the terrible Scottish accents) are a proper Dastardly and Muttley duo, both watchable yet nasty. Other than being set in space this has every other cliché in the action/cop genre; It’s physics-defying dumbness is laughable; it’s needlessly bookended by a boring & unnecessary briefcase / conspiracy side-story; and some really good action scenes are let down by a couple of ultra-cheap, poorly handled bouts of big, fast, loud, fuzzy CGI that are nothing but disorienting. Despite these snags, EuropaCorp delivers another film that punches way above its weight for a $20M sci-fi action picture. While it’s pretty much Escape from New York in space, Lockout is every bit as action-packed and blockbusterly satisfying as it looks, with a surprisingly entertaining cast, decent director, and a few good laughs along the way. I liked it, and oddly enough, so did my lady.
Animal Kingdom: Mid-budget Australian crime film focuses on one family and their ongoing struggle against the Melbourne police department. Probably more at home on TV than the big screen, there’s a few misfires that lead this high-potential film astray. The single biggest mistake was that it could have been an epic story, but the director forces it down the arthouse route, and it just didn’t work for me. Other faux pas’ were that it focuses on the wrong characters, honing in on the most silent and blank-faced kid; the music was so distracting – terrible psychological synths turned up to 11 that ironically drown out any ambience; moreover, it’s to bleak, grim and nihilistic – making it a difficult story to watch. What saved this from obscurity was the fantastic cast, some of whom you completely invest in: the mother and eldest son are two of the most heinous characters you’ll see this year and you even end up rooting for the wayward brothers; although he’s good, the main actor is one of the weakest in the film. Fiercely over-hyped, and at almost two hours, Animal Kingdom is dragged out at a pace that cripples the movie and really fails to engage. While it’s not in the same league as Romper Stomper and Chopper it will have the same effect in bumping much of the little known actors up to a bigger stage.
The King’s Speech: after becoming King by default George VI must overcome a vicious stammer and his fear of public speaking. I was really looking forward to writing up an “It’s not perfect” review, but read Colin’s one at (Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix) covers all my points and reads better too – I feel redundant! Anyway, here goes… I can’t believe all the hype is focused on Firth when Rush absolutely blows him – and everyone else – out the water; his performance is criminally overlooked and under-publicised. Not to take anything away from Colin however, as he was still really good. Guy Pearce on the other hand easily walks away with worst actor in this picture. For such a grand, big film it seemed to lack a cinematic feel, landing in big budget TV territory for me (Hooper is a TV director after all). It was surprisingly funny given the somewhat mundane subject matter too. My biggest gripe was that this is 100% unashamedly Oscar bait, what with someone overcoming an affliction, an unlikely friendship, fly on the wall Royalty insight, and being an Historic piece… It’s a good film, but everything is way too safe and it plays to the crowd a little bit too much.
Traitor: An Ex U.S. Military bomb expert gets entangled with some Islamic radicals and ends up in a terror plot. I hadn’t even heard of this as it probably got swamped under by the glut of newfangled middle-eastern war & drama flicks. This begins in Yemen and the first 30 minutes is dedicated to unraveling the enigmatic main character – pretty much the crux of the whole film. After a short ‘Arabs in Jail’ section the pot focuses on acts of terrorism in France and America. Other than some heightened drama towards the end the film juggles the old civil liberties Vs greater good dilemma, what it is to be a Muslim following the Qur’an today, and painting an accurate picture of terrorist activities in the Western world. Don Cheadle holds his own well as the only main but really just has to look solemn or the most part. Guy Pearce could have been anyone, playing the stereotypical “hot on the heels” cop. Ditto Jeff Daniels in his role. The film looks pretty good and has a few memorable scenes but just doesn’t really grab you; how do you connect with a guy who’s BFF is an extremist and is plotting to kill innocent people? Hyper topical terrorist thriller that you should only check out if you like this type of film.
The Proposition: would have been far more watchable if there wasn’t so much violence and gore in your face throughout the entire film. Don’t get me wrong, I like my action, but this is a bit much. The story’s simple and had potential to be powerful, but was drawn out and poorly executed. There were no lasting rivalries, little suspense, no shoot-em-up scenes and no deep characters… basically, no staple Western ingredients! Definitely failed to make the most of the superstar cast, Ray Winstone in particular seemed to think he was playing a gangster. Gets a lot of hype because of the hardcore Nick Cave following, but surely such an acclaimed musician should have nailed a better soundtrack! It looks good, and is atmospheric, but if you like westerns you’ll have seen the story before, just never told this poorly, and with so many boring soliloquies.