Cinema Review:Taken 2

DIR: Olivier Megaton • WRI: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen PRO: Luc Besson • DOP: Romain Lacourbas • ED: Camille Delamarre, Vincent Tabaillon • DES: Sébastien Inizan • Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace

Did anyone really want Taken 2?!

Back in 2008, when Liam Neeson loomed, intimidated and murder-killed his way through the heart of Paris to find his daughter, I left the theatre oddly impressed, assuredly thrilled and ultimately satisfied.

Daughter Kidnapped. Dad gets on the case. Albanian jerks soil themselves, die. Daughter rescued.

That’s Taken; a divisive if simple, singular tale.

So I’m lost as to why Team Besson deemed it prudent to grant the world further insight into the homicidal exploits of John Taken!* Regardless, affairs are in a sad state when 60 year old Liam Neeson, big though he is, gets lumped with this needless sequel, helmed by the man responsible for Transporter 3!

* This should have been his name from the start, folks!

Giving the performance of his life, Neeson/WolfPuncher enjoyed a legitimate career highlight with January’s The Grey. So we all know the man can act. Unfortunately he’s saddled with 90 straight minutes of buffoonish dialogue and a ridiculous American twang.  Yes, he’s been naturalised as a US Citizen, but that Northern accent isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

While Taken just about straddled the fine line between the plausible and the openly ridiculous, its sequel never quite knows which route to take, hedging every bet. For every instance of Neeson using his brain, doing something crafty, like estimating his location while blindfolded, listening for environmental markers, stuffing a miniature phone in his sock, we get Maggie Grace (who I have yet to be impressed with, in any role) detonating grenades in the streets of Budapest!

Themes of responsibility, consequence and justice are similarly muddied. The chief villain, an Albanian crime boss wronged by John Taken four years previously, decides to teach him a lesson about restraint by butchering him, his family and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the camera’s frame.

There is no moralising here. There is no poignant lesson to be learned. Poorly choreographed, choppily edited violence begets poorly choreographed, choppily edited violence. And is resolved by same.

Whenever the cast aren’t spewing forth tired clichés and undercooked dialogue, Taken 2 slaps its audience in the face with some of the most poorly presented action this side of The Expendables 2. There is a (as in one!) car chase, a baton fight and a shoot-out. All of which should make you yearn for more talking.

And as for the practical joke of a final showdown, in which 6’ 4” John Taken kung-fus a short, pudgy Albanian rather than just, I don’t know, stepping on him?! Yikes. Neeson may be getting on in years, and he’s not exactly Jackie Chan, but this mismatch of sizes felt openly insulting to the hard-working lead.

Mercifully, Taken 2 isn’t a terribly lengthy endeavour. It has the manners to let you run for the exits inside of 90 minutes. And I say it’s fair we let poor Liam Neeson do the same. It’s hard to shake the impression he’s been bullied into this position, the aging action star, the badass granddad.

He made Taken 2. It was a disaster. Now, can we please let him go back to making more projects like The Grey now?

Neeson even admits, in this very feature, how he is ‘so tired of it all!’

Well, you and me both, Mr Taken!

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
9omins

Taken 2 is released on 5th October 2012

Taken 2 –  Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpaT8NzkLgE

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Cinema Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

man in spandex

DIR:Marc Webb • WRI: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves • PRO: Avi Arad, Matthew Tolmach, Laura Ziskin • DOP: John Schwartzman • ED: Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, Pietro Scalia • DES: J. Michael Riva • Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

And sure why not do this?! It’s not like a billion dollars worth of people are already well aware of Peter Parker’s humble beginnings!! Despite an armada of promotional material suggesting otherwise, The Amazing Spider-Man remains an origin tale. And one excruciatingly similar to Sam Raimi’s efforts of ten years ago!

That was sarcasm.

A lot of sarcasm.

Yes, some novel angles and fresh slants compliment the wry humour and often joyous special effects. Cast and characters enjoy similar redecoration. Titular web-slinger Andrew Garfield accounts for himself very well indeed, though undisputed Best-of-her-Generation Emma Stone does even better.

