Monday, September 27, 2004

For Your Consideration…

The Punisher

A Marvel comic book adaptation that falls way short of the high standard set by Spiderman and its sequel. Essentially a violent revenge flick, The Punisher dabbles with offbeat comedy (the gay henchman?!) which doesn’t quite work. Still, if you are in the mood for an eighties style Schwarzenegger circa ‘Commando’ brainless action film, this may be worth a rental sometime. File safely in the ‘so bad it’s good’ section.

2.5 out of 5

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

A small local gym is threatened with extinction by a gleaming sports and fitness palace unless a group of social rejects can rise to victory in the ultimate dodgeball competition. Ben Stiller seems to have lost his sense of humour. This year so far we have had to endure ‘Along Came Polly’, ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and now this mess. Dodgeball just isn’t funny enough.

2 out of 5

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

You thought Dodgeball was bad? A ‘Comedy’ about a 1970’s news Anchor in San Diego. It’s even worse than it sounds. What was (the usually hilarious) Will Ferrel thinking? Not even an unexpected cameo appearance by Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Tim Robbins can save this disaster. Two moments of comedy in ninety four minutes is not good enough.

1 out of 5

Film Review (Super Size Me)

Super Size Me

Thirty seven per cent of young Americans and two-thirds of all American adults are either overweight or obese. Upon discovering this, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock decides to find out why. While interviewing experts in twenty U.S. cities, including Houston, Texas ‘The Fattest City in America’, Spurlock sets himself the task of eating his three main meals at Mc Donald’s, every day, for a whole month. He declares that he can only eat what is available over the counter, that he only has to super-size his meal when offered, and that he has to eat every item on the menu at least once.

Along the way, a team of doctors and a nutritionist follow his progress, their concern mounting along with Spurlock’s cholesterol. It is brought to our attention early on in the documentary, that there a four McDonalds restaurants per square mile in Manhattan alone and that one and a half billion dollars is spent annually on advertising. We are also informed that Mc Donald’s Chiefs refer to their customers as either heavy users or light users, not unlike the terms used to classify heroin addicts. Spurlock forwards the case for food addiction by highlighting, what he believes, is the pushing of an addictive substance upon children, with the availability of ‘Happy’ meals, Ronald Mc Donald, and in-house party areas landing a lethal propagandist blow to their young minds. All the while, Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Pusher-man’ plays on the soundtrack.

The result is disastrous. He gains over twenty five pounds in three weeks, eating around five thousand calories a day (compared to the recommended two thousand). He damages his liver to the point of seriously endangering his health. He also complains about chest pains, depression, headaches, sugar/caffeine crashes, and heart palpitations at various stages throughout the month. The film also explores the state of the school lunch programme, the decline in P.E. class, and the extreme measures people take to lose weight and regain their health.

4 out of 5

Movie Review (Collateral)...

Collateral

The latest film from director Michael Mann (‘Heat’, ‘Ali’), ‘Collateral’ is an account of one night in the life of an L.A. cab driver called Max. Through a fantastic performance by Jamie Foxx (‘Any Given Sunday’), Max is portrayed as a part-time cabbie, working nights only so he can save enough money to start up his own limo company. Trouble is, it’s already been twelve years and he’s no closer to his dream. Screenwriter Stuart Beattie has the dramatic sense to have Max’s everyman win over the audience within the first five minutes. Once we are on his side, things begin to get interesting.

Vincent (Tom Cruise) is Max’s third fare of the night, one he almost misses, but by some unfortunate timing, one he accepts. Not unlike Heat’s Neil Mc Cauley (Robert de Niro), Vincent is a professional who takes pride in his work. Offering Max twice his nightly earnings, Vincent persuades him to make five stops around the city, allowing him to visit old friends to close a real estate deal. Of course, unbeknownst to Max, Vincent is actually a hit-man hired by drug lords, to kill several people that night.

As high concept thrillers go, this is up there with the best of them. Michael Mann has crafted an unashamedly crowd pleasing picture. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue snappy and the action scenes, focusing almost entirely on Vincent’s treatment of anyone foolish enough to get in his way, are notably brutal, particularly his penultimate contract killing in a packed nightclub. Tom Cruise has played cold and unscrupulous types before (Frank Mackey in ‘Magnolia’ comes to mind) but he has never been this frighteningly effective. This outstanding performance more than compensates for his embarrassing ‘Oscar-bait’ work in ‘The Last Samurai’. Cruises physical transformation is a huge aid to his performance, with his silver haired, silk suited assassin thankfully not overshadowed by his toothy “Tom Cruise: Megastar” image.

For Michael Mann, the supporting cast seems equally as important as the two principal players. Mark Ruffalo as an LAPD detective on the murder trail, Bruce Mc Gill as an FBI agent and Barry Shabaka Henley as a jazz club owner all lend believability and gravitas to their roles. Javier Bardem also makes the most of his bit part as drug lord Felix. Thanks to impressive cinematography by Dion Beebe (Equilibrium) and Paul Cameron (Man on Fire), the City of Los Angeles exudes a real sense of loneliness and isolation. Filmed almost completely with digital video cameras, this movie will be remembered as a technical milestone.
Collateral is highly recommended viewing.

4 out of 5