For the November Film Fight, we have 4 films.
First up, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is an attempt to take the over-the-top pranks of Jackass and try to cram them into a story, with mixed success. It plays out in a similar fashion to much of Sascha Baron Cohen’s work, like Borat or Bruno: unsuspecting members of the public play against the characters in ridiculous situations to see how they react. It’s dumb and mean-spirited humour of the lowest form, albeit done very well. This film won’t change your mind about Johnny Knoxville and his brand of humour, but if you already find it funny then this is a pretty good example of the genre. (See my Bad Grandpa Twitter review).
Captain Phillips seems bizarrely tone-deaf. At times, the story of a tanker captain taken hostage by Somali pirates is remarkably tense and, despite knowing the ending, you can’t help but be drawn in by every twist. Hanks puts in his usual, down-to-Earth and absolutely spot-on performance, with no surprises, with the Somali pirates coming across with jagged believability. However, at other times, it goes way too far in one direction or another. The opening with Catherine Keener is so underplayed that no-one appears to be making any effort. Contrast that with the many Oscar-baiting moments later, and you have a film that, while very good on the whole, can’t seem to decide what to do with itself. (See my Captain Phillips Twitter review).
The next entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe is Thor: The Dark World. The lead character isn’t the most cerebral in Marvel’s canon, and that is fully on display here. Expect the usual “smash, drink and nobility” sentiments wrapped around a plot where Thor saves everyone from world-ending doom. So, nothing new. That’s not to say it’s bad. Thor is fun and dumb, and I’m not sure anything else would work. Loki is as great as ever, playing the meddlesome brother, but the main bad guy, Malekith, is so generic that you wonder why they brought in as great an actor as Christopher Ecclestone to do the part. The film, then, is ultimately fun and fine, but you’ve seen it many times before. (See my Thor: The Dark World Twitter review).
Finally, Gravity is Alfonso Cuaron’s way of following up the his 2006 Film Fight finalist, Children of Men. It is an astounding piece of film that, I believe, cannot be done full justice in a home-viewing setting. The 3D IMAX screenings draw you in better than anything else I’ve seen in the format, with the eye-filling frames giving you nowhere to look for respite. The story itself is a little saccharine at times, but that’s largely beside the point. The film is a journey that mixes moments of eerie calm with uncontrolled frantic action. I don’t want to say too much about the content, other than it’s a thrilling movie, with a great lead performance and great support. Definitely see this in as big a format as you can. (See my Gravity Twitter review).
The winner for November is Gravity, a film that was worth waiting seven years to see.