Yet the opening hour treads such familiar territory, stumbling over more than a few wider Superhero clichés, you’ll find yourself impatiently wishing him into the impossible-for-any-teenage-boy-to-ever-weave-anything-so-intricate spandex and just bloody well get on with it.

The emotional ‘toil’ of this charming, quick-witted, handsome, athletic, intelligent adolescent wore a bit thin a decade ago. Retracing these steps (at the expense of anything resembling an action sequence) seems a dependable way to piss an audience off.

It’s not until Dr Curt Connors’ (Rhys Ifans) ill-fated bid to restore his right arm with reptilian genes that The Amazing Spider-Man kicks into gear, finally standing apart as its own chronicle rather than a trendy revamp.

But by then the damage is done.

And for every fresh innovation, every frightened boy encouraged to rescue himself from a flaming vehicle, every secret revealed to a wonderfully mature, competent girlfriend there is the obligatory scene of a newly augmented Parker turning the tables on his bullies or New Yorkers aiding their friendly neighbourhood vigilante.

Rather than doing the sensible thing and running for their lives!

And don’t get me started on how often the R word is bandied about.

FYI Sony Pictures – Synonyms for Responsibility: Accountability, duty, obligation…

On its own merits, The Amazing Spider-Man is a heartfelt blockbuster and an impressive accomplishment for director Marc Webb.

It illuminates how comic book films, because of not in spite of their origins, boast nuanced character and emotional turmoil to compliment well crafted gags and spectacular fights involving a high school, a red and blue spandexed acrobat and a nine-foot-lizard-man-dinosaur-thing!

But one cannot entitle a work ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ without inviting certain comparisons.

Chances are, if you are in any way excited for Spidey’s latest outing, you’ve seen at least some of the previous trilogy.

Should you fall into this category take heed: You’ll be impressed by Garfield, you’ll fall in love with Stone and the Lizard’s wall crunching, truck flipping set pieces (albeit unpardonably brief) entertain on a level paralleling Spiderman 2’s now legendary Doc Ock/Spidey slugfests.

But nonetheless, that spidey sense will tingle.

You may not have seen nor heard ALL of this before. But there’ll be enough unshakable familiarity to mar what should have been a hip, sensitive, spectacular and above all unique Spider-Man film.

But hey! It could be much, MUCH worse.

It could be Spider-Man 3….

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
136m 03s
The Amazing Spider-Man is released on 3rd July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XayxMPrUP4

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We Love… Trash: Underworld Evolution

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

Underworld Evolution

(Len Wiseman)

‘… delivers over an hour and a half of purposely wanton bloodshed, gunshots and carnage … ’

Jack McGlynn

Underworld Evolution couldn’t be better.

No matter which way you slice it, there’s precious little director Len Wiseman could have added or edited to improve on his gratuitously gory monster-melee.

Winged Vampires. Titanic Werewolves. Topless men. Guns. Girls. And to top it off nary a set wall survives for the plethora of rag-dolled combatants continuously punched through them!

It stands proud as member of the coveted genre: Cinematic Trash. And by these very terms, it is pitch perfect.

I’ll grant you, mutating the horror and action genres is an easily overlooked enterprise. However, Evolution rarely skips a beat. Or an opportunity to beat… anything!

At 106 minutes, it’s lean storytelling.

Evolution doesn’t suffer from delusions of grandeur. It knows its audience want to get in, have their fix of violence and leave without their entire evening being bled dry.

And so it delivers over an hour and a half of purposely wanton bloodshed, gunshots and carnage.  As the film churns on it quickly establishes the rhythmic four-step of

Fight-gore-explosion-skin

Fight-gore-exploding wall-skin

Fight-gore-exploding head-skin

Fight.

Fangs for the memories

Capitalising on the intricate lore established in its snooze-fest predecessor, Evolution isn’t shy of introducing legendary figures and having the resident, giant purple Dracula impale them with funky wing-spears wings and bursting their skull like an eggshell.

Delish.

