Rudderless: after his son dies in a school shooting a grieving father finds his musical demos; learns them, plays them live and inadvertently ends up in a band that’s becoming successful. It’s all about the music, kind of like that film Once, but doesn’t suck hairy Irish balls. The musical aspect of this is solid; with believable songs and a good portrayal of gigging, jamming, the minutia of band life etc. The plotline is also an interesting take on taboo/sensitive material, and runs along nicely – if a little slowly – until the last act where it becomes more of a paint-by numbers affair, as the loose ends get tied up. Performances are top drawer too; Crudup is strong, and pulls you right in to his situation – it helps that he can play guitar and sang. Fishbourne steals all his scenes, and it’s clever casting Selena Gomez in despite being in 2 just scenes. Some would probably point out that the characters are thin, but it feels deliberate, in order to force the audience’s interest – enough subtle hints are laid out in the script for you to piece things together, and only key elements are eventually explicitly mentioned in the dialogue. The only major thing that bugged me was the continuous non diegetic music trying to manipulate you in to feeling what William H Macy wants as each scene plays out. As far as directorial debuts are concerned, WHM couldn’t have done much better; an interesting and compelling story, well acted, shot and edited – but was just a little too low-key / indie / shoe-gazing to fully enthrall.
Hangover Part III (aka The Hangover 3): The wolfpack are reunited (again), and end up going on a road trip that takes a wrong turn (again). For what started out as a really good original film, this series has taken a rapid nosedive into sub-mediocrity. It doesn’t feel like a ‘Hangover’ movie: there’s no blackout, no fun, no shocks, no unorthodox situations, no Mike Tyson – the only attempt to tie it in is some forced nostalgia; inserting shots from previous films. The cast are OK, but all look like they’d all rather be elsewhere – and the rent-a-John–Goodman cameo is such uninspired casting. I don’t understand how someone managed to spend $103M on a film with no real stunts, or heavy CGI. The first film worked because it was equally shocking and funny, the second film was OK because it was mostly shocking; this one feels empty in both tanks – timid story, and simply not funny enough to be a comedy. Ken Jong does something ridiculous; Zach Galifianakis says something silly/inappropriate; Ed Helms screams in bemusement; and Bradley Cooper stands around looking broody – repeat x100. Sadly, this feels more like a bunch of contractual obligations than a film.
Hangover Review (7.5/10)
Hangover Part II Review (6.5/10)
The Man with the Iron Fists: loads of warring factions descend upon ‘Jungle Village’ to snatch up some government gold. It could have just been the version I saw but parts of this looked re-dubbed and deliberately out of synch, with illegible subtitles barely peeking up from bottom? While that’s cute, all of the fancy tricks and money can’t re-create the cheese and charm of a low-budget kung-fu flick. Highlights of this film are the absolutely awesome wire-work, fight choreography, and ultra-gore – there’s more throat rips than MacGruber. There’s also a pretty good cast, with some familiar faces; Bond Baddie, Pai Mei encore, and Russel Crowe (‘Jack Knife’ – LOL!) clearly just there to molest hot-chicks – which will make you nauseous. RZA – a Badass black blacksmith with a penchant for Assassin’s Creed clothing and Jax from Mortal Kombat forearms – was alright, deliberately kept his bit to a minimum, which was a wise choice for a non-actor. The film looks solid – costumes, sets, backdrops – all make for popping visuals. The story was a little too convoluted and complex for the first-time director – but the wow-cast and action were distracting enough. From an action perspective, The Man with the Iron Fists has some great scenes, but as a ‘film’, it’s quite flimsy and superficial, and feels far like more of a continuation/extension of the running in-jokes that the WuTang clan have long had with olde, badly dubbed Kung Fu films. (See Kung Faux).
The Hangover Part II: Take my review of the first film – change mentions of ‘Vegas to Bangkok and it’s a job well done! Realising that the one-man wolf pack and Leslie Chow (the only two that pull off ‘funny’) were the best things about The Hangover, these two characters get even more screen time and gags than before. Once again, the humour is very Lad / Frat friendly and doesn’t appeal to everyone. Not much else to say other than it’s even more crass and offensive than the first, and seemed to have longer periods where nothing amazingly funny was happening. It’s good, but definitely more of an expansion pack than a new addition. Kudos to the people responsible for taking Hangovers for from a low-budget comedy to the biggest comedy of all time in 2 films!
Sucker Punch: after being checked into the world’s worst foster home Baby Doll must gyrate for her life, and has some super-crazy dreams to keep her mind off of the job. This is surely the single-biggest attempt to tick every single nerdy niche box: schoolgirls, robots, dragons, ninjas, goblins, WWI, Steampunk, noir, hosiery, vintage undies, pigtails, swords, the future, nazis, girls with guns, manga-influence, lesbian undertones… if geeks like it, it’s in here somewhere! As with previous outings Sucker Punch is very well directed, and a visual orgy-feast. However, this verges into over-direction, and over stylisation, which makes some scenes feel like a music video (with over-emphasised music), and others like a Victoria’s Secret advert (with an over-emphasis of lingerie). The dream sequences in particular look amazing, and are topped off with great fight/action choreography; unfortunately the asylum/caberet aspect gets tedious by the end. Sucker Punch May not be perfect but given the quality of Watchmen and 300 blu rays, I’ll be treating myself to this down the line – despite the pretty bleak colouring. Sucker Punch was a ballsy film to make, but it reasserts that Snyder is to pariah geek culture what Tarantino is to retro-cool.