Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Movie Review Round Up - June 2012

Having enough time on my hands to catch a lot of big screen action, but strangely not enough to write a full length review, here's a short burst of opinions on what I've  seen this month. The lengthier reviews will be back soon. No, really.


Begins spectacularly. Looks stunning. Pulls you in, hook, line and sinker into an ambitious plot that's heavy with existential dread.

Then, at about the 1 hour mark, it starts to fall apart.

The very reason that Prometheus came into existence is also the albatross around its fascinating neck. This was a movie designed as, if not a direct prequel to Ridley Scott's Alien, then at least a close cousin of the movie, sharing, as Scott put it, the "DNA" of the cult film. In this attempt to link it to Alien, Scott manages to squander a fascinating premise. "Where do we come from?" is the question the movie asks as it begins, and "Why were we made?". But as it reaches its conclusion, the metaphysics is replaced with one big question: "What does the black goo do?". Prometheus doesn't actually devolve into a terrible film, just one that leaves aside the soaring heights of its initial premise to try and give us more convention sci-fi thrills.

Still, the hypnotic first hour, the beautiful visuals, and a reliably excellent performance from Michael Fassbender make this an important summer watch.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

I've seen the first two Madagascar movies, and been faintly amused - and that's it. Passable, lightweight entertainment. To my delight , this third outing decides to leave behind all moorings in reality - or sanity - and delivers one of the more satisfyingly entertaining experiences I've had at the movies in a while. The plot is besides the point, the movie exists in a series of staggeringly fun set pieces. My favourite of these is probably the one where King Julian the flamboyant lemur falls for Sonja, the tricycle riding bear. Then they go to the Vatican and get married. Then they go on a honeymoon where her tricycle breaks. So of course King Julian buys her a motorbike, which she rides on the streets of Rome with wild abandon, her husband secure on her shoulders.

What, you need more reasons to watch this?


Having eagerly tracked Dibakar Bannerjee's cinematice oeuvre, one has come to expect genre-redefining acts from him at abandon. The charming family reverse-con in Khosla Ka Ghosla, the other side of the conman in Oye Lucky,  and of course the audacious, chilling  Love, Sex aur Dhokha.  If Shanghai fails at any point, its that it betrays that red hot streak of boundary pushing. Its an excellently made political thriller, with great all-round performances (with the exception of a somewhat grating Kalki) and a crackerjack script. The plot zips along and the pace rarely slackens from its gripping tautness. But its Dibakar Bannerjee and unfair as it is, he's led you to expect something more,  another layer perhaps, or  a moment of stunning revelation, or even unexpectedly fierce poignance. It doesn't come. Shanghai remains a fine film, one of the better Bollywood productions we'll see this year.

What it fails at is transcendence - a forgivable enough flaw.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages has a bit of a problem. Its a 2 hour-odd film, with about an hour and ten minutes of song. The songs represent some of the 80s biggest rock hits, and are mostly sung well, if not always staged perfectly. The problem is that the other fifty minutes comprise incredibly shoddy dialogue and alarmingly hammy acting. And those imperfect staging choices? Yeah so one of them involves splicing random shots of Mary J. Blige's extremely  peripheral matter into a series of musical numbers that have no business involving her. Also, her hair goes from resembling a dying hedgehog to a glossy lion mane. 

If anything else stands out in this strange production, its the one terrific performance of the lot: Tom Cruise as rocker-of-ages Stacee Jaxx. Cruise takes the slightest of material and crafts a memorable character, one haunted by the excesses of fame. Also, he can sing. Really sing. Particularly memorable is his rendition of Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive, a performance he seems to be pouring every fibre of his being into. 

If only the rest of the movie displayed the same kind of delirious commitment. 

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