Saturday, 9 November 2013

Adam & Paul; Rango; Taken 2; Skyfall

Adam & Paul

Being a tale of two Dublin junkies in 2004.
The film follows them as they look for their next fix, and concoct hapless schemes for the money to pay for it.
The uneasiness I felt watching this story of two pathetic men as they negotiate the city that barely tolerates them, old friends who no longer trust them and family who are at least wary, is a testament to the performances of the leads Mark O’Halloran and the late Tom Murphy.
It’s a naturalistic tale featuring many moments of Adam & Paul aimlessly waiting in between events in a vaguely anonymous Dublin, and the comedy inherent in scenes like the bodged shoplifting are pierced by the low-level violence and other uncomfortable moments, such as the mugging of a disabled man.

I find Adam & Paul to be a decent film that’s hard to recommend as it’s a difficult watch, though not in the way I’m used to as with the films of Haneke for example.

The balance in tone with the stereotypical cheeky chappy Irish wit with darker moods was continued in director Lenny Abrahamson’s great second film, The Garage, and I’m looking forward to the chance to catch his third, What Richard Did.


A warm and inventive animation that’s family friendly and yet still manages to riff on a chameleon version of Johnny Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson interpretation, Rango is a delight. 

Arriving at a tangent from the usual CGI animation stables, Rango is a combination of the fish out of water or awkward urbanite stuck in the country (see also Depp’s Ichabod Crane), married with the old Wild West tale of a corrupt mayor/land baron controlling resources and gunmen to keep his town in check.
Despite these generic foundations, Rango has a lot to offer with lots of quirks and twists that aren’t twee or gratuitous, and treats the audience with intelligence so that it’s suitable for all the family but without making the mistakes of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.

As well as the original approach to family film, the animation itself is glorious with a keen attention to detail capturing myriad textures but in a way that brings the characters to life, rather than just ticking a technical expertise box (see Monsters Inc’s Sully whose fur seems luxuriant because they wanted to show off more than anything).

Taken 2

So after Liam Neeson rescues his daughter in Taken, killing a fair chunk of human traffickers in the process, the surviving relatives are somewhat upset.
Coincidentally it seems that not only are they from some indeterminate Eastern European state, but that they are muslims too!
After Liam takes a security job in Istanbul he mistakenly invites his daughter and ex-wife (newly estranged from her last man) to join him after his job finishes, putting them at risk from the muslims!
After Liam and ex-wife are abducted, the daughter manages to escape thanks to a phone call from pops and his secreted stash of spy bits, eventually helping him escape too but not mom!
So then off he goes to get her back.

Some of the DIY escape/fighting bits are fun as Liam convincingly takes out the baddies with confidence, but ultimately it feels a little dissatisfying compared to the original, which was a guilty pleasure as it is.
What with the Bourne films and the like, Western action films have become much more competent and to stand out you need something special, or be consigned to the heap of straight to video fodder.


In comparison with the Bourne films that took the latest Bonds as a jumping off point, Skyfall shows the signs of the Bond franchise’s age.
The comparatively low speed and lack of kinetic rush in the opening chase sequence feels pedestrian compared to similar scenes from the Bourne films, whilst the incredibility of the speeding train fight sequence just stands out as odd in the context of the new ‘gritty’ Daniel Craig Bond. The prominence of the product placement of the Caterpillar brand of construction vehicles highlights how invasive product placement has become such an integral part of Bond that it is beyond parody and can only serve to break any suspension of disbelief, like the bad jokes Bond tosses out moments after reluctantly leaving a fellow agent badly wounded. The use of the Caterpillar vehicle as well shows up the absurdity of Bond, forcing a fantastical set piece into play rather than letting one evolve naturally or logically.

Thematically, a washed-up Bond who hits bottom and struggles to stay relevant as an agent in the field in this age of techno terrorism tries for an earthy weight. However, although this thread does work, it’s hard to see how Bond could hit bottom again after the turmoil of Quantum of Solace where he seeks to both avenge his lovers’ death and deal with her betrayal.

On the upside Javier Bardem’s pretty good as the big baddy, there is a nice big explosion at the climax and a few fun set pieces, however silly they are.

Not as good as it wants to be but still a fun watch.


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