Grindhouse: Death Proof. A washed up stuntman stalks and hunts sexy wimin’ in his ‘death proof’ stunt car. Part of the ‘Grindhouse’ double feature; this is given the ‘aged movie reel’ treatment – with tons of deliberately rough editing, cutting, lo-fi mono audio, scratched film, bad ADR, black/white… to make it feel like you’re watching a 70s film. It gets confusing however when people have mobile phones, and talk about CGI and Red Bull… Also, for whatever reason, this isn’t carried on through the second half of the film – making it seem even more gimmicky than it first appears. It’s ridiculously sweary – even by Tarantino standards – and boasts more leg and bum shots than a Michael Bay outing. The pacing is all over the shop – waiting 50 mins to first Final Destination style deaths, and spending most of the runtime listening to women gossiping and referencing niche pop culture in various cars and bars. For the most part, it’s not really gripping, but the action finale saves the day as stuntwoman Zoe Bell perilously navigates the bonnet of a speeding muscle car with no tricks. Despite only being in a handful of scenes Kurt Russel steals the show as an old-skool senseless maniac. Although Death Proof is a bit of a mess it remains watchable because of Tarantino’s quirks, dialogue, and the fact that you’re never really sure what’s coming up next. Definitely not his finest hour.
Trance: when an art heist goes wrong the only auctioneer who knows where a valuable painting is can’t remember what he did with it. Purposely or not, this is a fragmented mess of a film: it’s hard to know exactly what is past, present, hypnosis, and visions – making it frustrating to follow at times. The twist-o-rama finale in particular is both super-smart and hyper-ridiculous. If it’s one thing though, Trance is visually sumptuous; some parts feel like a technical demo reel – full of impressive techniques, colouring, imagery, and most scenes have some form of reflection / symmetry. Yet, no matter how much Boyle tarts this up, it still manages to feel like a TV drama for the most part; lots of talking, small locations, tight cast etc. There’s also a really, really, strange ‘hairy bush’ Vs ‘shaved pubes’ sub-plot. Trance is part cutting-edge super-styalised directorial flare, and part humdrum, but the shattered timeline and ambiguity of what you’re watching make it very hard to tune in to. I imagine this plays better with a 2nd viewing.
Standard night out for us Scottish people…
Welcome to the Jungle (AKA The Rundown): a bounty hunter (“retrieval expert”) is pulled out of retirement for one last job, but gets draggedinto a treasure hunt in the amazon. OMG WTF Arnie one-line Cameo – within the first 90 seconds!?!?!? So this film’s got a half-decent cast: Christopher Walken (obviously totally broke) , Sean William-Scott (Stiffler forever), and Dwayne (Always The Rock) Johnson – when he was a potentially decent action hero. The story’s fairly average, the script has some great jokes (but plenty of stinkers too), and it has the biggest ‘fall down a hill’ since Hot Rod. The film bounces along, never really knowing whether to be funny or serious – but remains fairly entertaining for the duration. The best bits that perked it up are the action scenes – there’s a few sweet fights, some clever wire-work, and other frenetic/lively moments like the boulder dash – if there’s a star to be found in this one, it’s probably the fight coordinator, Andy Cheng. Welcome to the Jungle is equally enjoyable and predictable – although at least you know what you’re getting!
Seven Pounds: (Blu Ray) can’t mention any aspect of the story without giving it away, but this is essentially ‘The Will Smith Experience’ as he plays a stern, distant and socially awkward man with a questionable past. This film stews for far too long, not revealing any of the story for the first hour, starts making sense at the 1:30 mark and the penny finally drops at 1:45. For me this is far too long to rely on a single revelation, and will leave some viewers feeling short-changed or completely zoned out. The 5.1 mix is faint but atmospheric although the picture’s pretty colourless and a lot of the shots are deliberately unclear so this isn’t worth getting on BD, unless you really like Will Smith’s hair. Because they get so little screen time the supporting cast feel like a bunch of necessary extras. Not a lot else to say really, underwhelming.