Friday film roundup

The Soloist
The Soloist

Friday this week as it suited the workload a little better. The downside is that Friday was a holiday in Glasgow so the cinema was rammed more than it usually would be. Added to the fact that only two people were selling tickets when I got there, this meant that I was going to miss almost 15 minutes of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, so I skipped it for another time.

The Firm

First up, then, was this cinematic remake of an old made-for-tv movie by writer and director Nick Love. It’s low budget, rough’n’ready (like its subject matter) and hair-raising in places.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Teenager Dominic decides that the local West Ham “firm” of football thugs is more interesting than his mates, so he decides to join up.

The film looks like it was made in the 80’s, let alone being set during the period – and I mean this as a compliment. It’s like a big, grown-up, violent episode of Grange Hill. Complete with mouthfuls of filth and more slang and colloquial language than an Irvine Welsh novel. Unless you were raised in London, you really just have to roll with it and make guesses at the dialogue at times.

The film is a complete story, and a fairly simple one. Most striking are the street fight scenes which do look pretty nasty although the sound effects are a pinch too overblown. Watching them is like seeing old news footage from the era, uncomfortably so at times.

In an interesting take, Love also takes the story into the home of one of the ringleaders showing a completely different side to the character. It’s still fairly shallow, though, and there are no real surprises as the story unfolds.

Worth a watch, and at least it’s not basically a stepping stone for The Firm 2 which would be the case with a US-made feature.

Surrogates

Bruce Willis is back in this quirky near-future thriller which relies more on plot than effects.

That plot-in-a-nutshell: In a world where nobody leaves their home any more, instead mentally controlling human-like “surrogates”, someone has found a way to kill the humans via this safety net.

Willis’ character is an FBI agent in this future world where crime has been reduced by 99% simply by people failing to leave their houses. How they don’t all turn into fat freaks isn’t adequately explained, but the surrogates to look a bit fitter than the real people – if a little more plasticcy.

There is, of course, a rebellious group of luddites who have issues with the whole surrogate thing so the finger of blame initially falls on them but the case isn’t quite so clear cut. There’s also the man who invented the surrogates who was sacked by the company who make them. And an FBI conspiracy.

It sounds impressive, but in honesty it’s all pretty much run-of-the-mill. The surrogate idea itself is a good one, but underneath it’s just another by-the-numbers whodunnit which you can piece together half an hour in.

Still, it’s better than Die Hard 4. But then, so is self-inflicted colonic irrigation.

Fame

It was a tossup between this and Creation as they both had similar start times, but I plumped for the dancey one as I would be seeing another drama next. In honesty, my hopes were moderately high after how much I enjoyed Bandslam recently. It also has a great pedigree… or a lot to live up to depending on your view of the original 80’s version.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: teenagers go through the audition process to get into the most prestigious Performing Arts school in New York, go through, and graduate. All in 137 minutes.

I’ll sum up at the start: Fame is awful. It could have been so much only it tries too hard and fails to cram a TV series’ worth of characters and storyline into 2 1/4 hours. It is, simply, a mess. To begin with, it’s promising as the lead characters go through their auditions with varying degrees of success.

Then *pow* we get the big musical number. It’s like showing the monster from the horror film in the second reel. After this, the whole film goes into one sloppy decline. Each “year in the life” is given what feels like 20 minutes of screen time which simply isn’t enough. What should be major events are breezed over and you’re left waiting for the repercussions… of which there are none.

Full credit must be given to the cast, from the older generation to the younger. There’s an incredible array of talent on show here. The direction and choreography are also lovely. Just such a shame that they’re all wasted on this dog’s dinner of a script.

The Soloist

Final film of the evening (I couldn’t be bothered staying till 23:30 to watch the re-release of John Carpenter‘s The Thing) was this adaptation of a book by one of the central characters.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr) is an LA journalist who writes little stories about life in the city. One day he encounters a down-and-out, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), who turns out to be an incredibly talented musician. The story follows their journey together as Lopez tries to “help” Ayers make the most of his talents.

This is definitely the kind of film that wins OSCARs. However, I don’t think The Soloist is quite good enough to do it. Certainly, the performances are superb. Downey brings in the sarcastic wit and superb timing he employed in Iron Man while Foxx plays the “character with a disability” card in his aim for another award. They certainly both put on amazing performances, and the supporting actors can’t be criticised either.

However, the film just seems to lack something. For every moment of genius there’s something just a little too bland or stereotypical. There’s a beautiful scene during a musical performance where Ayers closes his eyes and we see a display of colour – visualising what he’s seeing. Amazing.

If only the rest of the film could have measured up.

Still definitely worth seeing, if only for a short dose of Downey Jr before Iron Man 2 hits the cinemas.

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Talia

RDJ is also going to be in Sherlock Holmes. It looks dire, but RDJ is RDJ after all. And you’ve seen me get all fangirl over him! :p