Rush / White House Down

120px-Film-stripTwo-film Thursday again, and this week only two films happened to be on that we hadn’t seen and wanted to see. Nice, easy choice for a change!

Rush

“Asshole.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: dramatised biopic of the 1976 F1 season focusing on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda

See it if you like: tight, character-driven dramas with an edge of action. Or F1. Or cars.

I begin with the same disclaimer with which I started my review of Senna about two years ago: “I am not an F1 fan. I appreciate the technology and so forth, but I find the sport itself deathly dull.” I will, however, also reach the same conclusion – it makes for bloody brilliant films.

Seriously, without looking on IMDB to check his filmography, I don’t think Ron Howard has made a single bad film. And he continues the impressive trend with this.

Despite being set in the world of motor racing, the tale is very much focused on the two main characters – ladies man and bit-of-a-dick James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), and rat-like workhorse Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).

From their first meeting during a Formula 3 race to their world famous clash during the 1976 F1 season, the story follows their personal lives, relationship with each other and memorable events on the track.

One benefit, as with Senna, of not being a fan of the racing is that I didn’t know exactly how things would pan out as far as results went. Obviously it must have been tight, but beyond that it added something to the film by not knowing. At one point the wife, who probably likes F1 even less than me, leaned over and asked “Does anyone die in this race?” She was genuinely wrapped up so much in the characters that she was nervous about watching. It’s that good.

While the track sequences are stunning they are purely the backdrop to the excellent performances by the leads (and supporting cast) who really portray two vastly different men who ended up very much respecting each other. The story on the way there is a roller-coaster of a ride of the highest order and left me just as thrilled and exhausted at the end as if I’d been on a real one.

I’ll finish with a quote from the Mrs: “I’d say more than pleasantly surprised, there were points when I was literally on the edge of my seat. Not into cars at all but this is a great film, I really enjoyed it.”

White House Down

“How do you lose a rocket launcher?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: mad loons break into the White House to kidnap the President. Only one man (and his daughter, and a tour guide, and another man, and some people outside) can stop them

See it if you like: Silly action films that don’t make much sense, but entertain nevertheless

By coincidence, we watched Olympus Has Fallen earlier this week, which has a very similar plot but takes a more serious tone than the more “jokey” one apparent in scenes of White House Down. In fact, the trailer for this film may make you think that it’s more of a buddy-buddy comedy action.

Actually, it isn’t. Although there are some light-hearted moments and good one-liners, it’s as much a comedy as Die Hard (which is always going to be the benchmark for 1-man or 2-men against overwhelming odds action films). The effects are better than OHF‘s as well, which to me looked more like a made-for-TV movie with some shonky CGI vehicles and the like.

In this WHD, Channing Tatum plays Cale, a wannabe secret service agent and actual army drop-out with a failed marriage. His dream job is to be on the presidential guard to impress his daughter (a marginally annoying, but only in a way all teenagers are, Joey King). The President in this case is played by Jamie Foxx and he’s probably the piece of the puzzle (barring the usual “no human can take that many beatings issue) which provides the weak link.

Foxx isn’t bad at all. And he works well alongside Tatum in their scenes together. It’s the character himself that requires belief suspension. First of all a black president (one of the background reporters towards the end actually refers to him as “Obama”!), and one who wants to withdraw all troops from the Middle East thus setting up the reasons for the assault on the White House. Yeah, right.

However, if you can’t suspend belief during an action film then you may as well sit at home. It rollicks along at a fair old pace once it gets going with suitably bad bad guys, buff good guys, and ineffective authority figures bickering amongst themselves instead of getting the job done.

Oh, and if there’s one whopping great reference to Bruce Willis‘s best film it’s the computer hacker. Flamboyant, egotistical, and listening to classical music while he taps away.

As expected, the bangs and crunches get bigger and stupider as the film progresses. No surprises, no major twists that you can’t see coming a mile away but still a fun ride.

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21 Jump Street

A little behind the times due to being so busy, but we finally made the time for a cinema visit and squeezed in the 2011 update of an old TV series:

21 Jump Street (2012)

“When did I get stabbed? That’s awesome!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two high school opposites find themselves on the same undercover squad when they join the police… and get sent back to high school

See it if you like: no-brainer, low-brow, side-aching silliness

Jonah Hill had a hand in writing this reworking of the 80’s TV series as well as starring as Schmidt, the fat (but smart) loser. Channing Tatum is square-jawed and knuckle-dragging as his exact opposite, the popular jock who can’t scrape the grades to pass his tests.

The characters and set-up are breezed through very quickly indeed at the start of the film, which is welcome given the fact that it’s hardly original. From high school rivals to police academy buddies in less than five minutes. With a line in humour similar to that found in Hot Tub Time Machine it similarly comes very clean about its lack of originality in a speech by the guys’ captain as the plot is being pushed along.

Kicked from the front line into undercover work, they find themselves thrown back into high school to try and uncover a drugs plot. Throw in a bit of confusion which results in Hill’s Schmidt becoming Mr popular while beefcake Jenko ends up being the nerd, and the laughs genuinely roll in.

It’s not high level humour and it doesn’t ever pretend to be. It’s fairly predictable, but it is also marvellously silly. The two actors work well together and there are some decent little twists in the story to keep you entertained waiting for the next gag or use of the word “****”.

There is absolutely nothing new in 21 Jump Street but it doesn’t matter. It’s funny and entertaining. The theatre was rocking with laughter and we left with big smiles on our faces. What more could you want from a comedy?

