Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Amnesia, Spooks, and Gay Conmen...

Cutting to the chase, 'is it like Taken?' ... well, not so much. For one thing, Taken was an 18-rated, hard-hitting Paris-set punch-up with Liam Neeson (as a highly trained weapon) kicking a million shades of the brown stuff out of scumbags behind a sex trafficking ring in a super cool, bone-crunching Euro-thriller.

Unknown, rated 12A, features Liam Neeson as a Bio-Technologist whose identity is stolen and for some reason his wife doesn't recognise who he is. It's not really about rough & tumble, it's more of a espionage-ish low-key, high concept thriller. For the first half the primary focus is on the increasingly loopy story of Neeson's protagonist (you can't help but enjoy his performances), before the second half shifts gear and goes for more in the way of car chases and punch ups ... albeit softer and less frequent affairs when compared to Taken.

Unknown was always going to be compared and considered in the same breath as Taken, but it's a different film (despite certain similarities in appearance), with an entirely different pace and sensibility. Was it great? No, but it was enjoyable enough and generally intriguing, and the third act twist does indeed make up for the mysterious plot that does begin to flag at the tail end of the second act. If you simply must consider it in the same breath as Taken - consider it a Lite Beer version suitable for a wider audience (indeed when we went to see it there was a range of ages of both sexes).

Many years ago, reaching back to when I was 11 years old, if memory serves, BBC1 were about to show Poltergeist and I was fired up to see it. However, my Mum forbid me from watching it for it was deemed to be too scary and grown up. Fast forward a year-or-so, and when around at a friend's house (where we watched the first and third A Nightmare On Elm Street movies), I was shown one stand-out moment (a man, in a horrific vision, tearing his own face off).

Now, 15 years later, I finally got around seeing it - and on BBC1 to boot (although why on earth they insisted on cropping the image from the lovely Original Aspect Ratio of 2.35:1 to 16x9 is beyond me ... so that was bloody annoying as a ratio purist).

Being that Spielberg was behind the story, script and production, it feels every inch a Spielberg movie. What the true story was behind the day-to-day production of the movie (Tobe Hooper is the credited director) remains to be seen, but there's no denying that the tale of an everyday middle American suburban family is the prototypical Spielbergian family unit (aside from lacking an absent/distracted father figure, that is).

Before MGM's financial woes, this flick was scheduled for a remake, and I simply don't know what the point would be. The movie is as close to perfect as it can be, the only thing they could improve upon would be the special effects - but then the FX of today will look relatively quaint by comparison to those in 30 years, so who gives a crap about that? I rather dig the visual effects in this movie.

Indeed the establishment of the family unit's way of life, and the overall pacing of the flick, are pitch-perfect with spot-on timing. Key scenes are directed (by Hooper and/or Spielberg, according to rumours) with precision that render the creepy plot genuinely un-nerving at times (a simple stacking of kitchen chairs off-camera being one particular stand-out chill), and the performances are all decidedly convincing.

Round it all off with one hell of a one-two finale, a subtle sense of humour, and a surprisingly spooky vision (even 30 years on) all prove this to be a true classic. I just hope they don't get around to remaking it ... you can't improve on a Spielberg (and Hooper) classic.

I Love You Philip Morris:
A quirky comedy drama about Jim Carrey (as a gay conman) ending up in jail where he meets the love of his life (Ewan MacGregor), before embarking on a series of fraudulent activities to support a lavish lifestyle, and clever (but brief) escapes from the law. Carrey and MacGregor are both game and are able to dig into surprisingly deep emotional places when it's called for (for instance, one moment where MacGregor receives some bad news). It's not especially memorable, but it's far from naff ... it's a strange and humorous curiosity that's worth a watch.

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