Argo: one of the CIA’s clandestine experts creates a ‘real’ fake movie as the perfect cover-up to bring home 6 diplomats stuck behind enemy lines. The most obvious thing about Argo is the phenomenally chosen cast, particularly from the TV sphere; people representing Braking Bad, 24, The Good Wife, etc – everyone is on great form, doing their parts for the movie. Arkin and Goodman in particular get many great lines, which helps maintain the delicate balance between the drama & peril, and a tongue-in-cheek – almost knockabout – look at Hollywood in the early 80s (with a loving streak of appreciation for Sci-Fi B-movies). On that note, the immaculate, uncompromising, period detail adds an unusually thick layer of authenticity to the story. The film’s book-ended by some ridiculously tense, well-directed, moments of a siege and the final throes of an escape. There are a few minor issues; it feels a little longer than it needed to be, some of the drama comes from contrived methods (like the old “run that through the system again” trick); also, although it’s not a ‘political’ film per se – but it reeks of AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!! Bottom line, Argo is a solid, balanced (if somewhat over-dramatised), political/historical thriller, held together by a superb cast. It also looks like Ben Affleck is fast becoming one of the best Actor’s Directors around.
Party Down (Season 2): Henry, Ron, Casey, Kyle, and Roman are still working L.A’s weird and wonderful functions, along with new team member Lydia. The episodes are more of the same, but a lot slicker, more refined, more outrageous scenarios, more product placement snuck in, and more great comedy cameos. The characters all feel more defined and rounded, and the writing in general is a lot better as the episodes aren’t as self-contained. Everything’s generally improved, except for one small aspect… it’s not quite as funny, with only a couple of big laughs per episode. The main reason appears to be that Season 1 was based on observational/awkward comedy moments, whereas this feels far more like a straight-up sit-com with elaborate and more ridiculous functions to cater for. Worse still, the writers criminally dropped Henry’s fantastically awkward catchphrase “Are we having fun yet?!”, which was by far the best source of cringe-inducing laughs in S1. Roman and his associated ‘Hard Sci-Fi’ get a lot more mentions – even a whole episode – which appealed to me. Season two of Party Down is still very good TV; it’s smart and funny, but easy to watch and good for dipping in and out of, the only downside is that it feels a tad over-written, and all of the rough/raw edges have been taken off. Still, can’t deny that it’s a great sit-com.
Looper: when time-travel is invented the mafia use it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen called ‘Loopers’. The first 30 minutes of Looper is a stunning, high-concept, fast-paced, interesting sci-fi/physics thriller; last 15 minutes is an action-packed, satisfying finale; the problem lies in the middle hour, which is a bog-standard – stretched-out – farmyard drama, where any notion of sci-fi takes a back seat. The future is sensibly crafted, rooted in today’s world but with more decay/poverty – the setting, technology and small details are great at fleshing out the era. Not unlike Brick, there’s a bit of a retro/Noir vibe running through the props, locations, names etc. JGL absolutely steals the show, not only with a solid performance, but by convincingly echoing the mannerisms of a young Bruce Willis – even if the make-up looked way more like Buster Keaton. For a while, I thought that Looper was going to out-do Primer, but it went off-track for far too long. There’s no arguing that there’s a great concept at the heart of the movie, however it feels like the balance between sci-fi and drama had been made less even in order to widen the film’s appeal. Would have been an unbeatable 80/90-minute hard sci-fi film, but at 2 hours it feels unnecessarily long.
Pandorum: pseudo-psychological space thriller about humans re-populating an earth-like planet. It’s essentially half Alien and half Sunshine. The shaky-cam turns all of the promising action scenes into a blurry mess, and all the ‘scary’ moments were just really cheap, and loud, jumps. A lot of the events are a bit convenient, but the technology’s believable and there’s some space-cleavage thrown in for the lads. The ending felt a bit rushed, rubbish and pretty predictable. Middle of the road space flick that offers up nothing new.