Bridge of Spies: an all-American lawyer must represent a Soviet spy in court; then broker a deal in Berlin to trade him for a captured American pilot. This movie has got crazy ‘Mad Men’ levels of period nostalgia, so much so that it feels deliberately aimed at older generations: bowler hats, vintage suits, cars, produce, umbrellas, briefcases, Nescafe – all from the good old days when you at least knew who your enemy was (Ivan the Russki, obviously). Everyman Hanks is on everyman form but, as the award shows have reflected, Rylance completely steals the film – even with his best Mrs Doubtfire accent – and they have some cracking scenes together. It’s also funnier, and more upbeat that you’d expect, although not all laughs hit the mark (like the huge hotel breakfast). With Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, Tom Hanks & Mark Rylance starring, and a remarkable supporting cast… the biggest disappointment is that it’s not a ‘great’ movie. Other than the ‘old-timey‘ orchestrated score, you’d hardly even know you were watching a Spielberg film; the drama and emotions are kept at arm’s length, and it could have done with a bit more drama or tension – like not knowing if the accused was or wasn’t a spy from the first scene. It also feels fragmented; not just in that the it’s two separate stories; but it’s part legal drama, part cold war, part family, part political… Overall, it feels like less than the sum of its parts, but as you’d expect, a ‘satisfactory’ Spielberg movie is as good as most people on form. Bridge of Spies is two interesting Cold War tales, told in a very matter-of-fact, flat and peril/drama-free manner – that fails to suck you in to the story.
Captain Phillips (Mild Spoilers): the Maersk Alamaba cargo ship gets hijacked by four AK-47 wielding Somali pirates whilst navigating ‘round the dangerous ‘Horn of Africa’. I can never tell if Tom Hanks is really good, or really samey (in the same way that Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise) – although the only dodgy part of this performance was his accent. Unfortunately the film peaks too early, in the nerve-shredding boat boarding set piece, which even the big finale doesn’t live up to. Like most films at the moment, it’s a little flabbier than it needed to be, out-staying its welcome, with a hyper-extended finale in the cramped lifeboat, in which Greengrass slowly loses his grip on the audience. Also, if you know anything about legendary sniper shots, you’ll know how the film ends before you step in to the cinema, which is a bummer! All-in-all, a solid film – but note quite Oscar worthy.
Toy Story 3: (3D) Follows the usual suspects on another adventure as their beloved owner Andy grows up and heads for college. Because main cast were developed so well in the first two films TS3 is more about the storyline, which isn’t anything new as we’ve seen the whole “adventures in the big wide world” (done better) twice before. It’s also unexpectedly far, far darker than the first two, with 100% more doom & death scenes – and characters, like the unsettling Big Baby. Although dark themes are brought up the universal ones like rejection, growing up, friendship, loss, old vs new etc are all still present and keep the film’s appeal very broad. Where TS3 stands out is that it really tugs on the ol’ heartstrings; I cried happy tears at Buzz’s change and Mr Tortilla head, yet was close to sad tears several times. Newman’s score is terribly safe, but the way it manipulates your feelings is nothing short of amazing. Although it’s easy to take for granted in Pixar films you can’t overlook the broad array of such well-drawn characters (in both sense) backed with superb voice-acting performances – Mr Pricklepants, voiced by Timothy Dalton, was the standout for me – but everyone is great. The 3D element was outstanding – unlike most films that have a flat background and several objects ‘popping out’ TS3-3D shows full-natural depth to give the impression that you are really watching the action. When Toy Story debuted (in 1995!) as the first full-length CGI movie nobody could have predicted that it would have such an enormous influence on cinema & animation, and kick off one of the best trilogies ever – say what you want, but the Toy Story series stands up to everything else out there. It’s a great way to cap off the tale of a bunch of random plastic toys that have captured the imaginations of children and adults alike.
Note: The token Pixar short ‘Day & Night’ was rubbish!
The Simpsons Movie: one of the more successful sitcom-come-movie attempts in recent history, this feature-holds itself well for the duration. This movie is to the Simpsons, what Bigger, Longer, Uncut was to South Park in that almost all of the regulars show up at some point and it’s a lot more ‘adult’ than the TV episodes, as well as more of the things that make you love the shorter episodes. Going above and beyond a standard episode, this is packed full with cultural references, movie homages and celebrity appearances. Although the environment and religion crop up throughout, neither theme is dominating. Overall this is a well-made, good-looking, comedy film that ends too soon!