To its credit, Evolution sees no need to flex any narrative muscle, economically laying the framework for the ensuing chaos. While normally a significant criticism, the visceral mix of gothic horror and superhuman brawls are best undiluted by convoluted plot.

WHY hybrid Michael is fighting a three-metre tall snowy abomination of fur, fang and claw is academic. What’s IMPORTANT is that the poor werewolf get’s its head torn straight off its shoulders.

Straight off!

Underworld Evolution is not exactly taxing cinema. It’s not very funny, it won’t challenge you on an intellectual or philosophical level and it lacks any form of expression that could, in good conscience, be considered to register on the emotional spectrum.

But when you have a Hybrid Man-Wolf-Bat thrashing a werewolf with an industrial chain, wrapping a jeep around its broken form and ripping its lower mandible free, you don’t tend to miss them!

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Cinema Review: Safe

putting the ham in Staham

DIR/WRI: Boaz Yakin • PRO: Lawrence Bender, Dana Brunetti • DOP: Stefan Czapsky • ED: Frédéric Thoraval • Cast: Jason Statham, Chris Sarandon, James Hong

Safe is a relatively low-budget (€30m) Jason Statham vehicle. That’s practically a genre onto itself this weather. And with that genus comes certain stigma. The plot is secondary, the action takes centre stage and Statham commands most scenes, carrying them with his own impossible magnetism.

Safe however, plays it anything but and results in the Stath’s best action effort for ten straight years! Jason Crank has been saddled with the ‘Clinical Assassin’ archetype for years now. Safe represents a significant leap back in the proper direction for our beloved, bald bruiser. Here’s he’s given a chance to flex his dramatic muscles, and not simply those (scarcely) hidden under his clothing.

In Safe, we get to see the mighty Cranker himself cry. With tears and everything. He also gets worried, scared, panics and even vomits from the emotional trauma of bulleting someone’s brain!

Safe isn’t exactly a drama, but a significantly higher level of acting is called for throughout Safe’s narrative, and Statham steps up as you’d expect. As the Crank series proved he can do ‘hyperactive, manic cartoon person’, Safe proves he’s just as comfortable portraying ‘human-being’.

Safe also tackles themes such as corruption, remorse, homelessness and suicide in more than a simply perfunctory manner. Again, it’s hardly a detailed analysis of these issues, but the fact they even feature in Boaz Yakin’s action debut surprises and delights.

First and foremost, though, Safe is an action film. And while it doesn’t re-invent the genre like Gareth Evans’ The Raid, not since 2002’s The Transporter has Jason Statham’s handiwork (and footiwork) been so gloriously, brutally visualised. He breaks a trachea at one point. With a dinner plate.

Safe’s pacing starts with a deliberate grind, slow and methodological, forcing the viewer to salivate throughout the first act. Then, finally, inevitably, Safe explodes into life, paced expertly with a series of chases, brawls and gun duels.

The action is presented with clarity and choreographed with imagination. Shots linger on the Cranker as his feet and fists fly, unsullied by choppy cuts. Squibs burst and detritus flies as 45. Rounds find homes in the scenery. Meanwhile, the stuntwork is absurdly good; in one instance viewers follow a pair of flailing stuntmen out a window and onto the awaiting pavement in a single take.

Considering the colour-by-numbers gunfights and obscured, cut-to-ribbons brawls of The Mechanic or Killer Elite, not to mention the ill-fitting, detached caricatures he’s normally saddled with, Safe represents an important moment for Statham’s career.

Safe is an interesting, exhilarating and often sensitive tale, wherein Jason Statham takes the opportunity to prove his worth, both as a capable actor and Hollywood’s last REAL action star.

Unfortunately, I doubt Safe is destined to rake in a fortune at the box office. Similarly, I’d be surprised if many recognize the relevance of what Safe represents for action cinema or its lead’s career trajectory.

I pray I’m wrong.

Jack McGlynn

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Safe is released on 4th May 2012

Safe – Official Website

 

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DVD Review: War of the Arrows

I’ll spare you the obligatory archery themed pun; a few arrows short of a Quiver, Just misses the mark, Bullseye etc.

