Prisoners: When two six-year-old children go missing the local detective and one of the parents try to solve this with two completely different methods. This has a great cast, and leads with Jackman and Gyllenhal, who are both in great form; one as an unconventional detective, he other as a pragmatic father with everything to lose. I feel rather sorry for Paul Dano however; he only ever appears to get cast as creepy and/or insane and/or perverted characters. The film’s mood is beautifully crafted: it’s slow, brooding, and intense with lots of sustained anxiety – child abduction is a heavy enough subject, but when you add torture and a potential creepy cult into the mix it’s serious stuff; it reminded me of watching Kill List and feeling suffocated in parts. The city and the suspects are perfectly shot to look grimy, grotty, dilapidated and repulsive. Although it centers on a ‘micro drama’, there are plenty of larger questions and ideas lurking in the background, challenging your viewpoint and making you choose who’s wrong, who’s right, who would you be in this film? Prisoners is a completely gripping and compelling thriller about ordinary people in extreme situation; and while it’s not an ‘enjoyable’ film per sé, it’s completely immersive.
Flight: an alcoholic / coke-addict pilot saves almost everyone on board from certain death, but he can’t avoid the spotlight as the air crash investigation picks up on his habits. This is a great all-round movie: funny when it had to be (Goodman / cancer guy), dramatic at times (relationship / hearing) and for the most part, engaging and entertaining. The crash itself is one of the most intense and dramatic scenes I’ve seen in a cinema; slowly getting louder and shakier and an increasingly high-pitched whaling from the plane; it was like a screw turning tighter and tighter. The only time it felt a bit off were several overly-emphasised parts about religion & faith – act of god, miracles, praying – although I guess it’s more prevalent in America. There were a few nice little in-jokes that almost passed me by: the ShamWow tv advert, the elevator music version of ‘I’ll get high with a little help from my friends’, and most songs in the soundtrack were about boozing or drug abuse. The cast were stupendously good performances all round, Denzel in particular was on fire – achieving an almost impossible mix of sympathy and resentability – and Kelly Reilly (also great) must have had a cleavage-based contract – loved it. All in all, Flight is an entertaining, enjoyable, and very watchable movie with entertaining performances all round.
Olympus Has Fallen: international terrorists have seized a building of importance, are holding the resident workers hostage, and issuing fake demands – meanwhile a wise-cracking, off-duty, security guy is taking them out one-by-one, communicating to a black guy outside. Wait, is that not identical to Die Hard?! Yes! Yes it is – there’s even a scene where a villain meets the hero and pretends to be a good guy – come awn Hollywood. Must. Try. Harder. The initial hostile takeover of the White House is a 15 minute onslaught of bullets, blood, brains, explosions, headshots, slumping bodies, flying limbs, and shaky-cam R-rated mayhem. It feels like an intense level of any FPS war game. Most of the remaining fights/deaths are gory enough to be from a Tarantino flick. The film is also ridiculously patriotic: deliberately baiting the audience by reveling in the Korean’s destruction of the Washington monument, white house, the stars and stripes, and more generally ‘freedom’. Could have saved time by simply having the Koreans piss on a M*A*S*H DVD box set. Most scenes feel like green-screen / GCI, especially when cheap-ass looking gun turrets, helicopters, explosions and the bullet-ridden american flag appear. Despite all of these downfalls the action is big, loud and above average. Butler is entertaining and there’s a lot more laughs than your typical disaster film. Given that the real North Korea are kicking up a fuss at the moment, it’s also far more relevant than the Ruskies / Chinese standard baddies. Overall, Olympus has Fallen is a fairly entertaining Red-invasion B-Movie with A-budget and A-cast, however it also happens to be wrought with scenes, characters and twists you’ve seen a hundred times before.
The Fighter: Hollywood biopic about two half-brother boxers as they each try to make it to the professional level. You can’t mention The Fighter without focusing on the Award-busting cast: Wahlberg’s humble performance is somewhat overlooked with all the ‘big acting’ around him, but he’s at the very top of his game here; Bale and Leo trump the ‘crazy good’ pile with larger than life characters; and if you need a respectable actress that gets down to her knickers there can only be… Amy Adams, duh! It’s technically sweet, the sound is great for a boxing movie and the TV effects on the 1990s fights make it more believable and documentary-esque. What gets you most is the story, and the fact that it’s real; there’s more drama outside the ring and with a cast of explosive, rounded, characters like this my only complaint is that, if anything, there are too many of them – biggest family ever! Because of the territory, there’s definitely an element of running through the sports movie checklist, (“right, that box is ticked, next!”) after every fight, argument or pivotal scene. Although it tugs at the heart-strings with shameless precision through the family story, and despite being over-dramatic at times, The Fighter totally did it for me. Cracking sport’s / boxing film.
Red State: a kidnapping, turns into a hostage situation, which goes south pretty quickly from there. Be warned: this is nothing like anything Kev Smith previously done. For me, Smith films are defined by his ridiculously snappy / witty / unrealistic dialogue – none of those traits were overly abundant, but conversations are still not quite natural. There’s a mumble jumble of social commentary, gunfighting, politics, government handling of situations and blood-splattering gore; none of which were pushed to the front of the film, giving it a bouncy tone and a premise that constantly changes. In saying that, it’s all quite enjoyable and entertaining at the time, but ultimately the cinema equivalent of junk food – it fills a 90 minute void -isn’t too memorable! Cast-wise, Goodman steals every scene, but is closely followed by Park’s ultra-extreme rambling hate Baptist. It reminded me a lot of Burn after Reading in a ‘govt f-up’ way, especially the abrupt wrap-up, although it’s not quite in the same league.