3 June 2012

This Week at the Movies - 03/06/12 -

With the summer season in full flow, it's time to look at a few flicks dominating cinemas and DVD shelves over the coming weeks.

This Means War :  C+ 

Tom Hardy and Chris Pine resuscitate this otherwise uninventive star vehicle, which has an irksome Reese Witherspoon strapped on as a third romantic wheel. The boys play the CIA’s finest (never mind that Hardy is overtly British) who also happen to be best friends. Along comes Witherspoon’s hapless career gal, both men are smitten and boom this mean war. Geddit?

Directed by McG (“Terminator Salvation”) “The Means War” is regularly over-stylized and features an early, simple but somehow messily presented shootout. The filmmaker seems far more comfortable with the lighter comedic stuff, pitching the two hugely charismatic performers against each other, finding a respectable roster of laughs en route to an unearned emotional climax. The middle section and Hardy/Pine chemistry is what keeps it watchable. Also look out for a genuinely uproarious paintballing sequence.

Prometheus: C+ 

One of the summer’s most anticipated blockbusters arrives and sadly struggles to match its sensational marketing campaign. That’s not to say it’s bad though, just disappointing. A semi-prequel to 1979’s “Alien”, the film follows the crew of the ship Prometheus (featuring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender amongst others) as they attempt to seek out the beings potentially responsible for our creation.

Ridley Scott (who also crucially helmed “Alien”) depicts the planet and various spaceship interiors juicily, albeit with less of a phallic and vaginal influence than before. The world is visually lush and the film uses 3D effectively, immersing viewers in the action rather than stinging them with cheap scares. There are also individually amazing moments, an explosive finale and gory surgical scene particular highlights.

The problems largely stem from a middling screenplay and some clunky editorial choices, Scott fumbling storytelling in favour of style and atmosphere, not an uncommon trait in his more contemporary outings. The story takes a substantial amount of time to ignite, and when it does, nothing particularly innovative or memorable actually happens. There’s also a distinct lack of tension throughout, a surprise given how masterfully Scott has manipulated it in the past. Alien fanboys should also be made aware that the links often feel forced and unnecessary; with no prior attachment to a franchise this tale might actually have flowed more freely and left a brighter mark.

However brownie points for the casting. Rapace handles her role competently and Michael Fassbender is captivating as the android David. It’s no coincidence that Scott often seems most interested in this character, and with an actor of Fassbender’s skill it’s impossible not to be intrigued by his version of artificial life.

Men in Black 3:  B-

One of the year’s less promising event pictures actually morphs into a pleasant surprise in the guise of Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Men in Black 3”. The plot is pure hokum, it involves time-travel, an intergalactic baddie with a grudge and Emma Thompson with a bizarre haircut but somehow the movie is appealing thanks largely to its deliberately carefree tone.

This is Will Smith’s first flick since 2008’s morbid “Seven Pounds” and the actor demonstrates why he’s been missed, handing in a commandingly charming performance, oozing comedic energy in every frame. Tommy Lee Jones only bookends the piece (probably contractual) but Josh Brolin is a capable substitute. For a filmmaker who hasn’t handled a major blockbuster in a while, Sonnenfeld gets back in the game confidently here, piecing together several impressive set-pieces.

Not quite up to the standards of the 1997 original but a good deal sharper than 2002’s “Men in Black 2”, this entry is forgettable, flighty but ultimately a rather fun time at the cinema. Could have done with a more imposing villain though.

The Muppets: A-

People have covered it to death. It’s been talked about extensively. But let me just weigh in by saying last year’s reincarnation of “The Muppets” is an absolute gem. Written by Jason Segel (can he do no wrong?) the picture is uplifting, hysterical and joyously anarchic. The soundtrack which also deservedly procured an Oscar is a work of artistic genius in its own right. It’s happiness on celluloid. Highly recommended if you haven’t checked it out already. 

Daniel Kelly, 2012


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