Friday, 31 May 2013

The Wicker Man (1973) – Weird . . .

Simply put, the fact that ‘The Wicker Man’ remains even remotely watchable almost forty years on is a credit to all involved. Part folk musical, part occult-based murder mystery; The Wicker Man is strange.

A devout Christian police detective has made his way to a remote Hebridean island to investigate the case of a missing girl. At first all the islanders claim that no such girl is or has ever been on the island. However, our plucky detective is not convinced and searches a little deeper uncovering the strange pagan traditions of the island.

The script deals with some interesting topics, including the conflict between pagan traditions and 'normal' religions, and it does serve as a thought-provoking study of a community left to their own devices away from mainland law and order. However, it all ends up becoming rather ridiculous, with sequences of creepily sexualised song-and-dance and over-the-top acting.

It all ends up feeling incredibly old fashioned, and not just because the micro-budget limited the scope of the piece.

More interesting than thrilling, The Wicker Man is a 70s oddity let down by its sheer weirdness.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Star Trek – An Excellent Reboot

In preparation for Star Trek Into Darkness, I just went back and watched J. J. Abrams' 2009 reboot.

Since my first viewing of that film, I have watched three other Star Trek movies (‘The Wrath of Khan’, ‘The Undiscovered Country’ & ‘First Contact’, to be precise) and four seasons of ‘Lost’. Suffice to say, my eyes have been opened to the wonders of J.J and his team at Bad Robot.

Star Trek is fantastic!!

It has everything I like about old Star Trek – the characters, the sense of adventure, the sciencey mumbo jumbo, the socio-political commentary and the humour – but with 21st century blockbuster spectacle. And, it just runs with it, storming through an exquisitely plotted and paced romp at warp speed.

It really is unrelenting. But finds itself oh so forgiving when it comes to character moments thanks to some perfectly pitched performances from the excellent ensemble cast and ably supported by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman on writing duties.

In a world of dark superheroes, superficial robots smashing each other, and blue people hugging trees, J. J. Abrams' Star Trek is a throwback to good old-fashioned adventures and one of the greatest reboots of all time.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Unstoppable – A Captain Kirk Origin Story

In ‘The Incredibles’, Mr Incredible stops a speeding train from plummeting off its tracks by rugby tackling it.

If that was possible then ‘Unstoppable’ wouldn't be a movie . . . instead we’d have ‘Stoppable’, a 10 minute movie about a train stopping.

But, fortunately we have the former.

When a lazy railroad worker decides it would be a good idea to jump out of a train he’s driving and race it to the split in the tracks, we suddenly have a pretty thrilling game of chicken on our hands; train 777 vs everything in its path.

Understandably, that involves some pretty incredible action set-pieces, which are expertly handled by the late, great Tony Scott whose visual flare for action has always been up there with the best of them. With Unstoppable, he’s orchestrated a glorious fanfare of splintered wood, red-hot sparks and metallic screeching. Shredding your eyeballs and your ear-drums to equal measure.

And, although some of his crash zooms are a bit too much for the office-based scenes, they enhance the thrills and the colour-drenched screen becomes impossible to take yours eyes off.

But, the heart-pounding action is balanced by the heart-warming tale of two average joes (Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) becoming Mr Incredible for a couple of hours. We care about these guys and we want them to save the day. And that’s what stands out amongst all the explosions.


Friday, 10 May 2013

Iron Man 3 – Comedy of the Year; Superhero Movie of the Week

Iron Man 3 wasn't what I expected, and that’s pretty amazing when I think about the number of trailers I've watched and articles I've read; but how refreshing it is to know that a comic-book movie can still surprise me. I mean, I love the things, but logic would dictate that the formula was starting to get stale. But, due to an influx of talent, both in front of the camera and behind, they are still going strong, as demonstrated by Iron Man 3’s already monster box office haul.

There is one killer twist in Iron Man 3 and it stands pretty much as a make or break moment. I say ‘pretty much’ because it did something else for me, it stood as a fork in the road and however hard the movie tried to play it off, I still couldn't get over the fact that I didn't know which goddamn road to take.

On the one side we have delirious blockbuster action. And a real case is made for this, with a massive smash-em-up session to end the film with. Every single three-dimensional pixel dedicated to frying your brain, to making your eyeballs pop out of your skulls, to making your ear drums tremor. And in that regard it more than satisfies, with pretty darn incredible looking action sequences. But just like Tennessee, that kind of action can be mind-numbingly cold. 

On the other, we have laughs . . . barrels and barrels full of them. Iron Man 3 is hilarious; a comedic triumph of epic proportions. Mainly due to Shane Black’s whip-smart dialogue, which again shows why Downey Jr. is such a perfect fit for the genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist that is Tony Stark. His delivery is truly outstanding.

And then we have a middle-ground, which I am led to believe the filmmakers wanted us to occupy. Part laugh-out-loud comedy, part popcorn-munching action movie, all Iron Man. But it doesn't work, the two elements have no cohesion, and in the end they detract from each other. By, introducing such an out-there twist, Shane Black has doomed Iron Man to the mediocre. Instead of gelling together to form something greater - something Avengers-worthy, even - Iron Man 3 crumbles.

But standing proud in the rubble lays a sense of humour, a wit and, at times, a charm. Oh, and Robert Downey Jr.