Friday, 13 January 2012

Film Roundup January - Part 1

Welcome back to film roundup – the first of 2012!

First up we have spy drama The Debt, about three Mossad agents on the hunt of a Nazi war criminal, the story playing out in two timelines with two different sets of actors.

The older trio (set in 1997) which includes acting heavyweights such as Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson are brilliant as usual and could pull off this material with their eyes closed – and the younger actors (of the 1965 story) equally rise to the challenge, with special mention to Marton Csokas and Jessica Chastain as two of the young agents - and also to Jesper Christensen as the sinister Surgeon of Birkenau.

The tense scenes of espionage as well as the unfolding drama of the prisoner scenes and the interplay between the characters keeps the story interesting to watch, as well as the affecting themes of truth, justice and guilt that drive the characters forward.

The order that the story plays out also deserves a mention – as more information is gained by the viewer as the story progresses, new light is shed on past events.

Next up we have Real Steel, a story set in the near future where boxing has been replaced by robot fighting.

Essentially a family drama that happens to be set in the midst of this ’sport’, there are plenty of fun moments to be had. The robot effects are uniformly excellent and fights are weighty and brutal – no problem there. My only gripe is in the technicality of the fighting and how the regulations of the sport are a bit murky and inconsistent. There doesn't seem to be any discussion or apparent rules of how the various machines are to be built (some are much larger than others or have two heads), how they are allowed to be controlled (some are controlled by one person via remote, others by multiple people via a console, some voice activated, some shadowbox, some react on their own…) etc...

Similarly, some fights are over within a few punches leading to the total destruction of a robot, others go on for ages with sometimes hundreds of blows exchanged with little to no damage. Whilst it might sound like nitpicking, the various inconsistencies do pull you out of the realism of the robot boxing. As a result, fight outcomes appear to simply service the needs of the story rather than to convince. A little consistency could have gone a long way.

That being said, kids (and the kid inside of you) will love it – and there are plenty of fights throughout so viewers won't feel short-changed. Hugh Jackman convinces as a retired boxer and Kevin Durand has a hoot (sometimes literally).

Last up we have Footloose – yet another remake of an 80s film, although not as bad as you might have anticipated due in most part to the likeable Kenny Wormald in the lead role – incidentally he’s a better dancer than Kevin Bacon too.

The plot remains largely the same as the original, with certain aspects modernised such as the obligatory ‘urban’ styles now included in the myriad of dance styles in the film. The film feels a bit raunchier and edgier than the original – and yes, that ‘angry dance’ in the warehouse scene is still there – utterly ridiculous and yet amazing to watch.

The central device of the story still seems a bit wobbly: the town has banned public dancing as a result of some teens dying in a car crash after a party? Why not just the drink ban and curfew? Other various anomalies (despite the ban there are amazing dancers everywhere in town – when and where do they get to practice?) although appearing at odds can be forgiven for the sake of the plot. Dennis Quaid does a fair job in the Lithgow role although Andie McDowell isnt given much to do except quietly object. Perhaps
the film seems almost more relevant than before as a commentary on youthful expression through dance - now more than ever before with the increase of dance in popular culture today.

13 Jan 2012

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