Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Catch Up!

We've actually watched a few more movies in the last few weeks than I've had time to write up. Well actually, we've seem more than I think deserve to written up, a short run of movies that fail to either be good or interesting enough to say much about, but aren't bad enough to earn any sort of savaging. They've all "passed", I guess, making a reasonable evenings viewing without too many outbursts of pain or squeeks of delight, and ended with a sense of "yep, that was a film that I watched". I guess there is nothing so hard for a critic to write about than straightforward mediocrity. But, for better or worse, here are some thoughts on the last few weeks of "fine" movies.

I liked RED. Its not a film I would go to the barricades to defend, but it was decent enough, had a fun cast and carried itself along with a certain verve. That said, there was the sense that this wasn't a central gag that would run forever, for all The Expendables wants to prove me wrong, and unlike The Expendables, RED seemed a little more in on the joke. Watching say, Helen Mirren, playing an action star is pretty cool, and for me it earned its keep without overstaying its welcome. RED2, sadly really goes for the overstaying its welcome thing.

All it's best bits are essentially re-hashes of the best bits of the first film, leading to a terrible sense of familiarity straight off the bat. I mean, we've seen all of this now, it's not actors playing against their usual type because its not longer the first time. It needed to freshen up the formula, but it really doesn't - even the obvious idea of letting Mary-Louise Parker's badly underused character be, y'know, useful, doesn't seem to strike the writers, so in the end you mostly have the same movie again. It's not bad - a lot of the cast of so inherently watch-able it can't be all bad - but its not good either.

Jack the Giant Slayer
Or maybe Jack the Giant Killer. I mean, I could google it, but the point is if a movie can't impress on you it's title whats the point? Actually there is a good idea in here somewhere, a retelling of a kids fairy tale as a Lord of the Rings style epic, but good god it's po-faced to the point of pretension. Its about magic beanstalks, and giants, and heroes and monsters, and it is relentlessly, constantly, seriously. I'm not saying it needs to be a comedy, nor should it winking at the audience, but if its going to aim for epic seriousness then that needs to be matched in the tone of the direction or art design. Instead you get a terrible mismatch that just sort of plods along.

Another waste of a good cast, this is pretty much the best of the three films here. It's a fun actioner with some good set pieces and a nice buddy dynamic, but when you look at the cast list it could have been so much more. The central premise; two criminals take down a bank, then discover they're both undercover cops being set up by their respective bosses, is a strong one, and the supporting villains are the right sort of scenery chewers to add weight where its needed. And the script does pop sporadically, and the action has a nice gritty feel balances with the explosions and gunplay. It's just lacking...something...to elevate it into the big leagues, and that's a shame.