Episode 98 : The Unbearable Lightness of Barry Burton

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Added on Mon, 12 Nov 2012 16:52:54 -0800.
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Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bid farewell to our ignorance of Looper, Resident Evil: Retribution, Killing Them Softly, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Ruby Sparks and Skyfall. Join the usual gang as we noise them right up with our opiniongeddon.

Daniel Craig returns for another stint behind the tux and Walther in Skyfall, this time facing off against an agent from M's past that's out for revenge. Which is quite a small scale plot for a Bond film, and it's at its best while it's embracing that, and all of the character development and self-doubt it engenders. Regardless of your position on the perennial "Best Bond" argument, his turn in Skyfall makes it patently obvious that Craig is the best actor to play Bond, and Javier Bardem plays a tremendous foil. With Sam Mendes directing and Roger Deakins in the DP chair, this often looks rather delightful indeed. It's at its weakest when it's playing more to older Bond tropes feels the need to go needlessly over-the-top, and you can take your own position on whether the developments of the film will result in moving Bond forward or retreating backwards. While Skyfall has its flaws, there's a number of people contending that it's the best Bond film, and I concede there's a solid case to argue for it. There's also a smaller number of people calling it the best film of the year, which I have rather less sympathy with, but even then I'd have to admit it's quite likely to end up quite high on my year's top ten list. So, certainly worth braving the sell-out crowds to see.

Now limping its way to instalment five in the movie series, Resident Evil: Retribution finds a plot contrivance to throw together most of the franchises' surviving characters, and clones of most of those who didn't survive, into one big mess of action sequences as Mila Jojojojovich's Alice fights the Umbrella Corporation, now headed by the homicidal A.I. Red Queen. It is exactly what you'd expect from a Resident Evil film, and while I don't intend that as a compliment I'm assuming no-one's wandering into this film without knowing beforehand exactly what they're going to be getting, which makes critical appraisal a little redundant. For what it's worth, it's the best of the series, although it's still below mediocre.

A perhaps unlikely genre combo of sci-fi time travel hitman shenanigans and Western, Looper sees the usually dependable writer/director Rian Johnson and the usually dependable Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis team up to, well, not exactly completely disappoint us, but offer a tantalising vision of what's so close to being the best film of the year were it not for a few inordinately irritating aspects that rather take the edge off. Even with that in mind, a sharp script, great central performances and original plot concepts still have this firmly in the "recommended" category, although out minds remain unblown.

While at heart you can sum The Perks Of Being A Wallflower up as "another teen coming of age drama", that's a shade more reductive and dismissive than it deserves. It's based around a young teen with a troubled past moving to a new school and struggling to make friends before gradually entering the orbit of a diverse group of senior students, all with their own troubles in their pasts. I'd call all of the cast "quirky" if that wasn't loaded with such negative connotations. From me, at least. A number of really good performances from the young cast, including Emma Watson, makes this float well above the usual standard of teen dramas even if it's not earth-shatteringly original.

A tale of robbers and hitmen, Killing Them Softly was quite well received, seemingly as some sort of spurious political statement based on it taking place in a time of financial struggles for middle to lower class America. This is stupid, as the only time this intrudes upon the narrative is when Brad Pitt's central character watches the odd speech from the President or somesuch politico, then move on to the next scene in this remarkably tedious story, with its glacial pacing making it feel a good twelve hundred million hours longer than it actually is. It's super not good.

In Ruby Sparks, Paul Dano plays a struggling, psychologically fragile author afflicted with an extreme case of writer's block. After a vivid dream about a girl, he's encouraged to write about her and, hallelujah, the flood gates open. An unexpected side effect comes when the girl, the titular Ruby Sparks appears out of the ether. There's short period of questioning his sanity until he realises that everyone else can see what he assumed was a hallucination, it then follows a borderline ordinary rom-com trajectory of relationship challenges and such, albeit with the occasional non-standard solutions afforded by being able to re-write one of the characters on a whim. This, of course, leads to its own problems. While we're going to have to bust out the description “quirky” again, it's generally a very enjoyable film with a great performance from Dano holding everything together. On occasion it seems to overstretch itself trying to make a non-specific point about something or other to give it meaning beyond a mere shaggy dog story and doesn't quite make it, but it's a damn good shaggy dog story.

Right, that's yer lot. Sling yer hook, yer scurvy dog. Yer was all yerlow.