Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three Films Make A Post: Heavy metal goes medieval

Iron Man 3 (2013): If someone had told me ten years ago that a few years later, some of the best non-stupid blockbuster movies around would be a series of interlocked Marvel superhero movies produced by Disney, I'd laughed him off, but there you have it. Shane Black's Iron Man 3 is a very fine example of its species, hitting all the mandatory Hollywood blockbuster beats with relish and talent, but adding some intelligent twists to certain parts of the formula without trying to completely deconstruct it. It's a film absolutely impossible for me to dislike, seeing as it - as most of the other Marvel movies - is the kind of pop high budget cinema the blockbuster concept should be ideal for; of course, far too often, we get Michael Bay movies or whatever that Green Lantern thing was even supposed to be instead. Happily, there's a difference between "far too often", and "always".

The Midnight Meat Train (2008): With hindsight, you can see this Clive Barker adaptation as director Ryuhei Kitamura's first step away from his old show-off direction ways towards tighter and moodier approaches to filmmaking. About half of Midnight Meat Train is a pretty swell tale of big city paranoia told in ways that often remind me more of 70s horror cinema than of video clips. The film's second half is a bit of a mess, though. Particularly the murders see Kitamura fall into his old direction pattern featuring too much CGI and braggart editing and camerawork distracting from what should be gritty and unpleasant. The film also suffers from a script that doesn't quite seem to know how to sell the film's supernatural aspect, nor how to make Bradley Cooper's increasing obsession with the true heart of the City believable. Neither Kitamura, never much one for actual humans on screen, nor Cooper himself seem to know either.

In fact, in true Kitamura style, most of the performances (except Leslie Bibb's lamely doomed girlfriend Maya) are rather drab, leaving as Midnight Meat Train a film lacking an emotional core.

Sleeping Dogs (1977): Believe it or not, before Roger Donaldson went to Hollywood, he made some fine movies in his native New Zealand. Case in point is this pretty bitter, very 70s sort-of thriller about Sam Neill trying his best not to get involved in or against a new and improved fascist New Zealand but ending crushed by the wheels of history anyway. The film does avoid heroic, mostly even defiant gestures like the plague and instead shows flawed incompetents like you or me as they stumble through a world that suddenly has turned nasty on them, with no way out and no control at all regarding their own fates. Not even violence does change much.

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