Episode 34 : Condensed February

  • Podcast image
  • Podcast image
  • Podcast image
  • Podcast image

Download mp3! (41:13 minutes, 18.9 Mb)

Subscribe via RSS!

Subscribe in iTunes!

Added on Wed, 11 Mar 2009 12:43:49 -0700.
Email us your comments or suggestions!

Hey. Long time, no see. Grab a seat and tell us how you've been, while we fill you in on the movies we've seen since last we met.

Gran Torino sees Clint Eastwood in what he says will be his last outing in front of the camera, playing bitter Korean War veteran living in a neighbourhood on the slide, plagued by gangs. With Korean families moving in all around and estranged from his family, an unlikely friendship develops with a neighbourhood kid who attempts to steal his titular car. Drama develops when this brings him into contact with said gangs, although this isn't an all-action extravaganza. With compelling and, in Eastwood's Walt Kowalski's case, surprisingly sympathetic and likeable characters this is a very good film indeed.

The International sees Clive Owen investigating the shady activities of The International Bank of Evil through layers of conspiracies and intrigues that manages, remarkably, to avoid anything interesting happening even during a umpteen person gunfight set-piece in a gallery. Unsatisfying throughout with an even less satisfying cop-out ending, there's some interesting visuals and framing and a somewhat enjoyable performance from Owen that in no way makes it worth suffering through an incredibly drawn out, stodgily paced snoozeathon. Not terrible, in the traditional sense of the word, but never any more than bog-standard.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, gripes with internal logic aside, rather puzzles our crack review squad. The tales of a man ageing backwards, for some reason, what it's supposed to be saying about the human condition is something of a bafflement. It's enjoyable enough when Ben Button, played by Brad Pitt, runs through his Big Fish / Forrest Gump-esque experiences, but when the weight of the story-telling falls to co-star Cate Blanchett we might as well pack up and go home. It's not a terrible film, and I wouldn't even say it's an unenjoyable film, but it's easily the weakest of this crop of Oscar contenders.

Watchmen, adaptation of the famed graphic novel, is simply fantastic and ignore all those point-missing sillies who tell you it's too violent or promoting fascism. Taking an almost reverential approach to the source material, it fits the tone of the works absolutely note perfect. Looks fabulous, and although as with the source material the narrative its the weakest point by far, as a high concept character piece and comment on society this is almost unmatched. The trailer mis-sells it as an action film, which does both it and audiences a disservice. I cannot imagine a better adaptation, and you'll walk out of this with far more things to think about and discuss than, say, Slumdog Millionaire.

Speaking of that, that film features in our quick round-up of February's releases. Between that, Frost/Nixon, Milk, JCVD, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Valkyrie and Che: Part One, the only one we don't wholeheartedly recommend is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and even that's passable enough, but really designed more with teenagers in mind than the grizzled old crusties we've become.

In particular we direct you attention towards JCVD, especially if you've dismissed it on the basis of its star, Jean Claude Van Damme, as it's one of the most remarkable and effective curios we've seen in a good long time. When the more-or-less real life Jean Claude Van Damme walks into a post office, it's not the queues at the forefront of his mind as he's taken hostage by the armed gang robbing the place. Eventually word of this gets to the cops, who through a misunderstanding think that JCVD's behind the scheme, given a patina of credibility by his well publicised personal and financial troubles. What follows is something of an odd cross between Dog Day Afternoon, a theatrical comedic farce and the notes from Van Damme's psychiatrist. There's really no way in hell that this ought to work, which makes it all the more surprising when it does. By turns funny, suspenseful, insightful and most importantly, utterly enjoyable.