Instead, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know War of the Arrows is actually very entertaining!

Comparisons with House of Flying Daggers are obvious and immediate, both feature chase narratives and projectile weaponry. However, in many ways, War of the Arrows is the film HOFD wishes it was. Though not nearly as colourful, it lacks the pretension, lengthy exposition and incoherent plotting.

Sagely, War instead draws itself taught for a gripping two hours of curving quarrels, spurting gore and CG tigers.

War is a hefty beast clocking in at 122 minutes. When Cine Asia titles reach such runtimes, it’s usually an indication something has gone awry. Yet somehow, it still feels lean with each scene driving the story or grinding the tension. With minimal setup, toxophilite Nam Yi (Hae-il Park) is gifted with cause and justification to employ his otherworldly skills in a daring attempt to rescue his sister.

The bulk of War concerns said rescue attempt and, naturally, any subsequent escape sequences. This more or less equates to two solid hours of cavalry charges, bladed melees and lethal archery contests. The former aren’t especially inspired, yet lashings of gore and screaming combatants certainly help sell the violence.

Predictably, pointy sticks flung by taught strings are the focus here, and it makes for a pleasant change of pace, for once stealing the limelight from fists, feet and blades. And though the devastating ‘half-pounders’ and side-winding bolts are a joy to behold, one can’t shake the impression War didn’t quite showcase archery at its utmost.

A handful more “Holy S**t” draws wouldn’t have gone amiss.

This remains a minor complaint as the half hour finale boasts its share. Meanwhile hero Nam-Yi makes for a refreshingly ruthless protagonist. In addition to impaling foes with wooden projectiles, he’s happy to burn them alive or introduce a monstrously oversized tiger into proceedings if it gets the job done.

But in his defence, wouldn’t you?

Considering I expected this to be a dreary, contemplative exercise on instilling the virtues of archery (patience, stillness, tranquillity, I dunno, other boring stuff?) into one’s soul, War of the Arrows proved a gory treat!

Essentially a two-hour chase scene, crammed with courageous heroes, relentless villains and solid, meaty action, as a medium for advertising the intrinsic coolness of archery, War of the Arrows puts its contemporaries, notably 2010’s Robin Hood to shame.

To shame, Mr Scott, to shame!

Jack McGlynn

 

 

Format: Anamorphic, Dolby, PAL, Surround Sound, Widescreen
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Classification: 15
Studio: Cine-Asia
DVD Release Date: 7th May 2012
Run Time: 118 minutes

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Cinema Review: Wrath of the Titans

Oh My Zeus

DIR: Jonathan Liebesman • WRI: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson • PRO: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Johnsen • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Martin Walsh • DES: Charles Wood • Cast: Sam Worthington, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Liam Neeson

Hang on to your undergarments: Wrath of the Titans is actually kind of good.

Doubtless, those of you who suffered through Louis Letterier’s 2010 Clash of the Titans will have long considered this a mathematical impossibility. Olympian Gods know I did.

But while it retains many of the flaws which so marred Clash, most notably Sam Worthington, Wrath is armed with vastly improved action and wisely slaps on some levity.

Because, let’s be honest, this mythical mash-up aint hardly Shakespeare!

Yes, the narrative is still meandering and unfocused. True, too much of the dialogue concerns solemn exposition of what is, by any normal standards, a wholly bonkers state-of-affairs. And, frustratingly, most action sequences fall victim to this plague of choppy editing which seems to have permanently bonded with Hollywood DNA.

So in this regard, by Zeus’ great, bushy beard, Wrath is still a pile of codswallop!

But what pretty codswallop it is.

The teams responsible for creature design deserve titanic praise. From six-armed, two-headed soldiers to mountains of anthropomorphic magma, Wrath boasts a selection of gruesome beasties and pretty costumes to keep the eyeballs amused.

Though still too sombre for my liking, newcomers Tony Kebbell and Bil Nighy’s respective quips and lunacy steal them every scene they’re in. And considering Wrath is at its worst when Worthington’s Perseus isn’t having his face rammed through a stone pillar or something, this newfound humour, however sparse, softens the blow.

