Part III – Schlock and Roll
To make up for my lack of columns recently, (mostly due to my college workload increasing by 500 per cent,) I've made the effort to give you a double dose of reviews, so for those eager to see what amounts to popcorn entertainment in my book, wade right in.
Darkman – It’s so very easy for people to hate on Sam Raimi based on the well intentioned but scatter-shot Spider-Man 3, but I for one think that he is still one of the few directors who really gets comic books, and that’s a very small list. My evidence – Darkman, the result of Raimi not being able to get the rights to make The Shadow, gives us Liam Neeson as a horrifically scarred scientist who uses artificial skin disguises to take vengeance on the yuppies and gangsters who mutilated him. Verdict: worth it for that one sentence alone.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night – In more comic book related news, here’s a film starring Brandon Routh and Sam Huntington (Superman Returns), directed by Kevin Munro (the CG-animated TMNT film), and based on an Italian horror comic no-one has heard of but was previously adapted as Dellamorte Dellamore in the 90s with Rupert Everett as the lead. This go-around, Dylan Dog (Routh) is a paranormal investigator based out of a monster-filled
(no surprises there), trying to
juggle a murder case with a rising body count and help his buddy acclimatise to
being one of the newly undead. The surprising news: it doesn't suck! New Orleans
Super 8 – The more I think about this one, the less impressed I am by it, but I will allow that at the time I was swept along with it, which is basically what JJ Abrams does when at his best. The kid actors are all fun in that Goonies/Stand By Me way, especially Elle Fanning as a blatant wish fulfilment fantasy, and the adult cast (Kyle Chandler, Noah Emmerich) are all competent, but this is well-meaning but lightweight fluff at best, lazy riffing on the work of Steven Spielberg and the 70s age of film-making at worst.
The Devil’s Double – Nice to see director Lee Tamahori getting his teeth into something interesting that doesn't skimp on the prerequisite violence and gaudiness levels of his previous work. Dominic Cooper does double duty (not a lazy pun) in the performance of his career as both the bug-nuts son of Saddam Hussein, Uday, and the hapless soldier chosen to be his doppelgänger What follows is a descent into the world of someone pretending to be the son of one of the most hated men in contemporary history, dodging assassination attempts and trying to keep alive and sane long enough to escape the regime.
The Rum Diary – Returning to directing after more than a decade, Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I) and Johnny Depp bring us the long-gestating film adaptation of Hunter Thompson’s first novel. Paul Kemp (Depp), an alcoholic journalist, takes a job at a failing Puerto Rican newspaper and takes in the local colour, i.e. Amber Heard’s Chenault, her sleazy PR man boyfriend Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), and his colleagues Lotterman, Sala (Michael Rispoli channelling Benicio Del Toro’s Doctor Gonzo) and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi channelling Richard E. Grant’s Withnail). Not the acid-warped genius of Fear and Loathing in
, but a
worthy effort all the same. Las Vegas
The Grey – This is the second Liam Neeson film to pop up in this column, which makes me think he’s determined to steal Chuck Norris’ status as the hardest bastard in popular culture. Not satisfied with beating up Nazis, mediaeval knights, Star Wars villains and Batman, he reteams with A-Team and Smokin’ Aces director Joe Carnahan for a movie in which he plays a security guard stranded by a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, trying to reach civilisation before he and the other survivors either freeze to death or get eaten by wolves. You’ll never guess how it ends… seriously.