Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Film Roundup - December - Part 1

Watched a bunch of films this month so thought I'd get an early start to December’s film roundup – so read on for Part 1!

First up we have Paul, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two British nerds going on a roadtrip across America to visit UFO hotspots on their way back from ComicCon.

If you are expecting this to be in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz you would be mistaken as this film is not directed by Edgar Wright and features a predominantly American cast and setting, not to mention the smoking, swearing titular CGI alien voiced by Seth Rogan. Whilst director Greg Mottola plays the humour very broadly, Paul is presented as a fairly pleasant affair that most will find fairly inoffensive.

That is, unless you are a fairly staunch Creationist and/or Catholic (IMDB boards continue to rage as we speak) as it seems aliens and religion are not easy bedfellows - leading to much anti-religious ribbing within.

Apart from that, the film doesn't hold many surprising turns (with the one exception of an epic cameo of Zombieland proportions), and even the well worn Pegg and Frost chemistry, although always affecting and welcome, is nothing new if you have seen the aforementioned Edgar Wright films.

Next up we have The Devil’s Double – a ‘based on a true story’ tale of an Iraqi man Latif hired to be Uday (son of Saddam) Hussein’s body double.

The story mostly plays out as a gangster fantasy as Latif finds himself surrounded by all the riches, drugs and women that come with the job, but soon comes to realise he both cannot ignore the atrocities Uday causes to those all around him and that he cannot ever escape the job for fear of his life as the threat of harm to his loved ones.

Whilst the film doesn't hold too many surprises, it’s shot in an appropriate golden hue and doesn't hold back on its brutal depictions of violence, drug excess and rape. The real draw to the film, however, is Dominic Cooper, who astounds by playing dual roles of both Latif and Uday, one quiet and dignified, the other a maniacal yet sometimes goofy psychopath. Worth watching just for his performance alone.

Next, we have the long awaited return of horror legend John Carpenter with his haunted mental hospital flick The Ward.

Amber Heard stars as the girl with no memory and makes for a watchable and strong protagonist. Despite the film having an interesting (mostly) all female cast, creepy setting and good old-fashioned ghostly jump scares in its favour, the final reveal isn’t as original as it hopes to be - Sucker Punch and Shutter Island come to mind.

Still, there is no doubt of John Carpenter’s flair, its just a shame the story couldn't have been a bit better.

Last up we have the (yet another) Marcus Nispel helmed remake/reboot in the form of Conan The Barbarian. After seeing Jason Momoa in Game of Thrones, I think he was perfect for the role of Conan, bringing his hulking physique and brooding countenance to the role.

What falls short here however is the mixed tone of the film – they try to go for depicting a brutal epic however most of it is implied only and the violence is pretty tame. If you are going to make a convincing Conan film I expect hacked limbs and decapitations, instead we have Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang camping it up ferociously as the villains. If they wanted to go for a more teen friendly, badly CGed fight with tentacles and (admittedly good CGed) sand demons fight then they should have committed to that all the way. It just feels like the whole thing smacks of compromise.

The same could be said for the story. The ‘origin’ of Conan takes up too much of the film and the plot is full of holes: The villains get all the pieces if the mask and have to wait until Conan is all grown up to complete the last part of the ritual? The villain puts on the mask and it does pretty much nothing? It seems many rehashes of the script during production didn't help matters leading to a mess with the narrative.

I was disappointed with this one as the material has such potential and Momoa can have great presence on screen. It’s just a shame he is not given much to do apart from rote and often tame action scenes and minimal dialogue. With a little more focus this could have been an epic, but sadly due to bombing at the box office a sequel is unlikely.

25 Dec 2011

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