Oh, it also has a nice little surprise at the end. See if you can avoid any spoilers before you see it!

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The Eagle, Faster, Sucker Punch and Mars Needs Moms

Four films in a contracted form due to me being knackered after a long week!

The Eagle

“I hate everything you stand for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Roman goes in search of something belonging to his dad that some Scots pinched.

Originally titled The Eagle of the Ninth and based on a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe, this is the story of a young Roman, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) who heads to Britain in charge of a small fort. There, he begins a promising career despite the black mark on his family’s history caused by his father losing a whole bunch of soldiers and a gold eagle standard.

Events give him the chance to team up with a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), and head north of Hadrian’s Wall into a land of savages and cut-throats. So kind of like a stag night in Glasgow, then.

Visually lovely, with the majority of the filming being done in Scotland itself. The remainder, just out of interest, taking place in Hungary. The sets, costumes and scenery are wonderful. The dialogue isn’t bad, and I enjoyed the way the non-Roman speech was done in what I assume is an old form of Scots Gaelic and subtitled.

It’s not the most complex of storylines, but the source material is aimed at young adults. Don’t think this is a kids’ film, however. Though definitely tamer than the likes of TV’s recent Spartacus – Blood and Sand, the combat is still moderately bloody.

I did miss the first five minutes, but this didn’t cause me any problems. In fact, if anything I enjoyed the trip just that bit more as it meant I didn’t have to sit through that bloody Orange advert for the millionth time.

Good stuff and worth seeking out for an entertaining bit of viewing.

Faster

“God can’t save you from me!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: There’s a plot? Oh, yeah. Something about people getting shot.

This film is a deliberate homage to 1970’s action films and it shows, with the rumbling engines of stupidly big cars, cringe-making dialogue and utterly mental storyline. It’s cheesier than a cheese factory made of cheese.

If you can handle the smell of stale socks, though, it’s not a bad bit of film in a dopey way.

The main characters are known simply by their titles. Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is seeking revenge for his brother’s murder as the upshot of a robbery which also landed him in prison. He’s being hunted by Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hired Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who happens to be banging a bloody hot chick played by Maggie Grace. She’s only a side character, but by Jimminy. WOW.

If ever there was a film where you could switch your brain into “drool”, this is it. The relentless Driver is simply there to bulldoze through any attempt at plot and kill people. The Killer adds the cool and the Cop adds the “troubled soul heading for retirement”. Hell, one of his first lines is the fact that he’s only a few days from retirement.

A guilty pleasure, but pleasing all the same.

Sucker Punch

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: I’ll get back to you once I figure out what the hell it was about.

I believe this is Zack Snyder‘s fourth film and I’ll give him this – he’s consistent. I’ve consistently found his films just not quite getting there in terms of enjoyment. Visual spectacle, perhaps. But otherwise somewhat empty. Sucker Punch leaves you winded.

The opening ten minutes or so are completely dialogue-free as we’re rushed through the back story. The character we come to know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) loses her mother, falls under the wing of an evil uncle who needs her out of the way to claim the inheritance, accidentally shoots her sister while trying to defend herself from aforementioned bad man and ends up being committed.

Here, she it put into some kind of programme whereby she dances for rich people as some kind of therapy. When she does this, she regresses into some inner fantasy as a kind of escapism. Or something. I think. Anyway, what happens in there (during some incredible CGI scenes) marginally mirrors the “real” world.

I think.

Basically, ignore the plot – what there is of one. Enjoy the visuals, which are staggering. Leave the cinema and wish they’d put as much effort into a decent story as they did into the graphic design.

Pretty but ultimately unsatisfying. Like any girl band you care to mention.

Mars Needs Moms

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young boy has a fight with mother who is then kidnapped by Martians. He sets about rescuing her.

I saw this with Mister 3-Year-Old only as Miss 10-Year-Old had been sulky and her punishment was to go shopping instead. I think she might have got a bit more out of the film, especially as it’s about learning to realise how important your mother is to you when you’re a child.

The thing is, for a kid that age the film may come across as mawkish or at least trying to force a point. To the younger audience it’s simply not colourful enough. The majority of it is deliberately grey and drab to emphasise the Martian world since The Supervisor (Mindy Sterling) took over and separated male and female babies for life.

That is until she kidnaps Milo’s mom (Joan Cusack) and finds Milo himself (Seth Green / Seth Dusky) running rampant around Mars when he inadvertently hitches an interstellar lift.

There are a handful of action scenes, but until late in the film these are still all in shadow and greyness. Not much for a 3-year-old to fixate on.

While I thought it was kind of alright, the little mister did very well to sit still for the whole of it. If you want to see Seth Green doing good animation, watch Robot Chicken. It’s somewhat adult, but small children will find more enjoyment watching toys being dismembered.

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Fighting

Channing Tatum in Fighter
Fighting

Good. Grief. What a bloody awful film.

Seriously. If you could film tedium, this would be it. One hour and forty-five minutes of mind-numbing boredom, horrendous acting and the worst “twist” I think I’ve ever seen.

The positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes simply said that watching Channing Tatum beat people up was the only good thing about Fighting. Thing is, even the fight scenes are crap. They’re not particularly well filmed, are ridiculously predictable and far too short.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Random guy in the street somehow ends up taking place in bare knuckle boxing. And wins. The end.

Just don’t bother. Save your cash. If you’re female (or gay) and want to see Channing Tatum topless then please just find some pictures on the internet. For all that’s precious in this world, don’t pay money to see this film or they may think people actually like it.

Awful. Awful. Awful.

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