And while the aforementioned action editing frustrates, new direction from Jonathan Liebesman has proved that bigger is assuredly better when it comes to films about fire-breathing nasties and demi-gods with flying horses.

For a film concerned with a titanic clash, Wrath’s predecessor was shamefully skimpy on the set pieces. Liebesman’s latest makes no such missteps, as audiences are never more than three minutes from a new monster, some CG assisted stuntwork or a set-demolishing duke-out.

The fact that its finale is agreeably meaty, features a divinely destructive duel, an expansive, magma spewing pitched battle and the sight of Wolf-Puncher* and Voldemort** staggering about, trouncing foes like a couple of dishevelled wizards, speaks of Liebesman’s ability to connect the dots appropriately.

Liam Neeson’s Zeus*

Ralph Fiennes’ Hades**

Taken out of context, Wrath of the Titans is merely fine, offering some colourful sequences and tremendously hideous beasties (that Chimera is a thing of grotesque beauty) but offering nothing in the way of arresting drama, tense romance or distracting belly laughs.

Most interested in Wrath however, will be looking to wash the bitter taste of Clash from their mouths. Rest assured, this is the sorbet you crave!

As a sequel, it shines, a beacon assuring flagging audiences that directors do listen, can improve on past mistakes and even eventually deliver on at least some of the promise of a title like Wrath of the Titans.

i.e. There are Titans. There is Wrath.

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Wrath of the Titans is released on 30th March 2012

Wrath of the Titans – Official Website

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DVD Review – Yamada: Way of the Samurai

Hi Yamada

Billed as ‘The Last Samurai meets Ong Bak 2’, Yamada: Way of the Samurai is perhaps more aptly described as simply, ‘The Last Samurai.’ Only with an actual samurai instead of Tom Cruise. And Muay Thai Boxers instead of samurai. And fanatic patriotism in place of any sense of narrative thrust or character evolution.

Essentially a celebration for 150 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Japan, Yamada chronicles a misplaced samurai, saved from assassination by a village, populated almost exclusively by scantily clad Thai boxers.

Sadly the drama never musters the energy to stretch beyond this, and the constant jingoistic drone certainly grates on viewers who aren’t a) Thai b) Japanese of c) Nationalistic to a fault. Elsewhere, poorly translated subtitles do few favours for an already forgettable tale.

DVD features include the usual fact-filled commentary from Bey Logan, trailer compilations, deleted scenes and a surprisingly interesting documentary on Thai Boxing.

Mercifully, there are a host of meticulously choreographed brawls and shockingly violent sword fights to keep you entertained. As expected, action is Yamada’s only saving grace with veteran performers Sorapon Chatree (Ong Bak 2 & 3), Thanawut Ketsaro and even staunchly loyal samurai Seigi Ozeki composing themselves magnificently.

The shots are long, wide and rarely flinch from the crack of elbow on chin or knee on rib. The film’s highlight occurs around the one hour mark, and constitutes twelve Muay Thai bodyguards decimating a 200 strong force of savages who really should have run, screaming for mercy inside of the first thirty seconds. The sequence lingers, for all the right reasons. Most of them drenched in blood!

But without anything compelling to latch onto, CG gore and bone crunching melee sequences can only do so much. Even the hardest of hardcore action titles necessitate some degree of poignant framework or emotional resonance to register a response in its audience.

Yamada lacks this.

However, at a concise 90 minutes in length, it has the decency to not overstay its welcome. Best viewed as a technical showcase, Yamada: Way of the Samurai can only, in good conscience, be recommended for bloodthirsty action fans.

And even then I suggest fast forwarding past anything lacking an elbow smashing someone’s face!

