Monday, 28 February 2011

Double Bill Mini-Cine Musings: Stoner aliens and Amber Heard in 3D...

Compared to the comedic writing style of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (which is often intricate and fast paced in terms of call-backs, observations and references), that of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who co-wrote this action/comedy/sci-fi/road movie) isn't so much about intricacies. Rather it's more about a central concept - two British nerds (Pegg & Frost) go on a road trip across America's alien-related sights after their visit to fanboy central (the San Diego Comic-Con), and end up having to escort an alien - named Paul - to a certain site (kudos to those who figure out the loving reference an hour before it occurs) so that he can get home.

Where Paul shines are the characters - from Pegg and Frost's loveable duo of alien-obsessed nerds, to Kristen Wiig's Darwin-denying Creationist (whose entire belief system is exploded in one moment), to a certain sci-fi legend cameo that's damn good fun in the third act. In between it all though, for added enjoyment, are a series of cameos and bit-parts ... and then there's Paul himself, as voiced by Seth Rogen - possibly the most fun-loving alien ever on-screen.

While it may not have the wall-to-wall, frenetically-paced chuckles, guffaws, and gaspers of Shaun of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, it's a movie that can't just be slotted into the comedy genre and left. It's as much a road movie as a comedy, and there's a decent slice of action, and sci-fi, drizzled on top.

It's bloody good fun, and I'm hoping that there'll be an extended cut for the home video release - because by the end of the film I wanted a little bit more of the little character moments and interplay that no doubt had to be left on the cutting room floor for the theatrical release - so we'll have to see what's what, but this is a definite DVD/Blu-Ray purchase no matter what.

Drive Angry 3D:
Using 3D like it's supposed to (shoving guns, baseball bats, skull fragments, and bloody stumps deep into the lens), this romper stomper of a genre flick is good fun from-the-get-go. It's not meant to be deep, so if you were expecting anything remotely like that, then you're a fool - it's clearly about muscle cars, guns, Nic Cage doing his badass thing, and Amber Heard in Daisy Dukes ... in 3D.

Speaking of which, even though the 3D is a bit of fun, I'm really starting to lose interest in it. It's not just the bloody glasses you have to wear, nor is it just the damned cheek of charging a considerable slab more on your ticket for 3D, but it's just how damn-near-pointless 3D is. If a movie is shit, it's shit, be it in 3D or not, and vice versa. 3D isn't necessary to tell a story either, far from it, so it becomes either unimportant or a gimmick - and neither path is going to mean it properly taking off.

Moving on though, Drive Angry 3D was - at times - a little disappointing. William Fichtner's "The Accountant" is a thoroughly entertaining baddie, but there needed to be more of him throughout, meanwhile all the Satanic Cult stuff wasn't as developed (and therefore not as interesting) as it could have been, so that all became a case of generic bad guy cannon fodder for the third act. What does work are the exploitation elements - the cars, the sex, the violence, and the black humour.

Compared to Lussier & Farmer's previous 3D outing (the underwhelming remake of My Bloody Valentine, also in 3D and also featuring genre icon Tom Atkins), this is a decided step up in all respects ... it's just a shame that the pacing and plotting faltered throughout, and that some of the dialogue seemed lazy ("I'm going to kill you" - intentionally ironic in its simplicity or not, such lines came off as damp squibs when the audience was all expecting a much more creative kiss-off).

The flick would at times have a real sense of purpose propelling it forward, but then it would inexplicably lose it from time-to-time throughout (times when I'd be waiting for Fichtner's scene-stealing Accountant to turn up). Indeed, the aforementioned Satanic Cult was the most undercooked element of the script, lead by a one-note bad guy, who was entirely trumped by, yep, Fichtner's grin-inducing Accountant-from-Hell.

So it's a mixed bag, but ultimately it gets a thumbs up from me because - several scripting and pacing faults aside - it's just a bloody good time. It is called Drive Angry after all, and features sexy cars, sexy chicks, badass dudes and pounding jolts of violence ... in full-on gimmick-driven 3D.

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