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Apologies for the delay, dear friends, caused by a variety of unfortunate reasons not worth troubling you with. In this episode we explore the worth or otherwise of Norwegian Wood, Animal Kingdom, Unknown, The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code and Battle: Los Angeles. We watch them so you don't have to, although that would rather defeat the purpose of being a film fan, I suppose.
First up, Norwegian Wood sees Tran Anh Hung adapt Haruki Murakami's well regarded novel set against a backdrop of a 1960's Tokyo gripped by student protests. Toru (Ken'ichi Matsuyama), however, is more interested in contemplating the suicide of his best friend and comforting said best friends' girl, Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi). At first seeking only mutual comfort, this turns to romance but before long Naoko's anguish gets the better of her, and she checks herself into a sanatorium. Toru's upset by this, but apparently not enough to douse an attraction to fellow student Midori (Kiko Mizuhara). This, I suppose, triggers an emotional crisis for Toru as he struggles with his feelings for the troubled Naoko, rooted in tragedies of the past, and Midori, looking forward to a brighter and happier future. Not that you'd know it, with Toru turning out to be a complete wet blanket of a protagonist. This film seems in very large part to revolve around mentally ill Japanese people crying while a massively overbearing and irritating orchestral score screeches discordantly in the background. Not what I looking for in a film, or a book for that matter, so I'm puzzled as to how this garnered the acclaim that it did.
Down Under now for Animal Kingdom, the tale of young Joshua 'J' Cody (James Frecheville), who finds himself taken in by his grandmother Janine (Jacki Weaver), matriarch of a Melbourne crime family after his mother dies. Soon, the family's contingent of nutters come into direct and violent conflict with the occasionally corrupt forces of Melbourne's Finest, and chaos threatens to ensue. Opinions split on this film, Drew being drawn into the narrative through some fine performances of unlikeable characters, and Scott simply not caring about the unlikeable characters and finding the whole thing intolerably boring. We can at least agree that the presumably deliberately low-key, nearly emotionless turn from Frecheville makes it harder to find a sympathetic heart in the piece.
Liam Neeson bounces along next, playing the post-car-accident-amnesiac Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) in Unknown. Returning to his wife, he finds her denying all knowledge of him with someone else running around claiming to be him. Intrigue abounds, and soon so do assassins trying to silence Harris Prime. Credibility is not Unknown's strong suite, but it bombs along snappily enough that you shouldn't notice how unlikely it all is. Unknown presents an enjoyable enough watch, in large part by dint of Neeson's charisma and presence, and it's a competent little thriller that's certainly a decent option for you when it shows up on the telly.
We have a weakness for awesome hats here at theOneliner.com, so The Adjustment Bureau was always likely to appeal to us. Based on a Philip K. Dick short, this sees political candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) accidentally wander in on a mysterious group of behatted strangers, changing his co-workers minds through methods more akin to magic than spirited discussion. This, it transpires, will have implications for his star-crossed but beleaguered romance with Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). A shaggy dog story that nonetheless is though-provoking, touching on the nature of free-will versus determinism, it's a very entertaining watch and features awesome hats, so therefore gets our seal of recommendation.
We're told time waits for no man, but for Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Source Code this is only partially true, as he lives the last eight minutes of a hapless train passengers' life over and over again in an attempt to uncover the identity of the bomber of said train, who threatens to carry out further atrocities. This is made possible through the nebulous workings of the titular, inappropriately named Source Code, and while it might not be the hardest of science fiction it presents a ripping yarn grounded by a charismatic and sympathetic performance from Gyllenhaal. Pacy, punchy, and probably the best slice of Sci-Fi seen in cinemas since director Duncan Jones' last effort, Moon.
Battle: Los Angeles is far closer to the brainless action end of the Sci-Fi spectrum, as an unabashedly evil alien race invade Earth and start a campaign of indiscriminate killings. In the L.A theatre, it's up to Staff Sergeant (Aaron Eckart) and his squad to defend the earth. While, at its core, Battle: Los Angeles isn't much more than an action spectacular cum special effects showreel, there's enough human touches to help us care at least somewhat about the character's struggles to survive the alien onslaught. I doubt you could make any solid, convincing arguments that Battle: Los Angeles could be considered high art. You will have much more success convincing people that Battle: Los Angeles, like the video games it takes its cues from, is a lot of escapist, explosion filled fun to entertainingly pass a couple of hours with. Well worth a look in for any action fan.
That is all for now. We'll be back sometime soon, so until then keep your nose clean and if you can't be good, be lucky.