Thursday 12 January 2012

Triple Bill Mini Musings: The 80s, The Nuthouse, and the Desert...

The Informers:
Based on short stories by Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho), this multi-stranded 1980s-set drama vaguely follows the lives of a collection of mostly unlikeable well-to-do types in Los Angeles. It looks the part, but we're so distanced from the characters (be they likeable or not) that you don't give a stuff about what's happening on-screen. Some of the characters drift in and out with little impact (let alone story) and even the ones afforded some kind of arc don't have an awful lot to do. Instead it feels like a series of half-established strands that are left half-resolved by the end of it ... now, intentional or not, it doesn't make for particularly good viewing. On the other hand American Psycho, and Rules of Attraction (both Ellis adaptations), got the mix right. They featured some downright loathesome characters but we were pulled along for the ride by them the whole way - we were invited into their respective worlds, whereas in The Informers you're kept at such a distance by a bunch of half-developed gits that you can't help but wonder why you've bothered to pay any attention in the first place.

The Ward:
Or "John Carpenter's The Ward" as it's otherwise known ... but quite honestly there's nothing in this pretty standard horror flick (set in a mental asylum) that suggests Carpenter's involvement. It could have been directed by anybody - and that's a real shame. It's nicely shot, but the plot is both thin and uninspired (rather disappointingly), so when the pretty decent final minutes rock up it's all a bit too little too late. In brief though, it's the 1960s, Amber Heard burns down a farm house and gets banged up in the nut house with a collection of other fruity-loop femmes. Cue disappearing girls, predictable LOUD NOISE 'scares' and a potent sense of a missed opportunity.

Gore Verbinsi trades Pirates for reptiles and the Caribbean for the desert, but keeps Johnny Depp in this really rather rockin' CGI flick from Nickelodeon. The eponymous reptile - previously of home comforts - finds himself lost in the desert where he re-invents himself as Rango, a gun-slinging hero from the "far west" who once killed seven bad guys with one bullet (the seventh "died of infection"). Quite quickly he finds himself the new Sheriff in town - that being the town of Dirt - a dying frontier-style settlement where water is the commodity of choice and fast running out.

It's surprisingly really good fun - I expected it to be fun, but I wasn't expecting this much fun. Crammed with references going from the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone (especially in one inspired sequence at the end of Act II) to a brief but beautifully witty nod to Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, it's a real blast. What's more it looks just incredible - and so it should considering the visual consultant was none other than the exceptionally talented cinematographer Roger Deakins, who performed similar duties on Pixar's WALL.E - indeed it's such a visual treat that it straight-up matches (and sometimes out-strips) WALL.E itself. There are numerous competitors to Pixar - who have a pretty spiffing track record - but none of them ever manage to match Pixar's deft balance of great storytelling, heart-felt emotion, and technical prowess ... but I think we've just found a true contender.

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