Jack McGlynn

Special Features:

– Dolby Digital Thai 2.0 & 5.1 with English Subtitles
– Audio Commentary by Bey Logan
– Masters of the Ring Cine Asia Exclusive featurette
– Deleted Scenes
– Trailer Gallery

Format: Anamorphic, Dolby, PAL, Widescreen
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Classification: 15
Studio: Cine-Asia
DVD Release Date: 30th Jan 2012

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We Love… April Fools: Frank Drebin in 'Police Squad' & 'The Naked Gun'

We Love... April Fools

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

It was Clubber Lang who first uttered the immortal words ‘I pity the fool’ when asked if he hated Rocky Balboa by an intrepid journalist seeking to hype up thier impending meeting in the ring. In honour of April we here at Film Ireland challenge Clubber Lang and propose to ‘praise the fool’.

We’ll be adding to the list throughout April – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now bring on the jesters…


Frank Drebin in Police Squad & The Naked Gun

Jack McGlynn

Who has the best face? Now there’s a question. You’re probably tempted to gush the name of some particularly beautiful person: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Olivia Wilde. Even the more mature among us might suggest Sean Connery or Marilyn Monroe.

But really think about it; the best face…

No-one ever picks Leslie Nielsen. But you should because the truth is, the truth mind you, is he had the ideal face. Think back, scour you memories. Has ever a set of expressive, rubbery, yet profoundly human features brought such joy and mirth to your soul as the late Mr Nielsen’s?

Shirley not.

A serious, dramatic actor for the guts of his career, it wasn’t really until 1980’s , Airplane that the world was graced with Nielsen’s trademark tomfoolery. Revealed to be less of a man, more perhaps an otherworldly force of unrivalled deadpan hilarity, he confounded circumstantial absurdity with a straight-faced sincerity which quickly saw him become a household name. Arguably the man was the very face of humour.

And despite some questionable film choices in his later life, Nielson tackled everything, no matter how minor the role, how poor the film, with a certain vigour and willingness. No matter the rough, Nielsen was ever the diamond. But 26 years of nostalgia and bias aside, two simple words should be enough to cement this man in our minds as the very epitome of comedy. The first word is Frank.

The second is Drebin.

Both Police Squad and the Naked Gun trilogy are timeless experiences, replete with visual gags, clever wordplay, unlikely scenarios, recurring jokes and interlinking antics. Be assured if Nielsen doesn’t slay you with one gag, never fear, there’ll be another along in about 6 seconds to finish the job. I’ll freely admit The Naked Gun 2&½ is my favourite film, bar none. And I prefer my films filled with explosions and fistfights rather than joy and laughter. Nielsen’s that affecting.

It’s said (by people who know such things, presumably) that if you want the measure of an actor, get him to play comedy, force him to make a fool of himself. By this criterion, the late Leslie Nielsen was easily among the finest of performers. And despite the comedy, the laughter and the wit, it would never be so funny without the empathy for his character: The humanity in his face.

Leslie Nielson wore the best face.

It made me laugh.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJEmtLxkEoI&feature=related[/youtube]

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Chinese Film Festival: Ip Man & Ip Man 2

Ip Man

Ip Man

A modern genre classic if ever there was one, 2008’s Ip Man, which simultaneously parallels China’s occupation during WW2 and the titular grandmaster’s rise to folk hero status, has all the elements to satisfy audiences both Eastern and Western. And if you think about it: that’s a bloody rare occurrence!

It’s also, finally, cements Donnie Yen as the world’s premier Ass-kicker. Rightly so, as his performance, physical and otherwise, as the introverted Wing Chun expert is subtle yet evocative and powerful.

The rest of the film stands up equally well, with touching performances, a sympathetic plight, a sweeping narrative and a dozen or so, immaculately crafted fight sequences.


Ip Man 2

As too often is the case with sequels, following a year’s worth of critical and financial success, the inevitable follow-up seems to lose the run of itself completely.

Ip Man 2 isn’t quite that bad, to be honest, it’s rather good, but sadly in comparison to its predecessor, it’s of substantially lower quality. Ironic considering how time should have honed Ip Man’s skills…

The dialogue, the characters, the story and the action, they’re all fine (most of the time) but it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re watching a rushed product that concentrates more on beating you around the head with anti-western propaganda than telling a punchy* tale.

Not that I’m against said propaganda, just it could have been presented with a little more polish.

