Episode 33 : Rourke Bottom

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Added on Fri, 30 Jan 2009 00:51:29 +0100.
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New year, new films. Not all of which were as good as we had been lead to expect, disappointingly. Apologies for the audio disruption at Craig's end, it's been cleaned up as best we can but it's below our usual standard.

Twilight is a film with terrible vampire action and terrible teen romance. Now with added terrible. Shooting for the tweenage market, this relies more on the romance between two unlovable leads than it does on the traditional vampire 'being awesome and blood sucking and ass-kicking' schtick, and is much the poorer for it. Banal storytelling and sub-par acting combine to make a deliciously unwatchable arsebiscuit of a film.

A true story, for given values of true, Defiance follows the trials of a group of Jewish Belorussian brothers, the Bielski's (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell) as they go on the run into the forests to escape Nazi persecution after the annex of their country. Eventually setting up camp to house and protect fellow refugees, despite the fraternal disruption this causes, and fighting back against their oppressors, it's an admirable story told in a way I have little argument with, yet fail to be particularly enthusiastic about. I have perhaps filled my quota of WW2 based dramas by this point, and I can't imagine anyone walking away from this thinking it's a bad film. In a purely intellectual sense, I enjoyed this film, but my heart doesn't feel the same way for reasons I don't fully understand.

I think I watched a different cut of The Reader than everyone else on the planet. Can something this ridiculous, dull and vaguely offensive really be the front-runner for so many awards? Following a young Michael Berg (David Kross)'s first love affair with Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) in post-war Germany until she mysteriously vanishes, followed by an unexpected reunion of sorts as the now law student Mike studies a war crimes case, with repercussions all the way into the adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes)'s life. The relationship between Hanna and Michael, in all of the timeframes covered, at best edges towards weird on occasions, but for the largest part is simply boring as is the film on the larger scale with the few interesting implications of the film left only as unexplored implications. Bouncing around between 'boring' and 'idiotic', the exploitation of the German past by American film companies with (largely) English actors with comedy 'zis iz ze German akzent' intonation leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Tedious and ignorable.

In Seven Pounds, Ben (Will Smith) starts as an unlikeable character with a dark and mysterious past that's made him so unlikeable. All well and good for a mystery, with the central hook being that the slow reveals of the events that started Ben off on this pass marrying up with the seeming redemption of his character through his relationship with the critically ill Emily (Rosario Dawson) should be pulling you through and into a story about a guy that is, for the bulk of the film, not a guy you'd want to watch a film about. The main problem I have with Seven Pounds is that if you twig to what's happened in Ben's past early on, which for those who have seen a lot of this sort of thing isn't massively unlikely, there's not much reason to invest any effort or interest in Ben's character arc. This reduces it to something a Smith vanity piece, an excuse to flex his acting muscles, but as someone who's already convinced of his chops in that area this film was left as something vaguely disinteresting and disappointing.

Charting the life of a washed-up Pro Wrestling star, Darren Aronofsky's latest entirely excellent outing The Wrestler provides one of the most compelling films in recent times and an early contender for film of the year. Mickey Rourke, of all people, gives a sympathetic face to a character that often means better than he actually acts, as he attempts to patch up relationships with his estranged daughter and form something more that a client/customer relationship with a girl at the local strip joint. Well observed and entirely respectful handling of the silly world of 'rasslin combines with a wonderfully complete and rounded sense of the lead's life make this a great character piece. Superb.

So, for all the disappointment of the other films, this episode did at least cover one genuinely terrific film. Our next episode will see at least one other genuinely terrific film, so until then, keep watching the screen.