Archive for March, 2011

Film Reviews: Rango, The Other Guys, Another Year and others

March 6, 2011

I caught up with some film viewing this weekend


The film starts with an unnamed lizard who lives in a glass case and fancies himself as an actor, using toys in place of a full cast. The poor little chap is clearly a bit lonely and struggling with his identity. Before long his glass case falls out the back of a moving car and he finds himself dumped unceremoniously in the desert. From here he finds himself in a small wild west town filled with other small critters. They don’t much like outsiders so he pretends to be a gunslinger called Rango. From here he quickly finds himself being central to the towns efforts to save itself from various problems.

The film is, unsurprisingly, dotted with references to all sorts of other westerns, and even Three Amigos. There’s also a plot line that seems to draw parallels with everyones favourite obsession of our time: the banking crisis.

Johnny Depp provides one of his more enjoyable performances in recent years and clearly enjoys playing a ham. The animation is beautifully done and the design is great. Hans Zimmer does a brilliant job of taking every western soundtrack and incorporating them, as well as a fantastic Dick Dale rip-off on the end credits.

Mostly though, the jokes are great, and there are enough surprises to stop things getting boring.

As a sidenote to anyone thinking of taking their kids: I saw this in a cinema filled with children and I think kids less than nine are going to struggle with this movie. It seems too long to hold their attention, most of the jokes will just fly past them and some of the scenes will completely confuse them.

The Other Guys

The Other Guys is yet another vehicle for Andy McKay and Will Ferrell. This time the plot is that New Yorks best cops have died in a bizarre accident so now two loser cops look to take their place. And that’s basically as much plot as you’re going to get.

I think this film is a warning to Ferrell and McKay that their relationship has finally run out of steam. I really liked Anchorman, Talledega Nights was pretty good (although largely because of Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance) and Step Brothers was a cobbled together, hit and miss mess. The Other Guys represents a further drop in quality.

Firstly Mark Wahlberg doesn’t belong in this movie. Either he was badly directed or he can’t do comedy for shit. He should be playing a purely straight man role (much like James Caan in Elf) but instead he’s playing a weird combination of straight man and wacko and the poor bastard just can’t make it work.

Secondly this film is a criminal waste of comic talent. Steve Coogan plays a Nick Leeson like character who makes losses in the stock market and then hides them in other investments. He doesn’t get a laugh in the entire movie. Even more insulting is they give a running gag to Michael Keaton that is one of the most pathetic attempts at a gag you’ll ever hear from professional writers.

Finally, the jokes in the first half an hour are pretty good but then the whole thing falls of a cliff, the energy dies and the film starts to feel like a chore.

The film this most readily resembles is Ben Stiller’s and Owen Wilson’s Starsky and Hutch. So, if you think that someone should have made a lower quality sequel to Starsky and Hutch then your luck is in.

Oh, one last thing. The end credits are taken up with infographics about the US bank bailout. Seriously.

Another Year

Here we have a Mike Leigh film that revolves around Tom and Jerry, a couple who are approaching their retirement. But while they are the centre of the film the main stories come from their friends who drift in and out of their lives.

In this respect the film has a similar structure to Mike Leigh’s earlier film, High Hopes – and shares most of the same cast.

The main character is Mary who is middle-aged, single and rather fond of wine.

There’s surprisingly little drama in Another Year, no big revelations or conflicts. It becomes apparent that this is because all the drama has already happened, the damage has been done and now we see the fallout.

Another one of the odd things about this film is that it is ultimately about Mary but doesn’t centre around her. It’s as if she’s an incidental character in her own life – and ultimately that’s the saddest thing about her.

If you’ve liked Mike Leigh films previously then this is a must-see. Highly recommended.

44 Inch Chest

This movie has five of Britain’s greatest actors playing a bunch of gangsters. They kidnap a waiter from a restaurant because he’s having an affair with Ray Winstone’s wife (note: never have an affair with Ray Winstone’s wife). They drag the poor bastard to an abandoned house and then try to work out what to do with him. And that’s it really.

The film feels a bit theatrical because it pretty much happens on one set plus the dialogue is in no way realistic. But, that criticism to one side, this is a very entertaining bit of old nonsense with the superb performances covering a multitude of sins. Make sure you catch it on telly.

The Yes Men Fix the World

And finally a documentary about The Yes Men, a pair of guys who play pranks on corporate America. It’s about time someone did.

I do feel that the prankster-ish element that has crept into public protest is very welcome – it would be awful to revive the prudish, po-faced protesting of the eighties.

So if you want to protest (and there’s so much to protest these days) this film offers inspiration.