Episode 23 : RocknThundernBangkoknPineapplenStrangersnGirl

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Added on Thu, 09 Oct 2008 00:09:57 +0200.
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Hello, hello, it's good to be back. This time on the podcast, film reviews. Who'd have guessed?

The latest Guy Ritchie outing RocknRolla sees a return to both the familiar stomping ground of East End gangster wideboy tomfoolery and a return to form. While it's essentially the same film as Snatch which was essentially the same film as Lock, Stock..., it retains enough of thee wit and low-life charm that made his pre-Madonna work (ho ho, do you see what I did there, etc) so appealing that it's well worth a look, as long as you've already resigned yourself to sampling Ritchie's old rope.

Latest volley from the Asian remake cannon, Danny and Oxide Pang's redux of their own Bangkok Dangerous replaces everything distinctive about their 1999 work and replaces it with a mildly disinterested Nic Cage, which works about as well as you'd expect. While it retains some of the HK-Woo-style action lunacy the attempt to give a Western slant to proceedings mean that this ends up falling between the two targets and pleasing neither.

In The Strangers, Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler go to their remote family getaway and are then stalked a couple of murderous freaks in masks. And that's the extent of it. While it's certainly a better rehash of Halloween than the Rob Zombie version was, the fact that you're told at the outset that our leads buy the farm reduces this from a tense exploration of the question of their survival to a guessing game to see when they get the stabby-stabby. That aside, it does a few laudable things in a genre that rarely raises itself above dismal, but nothing like enough of them to make amends for its shonky structure.

Pineapple Express is the latest from the Judd Apatow production line, and damned if it isn't as successful as the previous outings. Essentially a combination of Cheech & Chong and Lethal Weapon with the dials turned up, this manages to provide a gloriously silly homage to both the buddy action movie and stoner flick genres, if such things exist, without being disrespectful to its forbears. Great performances from Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and Gary Cole gloss over the cracks in a somewhat patchy narrative to give a very funny film.

The other action-comedy doing the rounds is Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, and gosh-darn if that isn't gosh-darn funny as well. Perhaps less of a spoof of the OTT action films than a spoof of those who act in them, calling this Zoolander with Guns is probably about as succinct a description as I can manage and as high a compliment as I can think of. While this is perhaps another one of those films where if you don't like the comic work of Actor X where here X = Stiller then this won't change your mind about him, this is the funniest thing he's done in ages.

South Korean flick The Chaser receives a somewhat inexplicable release on this side of the world, given that it sort of sucks. Taking the 'cop on the trail of a serial killer' genotype and mutating it somewhat by having the cop being a pimp (and an ex-cop, so not straying to far from type), it turns it rather on it's head by not only telling you whodunnit from the outset, but by having his arrested within the first quarter hour or so. The rest of the film concerns the police getting together enough evidence to convict him of the crimes he confesses to, but against an entirely arbitrary and screamingly stupid deadline before he is released to kill again. For some reason. All very Deus Ex Machina, and while variations on themes are welcomed around these parts there's to many inexplicable conveniences in this film to allow us to invest any emotion in it. Avoidable.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time might hail from the director of Digimon, but it's also from the Madhouse studio that brough us the sublime Perfect Blue and Metropolis, and has far more in common with them than the kiddy pleasing cartoon series. While the otherwise ordinary Makoto's newfound ability to jump back in time may be the hook on which the film is hung, the meat of the piece is her relationships with her two male best friends as she tries to fight the external forces that would have them drift apart. Melancholy, touching and believable emotions make this a genuinely affecting film in ways that the likes of Pixar have yet to match. Having to explain the time travelling McGuffin and a sudden overload of emotion in the last twenty minutes rather drag the film down, and would perhaps have been better showing the same understatement of the earlier running, but that's the only niggle in an otherwise lovely and visually beautiful film.

That's yer lot, so until next time, when you're at the supermarket and you hear the beep, think of the fun you could be having listening to theOneliner podcast.