Real Steel: in the near future professional boxers have been replaced by robots; this film follows the highs and lows of a struggling ex-boxer in this new era, and relationship with his estranged son. I’ll put it out there straight away – I loved Real Steel. Something else to note up front is that Virgin, HP, Ray Ban, Dr Pepper, Bing, X-Box 720, Wired, Sprint, Budweiser, Beats By Dre & ESPN logos (to name but a few) are shamelessly crowbarred into centre frame at every opportunity. Back to the film, there’s an equally shameless cheese-rammed story of sporting underdogs, and runaway dads, that’s quite predictable but surprisingly well-played. The action is absolutely fantastic – jaw-droppingly impressive CGI helps – especially for the fights, which are amazing to watch. More generally, the film is brilliantly shot and photographed. Jackman’s on good form, and the kid’s not too annoying – all other characters are tertiary stereotypes, like the Russian billionaire and advanced Japanese tech nerds, but they make for great baddies and push a subtle all-American vibe that’s rarely seen at the moment. It’d be easy to dismiss this as ‘Rocky with Robots’, but Real Steel landed every single punch on me; it’s such a boys film, with a classic comeback story, training montages, cool gadgets, big action, robots hitting each other, manliness, and plenty (albeit mostly unintentional) laughs. This is what big-budget movies are all about for me – story, spectacle and entertainment. It’s the most fun I’ve had in the cinema all year, can’t wait for the sequel.
Score: 8.5 /10
Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps: 20 or so years after the first Wall Street film Gordon Gekko is released from jail and tries to warn everyone about the upcoming 2008 crash, while making amends with his estranged daughter. First off, it’s painfully ironic how a movie explaining that consumerism and greed caused the recession could be used to advertise so many brands. Only an absolute tool could sit through this and not realise that they paid good money to watch a +2 hour advert; with the most shameless product placement since iRobot – Heineken, Ducatti, Lays, Y3, iPhone, Borders, Macs, 5-hour Energy are in-your-face for the duration, peaking with a 30-second montage of Bulgari jewelry – for real. Pretty much every character is an under-developed stereotype: greedy-corrupt-cigar-smoking-over-bonused-bankers, quirky-left-leaning-liberal, mad-scientist-with-a-vision… what’s worst is that nobody’s particularly likable – not even Gordon Gheko. Add to this the fact that nobody’s in any real danger, and that it’s impossible to relate to (let alone feel sorry for) a bunch city bankers and you end up with an unengaging movie. There’s more – it’s about 40 minutes too long and twice as wordy as it needed to be; crammed with semi confusing high-finance terminology – but even that couldn’t mask how shallow the film was. The rotten cherry on this shit-flavoured cake was the loud and bland indie soundtrack. I’ve never seen the first one, and unless anyone can convince me otherwise I never will after seeing this. Overall the film’s as empty as LaBeouf’s screen presence – money may not sleep, but I almost did; twice.