March was an okay month, with 5 films in the running.
First up, Drive Angry is a unabashed throwback to a time when action ruled all. If you’re looking for a film that has great lines, a sharp plot, or makes much sense at all, then you’re looking at the wrong film. Essentially, the film is about getting Nicholas Cage to play an action star again, with William Fichtner as a crazy demonic accountant-sidekick. It’s at its best when the action sequences are let go mad, and its worst when someone tries to shoehorn in a plot. It’s pure grindhouse, with all the good and bad that implies. Entertaining, despite being a bit terrible. (See my Drive Angry Twitter review).
Rango is one of the more interesting animated movies of recent times. What’s most striking about it are the visuals: this does not have the super-cute characters with oversized features you’ll find in most Pixar films. No, all the inhabitants of Dirt, the old western town it’s set in, are hideous little animals savaged by scars and warts. They bristle with character from the moment they appear, and set an interesting tone. Despite some risque lines here and there, it’s a fairly well-natured film about belonging, finding a place in the world and becoming a hero by being yourself. The plot won’t surprise, but it doesn’t have to when the rest of the package is so pleasant. Pretty good. (See my Rango Twitter review).
There have been many books and films about alien invasions, many are better than Battle: Los Angeles, some are worse. When it’s trying to build B-plots of past tension between the characters, you simply will not care. None of them are interesting enough, or well-portrayed enough, to warrant any attention. Where they are a little better is in the action sequences. The camera work here will put some off, falling somewhere between the Bourne Ultimatum (very shaky) and District 9 (pretty watchable) in the handicam-shake stakes. If you can follow it, there are some pretty great set-pieces, with some reasonably well done CG. It’s entertaining, but not good. (See my Battle Los Angeles Twitter review).
The Company Men is a little bit baffling. The economic downturn over the last few years is surely ripe for storytelling about families who are suffering the consequences, from professionals through the working classes. That’s not really what we get here: we get one company executive who is saddened by another, but lands just fine, and a reasonably well-off salesman who deludes himself for a while and then lands just fine. The film also fails to see any irony in a millionaire actor, playing a millionaire CEO, complaining about how the now derelict shipyards used to have good honest, hard-workers in it. Despite a pretty great cast, the performances are phoned-in in many places, probably because the characters are so utterly flat. It’s hard to care when no-one else does. A wasted opportunity. (See my The Company Men Twitter review).
Finally, Submarine is a distinctly indie debut from Richard Ayoade. It’s difficult to say what it’s about in a way that really captures the feel of the film. It has themes that are familiar, about love, loss, regret and making do, but doesn’t necessarily pursue them breathlessly. The fairly unlikeable lead (a self-obsessed teenager) lets his view of himself get in the way of being a decent human being. There are a number of other tangental threads that all connect in some way (his parents, a psychic, a bulled girl at school), but it’s not particularly tightly plotted, nor does it need to be. It did feel a little long, but there are enough amusing moments along the way to ease the rough pacing. Interesting. (See my Submarine Twitter review).
A difficult one this month: two entertaining action films, a cartoon comedy, a bland downturn tale, and a rough but interesting indie film. To my own surprise, I think I’m going to go with Submarine at the winner. While many of the films were good, I think this is the one I’d choose to watch again now.