The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, Dean “Hank” Norris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!
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.
Haywire: when an ex-marine – now hitwoman – is framed for murder she has to set the record straight, by going straight to the top of the conspiracy. So it’s not the most original story, but the execution and tone make it stand out from the genre. It’s a stripped down travelogue spy thriller – somewhere between a Bourne film and The American – with a throwback feel, like those old-fashioned spy movies you watched with your grandparents. The action is gripping, particularly the Dublin chases and all hand-to-hand combat fighting. The lead actress (an MMA fighter by trade) works surprisingly well, even though she’s been surrounded by decent actors – as sensible backup – she doesn’t stick out much. There’s an interesting soundtrack with the odd scene having retro spy music, but mostly authentic audio that works very well during fights (grunting / punches / breathing), chases (footsteps / cars / traffic lights)… this pushes the dramatic envelope beyond what you normally get. Not unlike Contagion, Soderbergh has firmly rooted everything reality – I also see this as an important breakthrough role for Carano, who I envisage carving out a Statham/Dwane action niche. Continuously credible, and intense for the most part, Haywire is as good as it can be with the knowingly limiting story, and is as honest and believable a spy thriller as you’ll ever see.
Inglourious Basterds: (Blu Ray) Not really much of a re-make after all. Straight off the bat the first 20 minutes are among the immense, intense and electric in memory. As the film continues there’s just so many great sections: Jews in hiding, the Jew Bear’s entrance, strudel meal, entire bar scene, cinema premier (Inc. Italian Accents). Cast-wise: Pitt looks ridiculous and uncomfortable, but is still very, very funny again; Stiglitz is great to watch, especially in the bar scene; Fassbender totally outdoes Mike Meyers, who plays a terrible British stereotype, and as for Cristoph Waltz, what can I say that has not already been said… It’s a bingo! He turns an already fantastic script in to comedy and tension of the highest level without even trying – 100% charisma!! The dialogue’s much more focused and natural than any of the previous Tarantino outings. I also applaud the use of foreign actors and dialogue, which most war films don’t usually have, Tarantino has masterfully cast some of the best European talent in a lot of the key roles – and although there are a lot of characters and story threads coming together it’s all managed quite well, with only a couple of minor lapses. The alternative history setting (& ending) is always a strange pill to swallow, but if you roll with it the film still works. The music chosen isn’t his finest to date. The Blu Ray Sound and picture are both fantastic, definitely reference material. While Tarantino may not be every critic’s cup of tea he keeps giving the public exactly what they want. Ballsy & enjoyable WWII action-romp.