Saturday 22 October 2011

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: Cute CGI, Intriguing Cusack, Tense Clooney, and Superfluous Remake...

Despicable Me:
Animated fun that's not from Pixar, but still pretty darn good. Pixar are more capable of mining emotional depths (see the tenth minute of Up, or the entire third act of Toy Story 3), but Despicable Me proves successful at all things cute and sweet with some nice moments of comedy thrown in. An evil genius, who isn't especially successful, sets out to steal the moon but finds himself learning there's more to life than shrink rays and getting a loan from the Bank of Evil. Not as consistently hilarious as some other non-Pixar fare (such as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), but it's easily on-par with (if not a little ahead of) Monsters vs Aliens.

Pushing Tin:
As I've said before, if it's got John Cusack in it then it's worth seeing - and the rule continues unbroken. Cusack plays an air traffic controller, the best in fact, who finds himself getting into a deep battle of egos with Billy Bob Thornton's rogue hotshot, and managing to screw up his entire life in the process - not helped by Angelina Jolie's temptress. The middle portion loses some of the heat of the early part of the flick (where air traffic control scenes are paced like an action movie), but it's an intriguing light-hearted drama.

The American:
From the director of Control comes a meticulous, slow-paced tension-builder. George Clooney plays an assassin and master craftsmen (of sniper rifles) on the run from those who want him dead. Holed up in a remote Italian town, he finds himself falling for a local red-light girl - but will he manage to outrun the hounds that seek to hunt him down? The trailer made it look more like an action film, but it's not - what it actually is, is a tense waiting game. While it doesn't particularly tread any unique ground, it's an interesting effort.

Let Me In:
Remakes are dime-a-dozen at the moment (and have been since 2003's re-tread of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and if they're not remakes they're reboots, prequels, or English-language makeovers. Sometimes it's a worthwhile endeavour, but more often than not you come away with something that was at best benign, and at worst so bad that it actually spits in the face of the superior original. Let The Right One In was a fantastic little gem - and certainly helped by not being an Americanised exercise in seen-it-all-before sameness - it had a strong character all its own.

The English-language re-do however, is practically a shot-for-shot copy at times, and certainly doesn't stray at all far from the established path. I found myself watching it thinking "oh yeah, it's this bit; next it'll be that part", and while it's sensitively directed and stays true to the pacing and atmosphere of the original (thank god it wasn't all nu-metal, tween emos, product placement, and Michael Bay-style dunderheadedness), it just doesn't feel like there's much point in it existing. Why watch this when the superior original is right there, and if you've seen the original, you'll find this to be a copy with softer edges. It's faithful, but it feels scared to explore alternate territory - although the scenes of a bin-bag-headed killer hiding in the back seats of cars does make for genuinely tense and well-directed moments. If this was an original, it'd be very good indeed, but the problem is that it's not - Let The Right One In exists, and if you're going to watch a version of this story, watch the original.

The original; with it's sparse dialogue, reliance on meaningful looks, pregnant silences, and explosions of brief-but-spectacularly-memorable moments of violence, is very worthwhile seeing. This Americanised version - which admirably brought Hammer back to the scene - feels sadly pointless. Talented individuals made a good film - but an unavoidable problem looms large - in the shadow of Let The Right One In, Let Me In is simply superfluous.

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