Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Night Movie Reviews: September

It's that time once again! No, I'm not talking about the start of the NFL season, I'm talking about our Friday Night Movie Reviews! We dish up mini nugget movie reviews for you, dear reader, on the first weekend of each and every month.

Join us below the cut to find out what Luke, Courtney and first-time Friday Night Movie Reviewer Vanessa have been watching this month!

The Devil's Double (2011) by Courtney

Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Latif Yahia, Devil’s Double depicts his arguably true experience as the body double of Uday, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son. This independent film was in production for a long time and was released with very little fanfare, I had forgotten all about it until I finally watched it recently. Regardless of its veracity, Devil’s Double is an incredible and intense experience, it’s almost two hours long and I was gripped the whole time. Dominic Cooper is still what one might call a “That Guy” you know that guy you keep seeing in a heap of films but you never know his name? His most notable roles recently have been as Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger and Henry Sturges in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; so I’m quickly becoming a fan, he plays really cool characters.

His performance, or rather performances as both Uday and Latif is astounding, it’s really what makes the movie so compelling. Latif is a strong, stoic man with a moral code and he is suddenly taken from his former life, made dead to the world and remade into Uday’s double where he is thrown into a surreal world of opulence and brutality. Uday by all accounts was a complete monster and they do not shy away from it in this film, he does some despicable things and yet Dominic is able to give him some elements of humanity which somehow makes him even more despicable.

Surprisingly Devil’s Double isn’t all that focused on the politics or war of the time and depicts it from a neutral perspective. It’s primarily concerned with the conflict between these two characters and I think that’s for the best. Surprisingly while this film was critically well received, it didn’t do all that well at the box office and didn’t get much recognition for awards either, which is a shame because it’s really well done production all around.

As usual I seem drawn to obscure films and I love to bring them to attention in these reviews and I certainly believe this one is deserving of your attention.

Paul (2011) By Vanessa

Don't get me wrong; Edgar Wright is an awesome writer and director and his work with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End sings in my heart. But this review is about Paul, the non-Edgar Wright film that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg did together. Paul is fantastic. Bloody fantastic. Very few television shows and movies are capable of sending up genres or groups of people without pushing filmgoers to laugh AT the group that is being depicted rather than WITH. Paul's take on sci-fi geeks is amazing and as far as an alien-comedy goes it rules.

Graeme and Clive are an amateur comic artist and writer respectively. They are in San Diego for Comic Con to meet Adam Shadowchild, their favourite comic author, and then to go on a tour of the famous alien landing sites of America. Along the way they have their own alien encounter... with Paul. Paul is a typical looking alien on the run from the government who have had him locked up in Area 51 ever since he crashed his space ship on Earth and squashed a little girl's dog. Paul's been consulting with the government; helping Spielberg with ideas for his movies, getting his image out to the general public so that they will be more prepared when first contact is truly made, and generally being awesome. Now the government big wigs want to dissect him and he's on the run trying to get back home.

There's something for everyone in this film. The jokes operate on multiple levels. There are very specific sci-fi references - when in the forest Clive is seen sleep-talking and saying, "Boomer... it is forbidden"; a Battlestar Galactica reference. There are more accessible cult references - Adam Shadowchild is the dad from Arrested Development and Graeme's three titted alien illustration gets a lot of laughs (a reference to Total Recall). And there are some very general pop-culture references - such as the reveal as to who "The Man" is and where famous ideas in pop-culture have come from.

The characters are loveable and funny. Seth Rogen is a perfect wisecracking, foul mouthed, little grey alien! Simon Pegg and Nick Frost manage to play best friends yet again, but their relationship is completely different. Kristen Wigg is wonderful as Ruth Buggs and her performance rounds out the core team wonderfully. Jason Bateman as Agent Zoil is a stroke of brilliance.

Paul is a film you can watch a million times and feel giddy happy after. The jokes only get funnier.

The World's End (2013) by Luke

To not like Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright would be akin to not liking a basket full of puppets. Even if they shit on your bed occasionally there is something inherently good-natured and endearing about them. I’m especially a fan of director Wright, whose adaptation of Scott Pilgrim is an enduring favourite.

I hadn’t been particularly excited about The World’s End trailers - it felt like a retread of Shaun of the Dead - so I began watching the film with some degree of resistance, especially to Simon Pegg’s abrasive Gary King whose black-clad rebelliousness initially felt a lot like awkward wish fulfilment. But, much like the aforementioned puppy-basket, as the film progressed I really couldn’t help but fall victim to its charms. It’s so sincere, and the ensemble cast is so affable that it’s impossible to have anything but goodwill for what they’re trying to do.

The World’s End is a story about a group of friends on the cusp of middle-age taking one last shot at the glory years by attempting an epic 13 pint pub crawl which they failed in the past. And and part way through there is the requisite From Dusk to Dawn style twist and the film morphs into a paranoia fuelled sixties-style sci-fi where nobody can be trusted. It’s here that the humour and mayhem really ramp up although thankfully the story never jettisons the study of friendship that is at its core. Although ultimately this is a film about resisting conformity and change, it’s about failing to grow up, and desperately clinging to the memories of a misspent youth. As a perpetual manchild myself, it was certainly a theme I could relate to, and I’m sure that also rings true for a lot of readers on this site.

My only real criticism is that Wright seems to struggle to keep his final acts lean (Scott Pilgrim also suffered from this) and I did feel that the final confrontation is more belaboured than it needs to be. He seems to have far more fun with the journey and then isn’t quite as confident when he reaches his destination. I didn’t adore this film, but it is still certainly worthy of your time.

No comments:

Post a Comment