Sunday, January 16, 2011

At The Movies with DKG

Feast or famine with me... and lately it's been a feast of films. So bear with me while I go all Margaret and David on you with a few quick reviews from the last few weeks.

District 9

I've been wanting to see this since it came out at the movies two years ago. I thought it was just a sci-fi alien thing but it proved to be so much more than that. If you haven't heard of it, the basic premise is that aliens have landed on Earth, above Johannesburg, South Africa to be precise. They are stranded and "the prawns" as they are soon referred to are forced to live in a refugee camp known as "District 9".

The film is presented in documentary style showing what happens when the MNU, the corporation charged with moving the aliens to a new camp further from the city, arrives to commence the forced evictions. Wikus van der Merwe is in charge but he soon ends up on the wrong side of MNU's wrath when he accidentally becomes exposed to the alien DNA.

On the surface this is almost garden variety sci-fi stuff, with aliens, guns, lots of things blowing up and being shot. The effects are good (Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame has producer credits, so you would expect quality on this front). The SA accents almost do my head in (you know how some accents just make your eye twitch?). The script is great and the performances (well mainly Sharlto Copley's as Wikus) are strong. But it's the underlaying premise which does it for me.

I've read about it being a commentary on apartheid but I think it's more a commentary on the treatment of refugees (change "alien" to "insert name of war torn country here" and you would have a very similar film). I think it's a very clever way of presenting these ideas; what us 80s kids would call thinking outside the square.

I found it entertaining, disturbing and much more palatable than, say tree hugging emotional manipulation like Avatar.

Date Night

A silly, fun movie, pure entertainment. Phil (Steve Carrell) and Claire (Tina Fey) are on a date night in the city when they take someone else's dinner reservation at a wanky restaurant. Mistaken identity soon turns into hilarious shenanigans.

Easy on the brain film, perfect for a cuddle in front of the teev. Includes extra bonus for the ladies: Mark Whahlberg spends all his screen time sans shirt (which is not as good as it may have been during the height of his Kevin Klein modelling career but certainly nothing to sneer at).

Never Let Me Go

I was lucky enough to see a preview screening of this last week. I have been anxiously waiting to see it for some months now, since I first found out a movie version of one of my favourite books was being made. The book absolutely shook me up and a movie version was an exciting and terrifying idea.

Perhaps because the author Kazuo Ishiguro also executive produced the end result was a very good visual interpretation of the book. Because the book reveals the story slowly, in stories from the past, I couldn't see how that could be achieved on the screen without lots of awkward flashbacks. Obviously they couldn't follow the book to the letter but for me the end result was wonderfully satisfying.

It is visually beautiful, a timeless England exquisite in its detail. All the performances, Carey Mulligan as Kathy H, Keira Knightley as Ruth, Andrew Garfield (the new Spiderman???) as Tommy, are perfectly restrained and just right in every respect.

It's funny to call it futuristic sci fi wrapped in a love story, which is technically just what it is, but there are no aliens, no guns, no explosions. For what it's worth I wanted to see it again the minute the credits rolled and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you are fan of the book like me (just those four words Never Let Me Go are enough to make my heart ache) or you are just a fan of beautiful, moving cinema.

The Dilemma

Last Friday was our "date night" and there was no question that we would see The Dilemma (though we had a few prods in the direction of the The King's Speech, which is undoubtedly a fine movie). We both like Vince Vaughn (Clay Pigeons, Swingers, Made) and Kevin James (OK, we like King of Queens, sue us), Jennifer Connelly is a fine actress and Ron Howard, apart from being Richie Cunningham, also has a directorial history no-one can pooh-pooh.

It is sold as a hilarious comedy and that's what we were expecting. Well, it's not. It's a genre I have now decided to call "comma" - a comic drama. In fact it deals with some pretty heavy relationship issues: a marriage under stress due to work, stress, growing apart; infidelity in the aforementioned marriage; business stress; gambling addiction.

While certainly these serious issues can be presented in a comic manner in The Dilemma they really aren't. It's actually a pretty heavy movie with some mildly amusing moments. Even the scenes which possibly could have been a lot funnier aren't. Vince Vaughn's innate craziness is not as hilarious as it could be; for me it was more tension inducing than funny.

Even the overtly funny scenes, like those featuring Queen Latifah for example, aren't really funny because they seem out of place amongst the drama. The best darkly funny scene is VV's speech at the anniversary dinner and is almost worth the price of admission on it's own strength.
I tried to figure out why a movie like The Dilemma just doesn't hit the mark when a movie like PS I Love You does. Both comedies dealing with serious storylines; commas if you will. I can only suggest that the timing, the direction, the editing works in one and not the other. Certainly Vince Vaughn and Kevin James have the comedy chops but something just doesn't work. It's like you can put all the top ingredients into your cake but if you bake it in the wrong cake tin or at the wrong temparture or add salt instead of sugar you end up with something which just isn't right.

I didn't hate it, in fact I would say watch it on DVD or Foxtel or whatever in six months' time. I just couldn't recommend anyone running out and seeing it for full price.


Jules said...

Kevin Klein eh? "Nothing gets between me and my Kevins."

Now I really want to see The Dilemma, will wait for DVD though.

Kath Lockett said...

I want to see all the movies you described. LC saw District 9 when it was in the cinema and loved it.

Go and see The King's Speech though - it's the only thing I've seen these holidays and I loved it. Good old Geoffrey Rush!

Char-lay said...

When I saw District 9 I was expecting it to be more of a horror type of movie. That disappointed me a lil.. I felt bad for the aliens lol.

I totally agree with you on The Dilemma.

And as Kath Lockett said, The Kings Speech was a very good movie.