*(Pun Intended)

Jack McGlynn

The Chinese Film Festival runs from Friday 4th February until Sunday 13th February. For further information visit www.dublin.ie/cny

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The Fighter

The Fighter

DIR: David O. Russell • WRI: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson • PRO: Dorothy Aufiero, David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Paul Tamasy, Mark Wahlberg • DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema • ED: Pamela Martin • DES: Judy Becker • CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

After any decent boxing match, we all like to analyse the performances. Funnily enough that’s what we do with films too. So when it’s a boxing film, better stand back…Because The Fighter comes out swinging, immediately clinching your attention with some heart-felt, energetic performances, before slugging you senseless with realistic, visceral bouts.

Roughly chronically the comeback of real life boxer Mickey Ward, Mark Wahlberg begins his portrayal as a fatigued pugilist, passing his prime and attempting to shake a string of losses and step out from the considerable shadow cast by his older brother, Dickey Eklund.

For any Marky Mark haters out there, take note: the man can act, and carries this film on sculpted shoulders, both metaphorical and literal. His almost bashful quietness betrays a vat of simmering emotion, like when you drop a coke can. A coke can of PASSION! He has help along the way with interesting direction via David O. Russell, who begins the feature as a documentary. Yet, shortly the camera pans, revealing the production crew as part of the arching narrative. This technique allows for the honesty and proximity of the documentary style, yet remains unhindered by its storytelling limitations.

Amy Adams, ever willing to exhibit her considerable acting chops, is more than on form as Mickey’s girlfriend. She shines as a support strut for the loveable fighter, coming to blows, both verbal and in one instance very physical, with his interfering mother and sisters. Also the exploration of their blossoming relationship seems fresh as the pair hook up within the first act. Unfortunately for Adams and Whalberg, if they wanted their acting to stand out, they shouldn’t have starred in a film with Christian Bale.

People seem to have forgotten about Christian Bale. Perhaps it’s due to his temper tantrum in the relatively bland Terminator Salvation? Or being overshadowed by Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight? Either way, people seem to have forgotten that Bale is, without doubt, the finest actor working today. Watch The Fighter and you’ll recall. You may even feel compelled to write a letter of apology to the man for such oversight. Honestly, his performance as crack-riddled, fallen-from-glory, local pride Dickey Eklund, who once knocked down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, is a revelation. Perhaps ‘re-revelation’ is the more precise term, considering his astonishing physical and mental commitment to powerhouse roles in American Psycho, Empire of the Sun, The Machinist, Equilibrium, The Prestige and Rescue Dawn.

Hilarious, upsetting, disgusting, sympathetic and occasionally inspirational, Bale channels all the facets of the storied boxer expertly, and is a joy to watch, even if he’s doing nothing more taxing than asking a passer-by whether or not his dog is a Springer Spaniel.

Spoiler: It was.

Mercifully, Bale’s talents actually amplify the tale’s potency. Sensitive, intelligent direction couple with a cacophony of brutal fights, in and outside of the ring, spoken and otherwise, The Fighter is a boxing film that actually manages the fine balance between entertainment and resonance.

And, if that’s not your thing, dudes get hit in the face real hard and in slow motion. Yes!

Jack McGlynn

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Fighter
is released on 2nd February 2011

The Fighter – Official Website

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmq0DtvpqSM[/youtube]

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We Love…. 2010: 'True Legend'

Best of... 2010

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

We start 2010 by looking back at a few of our favourite films of 2010. Throughout January we’ll be adding to the list. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

True Legend

Jack McGlynn

The world seems to have forgotten how to make action films. Considering this, True Legend is easily the most trailblazing film of 2010.In fact, it could be the single greatest action film for the past ten years.

Yuen Woo Ping hasn’t directed a feature since 1996. The world didn’t know what it was missing.
Seamlessly blending wirework, CGI, visual effects, intricate choreography and some good old fashioned stuntmen kicking each other really hard, each of True Legend’s dozen action scenes are symphonies of martial violence, physical grace and property destruction.

