Monday, 11 July 2011

Nonuple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: July 2011...

Transformers: Dark of the Moon:
The first one was solid, the second one was a confused and poorly judged mess that inspired guilt more than enjoyment, and now this third one (which would be wise to be the closing chapter) comes clunking along with it's gigantic running time filled with gigantic Autobots and Decepticons that all look the same (bar Optimus, Bumble Bee, and Sentinel) punching each other. Fortunately it's a big improvement over the second movie, and it even kicks off with an intriguing opening half hour that re-purposes major historical events.

However, the plot becomes less-and-less important and the EXPLOSIONS and FIGHTING ROBOTS become more important to the filmmakers, as the movie progresses. This all culminates in a ridiculously overlong final battle (with a ridiculously short wrap-up, that caught me off-guard with its brevity). If you want lots of shit exploding and looking pretty whilst doing so, you'll get what you want, but beyond that it's an exhausting experience. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley isn't as pointless as the trailer makes out, but she's far from interesting, and Patrick Dempsey's Dylan is a casualty of an overlong running time that can't manage to cover all of the human characters in enough detail (let alone the Autobots and Decepticons). It's a cursory sort of movie in that way, all (impressively martialed) mouth and no trousers.

The Killing Machine:
For what it is - straight-to-DVD action fodder designed for fans of a particular name, in this case Dolph Lundgren - it's decent. The production value is decidedly better that The Mechanik (another Lundgren DVD vehicle), the plot is straight forward (but nothing to set the world on fire), and there's some nice moments of action. If you're going to watch one of Lundgren's DVD actioners, you'd probably do best to make it this one.

Mercury Rising:
Weirdly I've had a dubbed copy of this on videotape ever since its video rental release (circa 1998), but I never got around to watching it. Then it was on Sky Anytime t'other day, so I figured it was about time. Bruce Willis is an FBI agent who has to protect an autistic boy (the "Autism?" "Yes, Autism is..." exchanges are slightly funny in their near-PSA directness) who has cracked a supposedly unbreakable government code, and is now being hunted by those who want to either silence him, or use him. Decent thriller fare.

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd:
A surprisingly enjoyable prequel to the Farrely brother's beloved chuckle-fest, featuring Derek Richardson (Harry) and Eric Christian Olsen (Lloyd), who do a remarkably good job of inhabiting the performances established in 1994 by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Harry and Lloyd are in high school, and end up in a phoney special needs class due to a scam being run by the Principal and the Lunch Lady. It's gleefully silly, and while it was never going to top the original, it's actually quite good fun.

Grown Ups:
I was expecting something worse than this, but the real-life friendship between the central male leads shines through the so-so workman-like comedy. Adam Sandler and pals are re-united 30 years later by the death of their school basketball coach, and spend the July 4th weekend together in a lakeside cabin with their respective family. Cue silliness, prat falls, and some paint-by-numbers lessons-to-be-learned, and you've got a decent (if not especially memorable) way to spent 90 minutes - even if several characters (of a rather large cast) are ditched with cursory roles to play.

This one came late to Sky Movies (it's originally from 2008), but it's about a bunch of Star Wars geeks who go on a mission to steal the work print of The Phantom Menace from Skywalker Ranch. Like Grown Ups, it's a servicable comedy with some good giggles along the way, but it's a light meal (enjoyable at the time) that'll fade into the background for most.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest:
A satisfying closer to the Millennium Trilogy. Sure enough, the second film was setting up lots of the third film - although numerous new characters and plot details are surfaced as well, which can prove slightly confusing until it's all wrapped up in the final act. It's more stylish than the second one, but the first remains the best - it featured a complex stand-alone narrative that was translated with style and precision to the screen by Niels Arden Oplev - while the second two (directed by Daniel Alfredson) never matched that level, they weren't let downs either. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is indeed a new cinematic icon.

Trailer Park Of Terror:
You want some horror fodder? Then step right up. A bunch of fodder-ready Christian development kids from the wrong sides of their respective tracks, find themselves at the mercy of a bunch of hellish ghouls at a trailer park. The plot is fairly threadbare, and early on the movie can't decide which tale it wants to tell (neither have enough meat to them when collided together in this brief presentation). However the production value and style of the whole thing is impressive ... but unless it's particularly tickled your fancy, it'll remain forgettable genre fodder.

Sunset Boulevard:
The other week I finally got around to seeing Billy Wilder's superb film noir Double Indemnity, and now I've gotten to see his oft-quoted, landmark, and grippingly acerbic take on 1950s Hollywood. Featuring real Hollywood names of the silent and early talkies period (Cecil B. DeMille, Erich von Stroheim, and even Buster Keaton), the involving narrative charts a struggling (practically failed) writer (Joe, played by William Holden) who accidentally gets involved with a fading star of the silent movie era (Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson) - a deluded and aging actress who resides exclusively in her decaying mansion. Soon he becomes her kept man, working on a script for her, while moonlighting on another script with another woman (Betty) by night. It's a wonderfully intriguing and skilfully concise tale - no wonder it's an icon of cinematic history (indeed it provided heavy inspiration for Chuck Palahniuk's 2010 novel Tell-All). Highly recommended.

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