Monday, 16 May 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: May 2011...

Attack The Block:
It was never going to live up to the dizzying and unique heights of Shaun of the Dead, so Joe Cornish's debut - a mixture of sci-fi, horror, comedy and grim council estate realism - was always going to suffer a bit, like several flicks before, and no doubt several more to come. It's a shame that the best parts of the movie, and indeed the best laughs, are mostly crammed into the trailer, however this was no doubt beyond Cornish & Co's control ... but someone needed to do a better job of not giving away all the good stuff.

Visually it's a nicely put together film - particularly the eponymous intimidating and monolithic block (which I'm sure I saw in a Nissan advert on TV when I got back from the cinema) - home to a cross-section of London's populace. Included in this cross-section, indeed the protagonists of the entire movie, is a gang of hoody-wearing, knife-wielding petty criminals and soon-to-be-gang-members ... and herein lies the biggest problem with the movie. Our introduction to this gang is them intimidating and mugging a nurse as she walks home (another main character), and come the third act, there just isn't enough made in terms of reparations. This gang of teens show little remorse beyond 'if we'd known you lived here, we wouldn't have mugged you' - and as such, it's hard to cheer them on, let alone empathise with them throughout. They're not cheeky cockney gangsters like you'd find in a Guy Ritchie movie (a cartoonish version of reality), they feel very real, so when the aforementioned nurse berates them for their harmful actions, you're totally on her side.

It's sure to be a divide for audiences - you'll either not mind and go with it, or you'll have no sympathy for most of the characters throughout. I struggled to support the central gang, and only warmed to them slightly towards the end after some cursory backstory information and some light condemning of their actions by their female peers. It's better than nothing, sure, but it's a big ask to be a part of their fight against the big black furry aliens with glow-in-the-dark-teeth (a nifty low-fi creature design that uses CGI appropriately) considering their introductory actions.

However, some of the other characters are easier to get along with - particularly Nick Frost's cowardly pot dealer "Ron" - and there is a witty sense of nicely balanced comedy to go along with proceedings. The funny lines don't feel forced, or out of place in the context of this alien invasion, and the direction is strong throughout. It's just a shame that there aren't some bigger laughs and a better development (and introduction) of the central cast. Good, but not great. It is though, a solid debut from Joe Cornish, and I look forward to seeing what comes from him next. It's strange, in a way, to think that in the late 1990s I was watching him, and comedy partner Adam Buxton, get up to their hilariously inventive antics (and their "toy movies") on The Adam & Joe Show, and now Joe's out there making his own movies.

Basket Case:
So crap it's kind of good. It's a grotty old horror from the 1980s, filmed cheaply in and around the down-at-heel areas of New York. Basically, there's a guy going around with a wicker basket under his arm. Inside is his hideous, half-formed, and murderous brother - a monstrous anomaly that was once attached to him, but was removed by force by a group of surgeons. It's pretty damn silly, and fairly gross, but there's a despicable charm to it nonetheless.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans:
Werner Herzog's 'remake' of Able Ferrara's brutal original is a huge step in a different direction. The 1992 original was viscious, sleazy, extreme, and extended into the deepest depths from which redemption is almost impossible for the titular pro(anti)tagonist (played by Harvey Keitel). Herzog's 'remake' takes the basic idea - a Lieutenant gone bad - and goes in his own direction. Nicolas Cage plays a cop, smacked out on anything going to ease his back pain, as he attempts to find a killer and cope with his spiralling addictions. It's an odd flick, but in a good way, with a decidedly different tone to Ferrara's original. Herzog's film tackles the dark side with a bright eye and a blackly comic undertone. Ferrara's film, for me, will be the most memorable version however. On the other hand, Herzog's is much easier to watch.

The Bounty Hunter:
There's a certain type of "movie" that some in filmmaking sneer at, and no doubt it's just this sort of old twaddle. An action comedy that's lacking both, and indeed totally devoid of any real spark between the two leads - Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. The only reason I watched it, quite honestly, is because I think Aniston is fit ... so her ending up in a water hazard was the best bit ... if I'm totally honest. In general though, it's just a load of old rubbish, the sort of old crap that, as someone trying to break into filmmaking and be a writer/director, really winds me up - that such a dud script could be produced pisses me right off.

The King's Speech:
Great direction. Great script. Great acting. Great cinematography. It really is damned good and well worth viewing. That about sums it up, because surely you know plenty about it by now. If you've not already seen it, give it a look.

Trick 'r Treat:
It's the middle of May, so naturally it was the perfect time to watch an anthology horror about Halloween! Despite the completely inappropriate time to be viewing such a seasonally-specific movie, it was gleefully entertaining. Four main tales are interwoven on one Halloween night (such as a High School Principal who moonlights as a serial killer, and the tale of a school bus driven into a quarry), with the inventively creepy figure of "Sam" appearing throughout. It bounds along at a nice pace and doesn't outstay its welcome, it's got a deliciously black sense of humour, and it'd be well worth viewing on the spooktacular night in question.

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