People raved about the Anti-Gravity Corridor fight in this summer’s Inception. Imagine that, plus the superhuman close quarters combat of the Matrix, multiplied by the visceral, brutal bludgeoning administered by Jet Li in Unleashed and you might have an action scene half as good as True Legend’s. The film is not perfect, but action has literally never looked so good.

I could rave indefinitely about this film, so instead here’s a selection of awesome things the indomitable protagonist, the Legendary Beggar Su performs for your delectation:

• Dropkicks an opponent in the chest, only to backflip without landing and dropkick a SECOND opponent in the chest
• Stabs a foe in the heart, then kicks the blade clean through his torso
• Stabs some poor unfortunate with a spear, then kicks his corpse through a wall
• Receives a flying head-butt, which knocks him bodily through a brick wall and down some stairs.
• Blocks a spear while simultaneously doing the splits while kicking some dude in his face
• Regularly blocks incoming strikes by intercepting them with kicks
• Fights the GOD OF WHUSHU atop a mountain shaped like a giant Buddah
• Avoids a sucker punch by leaping bodily into the air and kicking his foe in the head thrice before landing
• Smashes a vase on an opponent’s head and kicks him down a well
• Jumps down after him, and head-butts a poisonous cobra into said combatants chest
• Proceeds to punch his opponent up out of the well, before wrapping a chain around his fist and punching the more or less dead enemy in the neck

The world seems to have forgotten how to make action films.

Remind yourself. Watch True Legend.

Then watch it again.

And again.

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We Love… Christmas: ‘The Lion in Winter’

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Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Throughout December we’ll be adding more Christmas films we love – so keep an eye on the website and feel free to add any of your own…

 

The Lion in Winter

Geoff McEvoy

Christmas is normally a time when our capacity for saccharin is tested to breaking point, but The Lion in Winter is a richer seasonal treat, with the pleasing tang of something bitter. Not that it looks that way at the start. The credits roll to a series of pictures of decaying medieval gargoyles (not Christmassy), then the scariest Gregorian chanting you ever heard kicks in (not Christmassy) and it soon become clear that the film has a very low budget (definitely not Christmassy). Or maybe they just spent all their money on casting because they certainly put together a great line up of actors: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and (making their screen debuts) Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton. And as soon as someone speaks all your reservations disappear because they have given these actors a wonderfully sharp and witty script, a perfect combination for some festive fun.

‘What shall we hang, the holly or each other?’

It’s obvious why Aaron Sorkin made this Jed Barlett’s favourite film in The West Wing because, like his writing for that show, The Lion in Winter finds the perfect balance between hilarious quick fire exchanges and powerful emotional drama. Like your first glass of mulled wine it’s a heady brew. Henry II (O’Toole) rules England and most of France and he has decided to bring his feuding family together for a Christmas court to appoint his successor. Among the guests are his three sons Richard (Hopkins), Geoffrey and John, Philip II of France (Dalton), and his estranged wife Eleanor (Hepburn) who he’s had locked up in Salisbury Tower for the past ten years. So things are set for an explosively dysfunctional Christmas.

‘Hush dear, mother’s fighting’

What makes it work so well as a Christmas film is that, despite the fact that they are fighting over the throne, the characters true motives are all so familiar. The youngest son is a spoilt pouting teenager and the middle child is bitterly resentful of the affection lavished on his siblings. At the centre of it all are Henry and Eleanor constantly scheming and manipulating to undermine each other. They’ve been at it so long that they’ve forgotten how to relate to each other any other way, so they torture each other almost out of habit – Eleanor even seems to torture herself – as they try to find the best way to inflict emotional pain. If one member of this family loves another then that love becomes a weapon to be used against them.

“There’s everything in life, but hope.”

So I guess there’s no denying that, even though it is very funny, this is an anti-Christmas film. Henry and Eleanor may understand the value of peace on earth and goodwill towards men, they may even aspire to it, but it’s just not in them. And yet after all the screaming matches and the knife fights, the exchange of threats between rictus grins and the collapse into despair, you’re still left smiling. Because at the end of the day they’re alive and they have each other and for one day that’s enough (very Christmassy).

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