Monday, 21 July 2014

Lockout; The Bridge; The Stuff; The Hunt; Tangled; The Princess And The Frog


Since the early days in the 80s soap Neighbours, Guy Pierce has had the good fortune to shine in roles as diverse as a drag queen, by the book detective, revenge fuelled amnesiac, inventor of the time machine, a king, a bomb disposal expert and an aged billionaire, but he’s rarely been called on to flex his chops as an action hero.
In Lockout, Pierce plays Marion Snow, the archetypal wise cracking anti-hero who is overwhelmingly world-weary and has seen it all before, numerous times.
Still, in this case the daughter of the president is being held on a maximum-security space station prison, where the detainees are on the loose, so Marion is forced to board the station, get the girl and get her out alive.
He has ulterior motives as he’s been framed for murder and the man who might have the evidence to save him is also on the station. 

Cue the usual wandering along space corridors punctuated by torrents of sardonic comments, snippets of violence, a damsel in distress and incompetence and betrayal by authority.
So far, so so, but Lockout also features the most scenery chewing ham you will ever have seen in your life, as the excellent Joseph Gilgun grasps the opportunity to play the baddie in both fists and tics and jumps his way around the set as unhinged murderer Hydell, clothed in scars, tattoos, a Mohawk, a thick Scottish accent and a dead, milky eye.

Peter Stormare echoes his performance of a menacing baddie with a debilitating weak spot from the Brothers Grimm, Vincent Regan is good as the leader of the cons Alex, whilst Maggie Grace has the thankless task of basically being the princess that needs rescuing.

This isn’t vastly different to the multitude of one cynical man army films that have hit the screens since the 80s, but some of the performances give it an edge, particularly if you’re already a fan of this kind of thing. A hoot!

The Bridge

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a notorious suicide spot, with 19 jumping a year on average. Director Eric Steel shot footage of pedestrians over the course of 2004, inevitably capturing the moments that a number of people decided to jump.
His documentary combines this footage alongside interviews with friends and family of the jumpers, helping us get to know the people behind the statistics and try and understand the reasons behind their feelings.
It’s pretty harrowing in combining an insight into these people’s situations, albeit from the outside, along with showing us their final movements, some walking back and forth along the bridge for what seems like hours, some hesitating at the barrier, some returning after repeat visits.

Ultimately it serves as an example of the places people can get to in their lives where they see no way forward, though it’s disturbing when reading around the subject to find that a study from 1978 found that only 6% of 515 people prevented from jumping went on to kill themselves in other ways, and 87% of suicides live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so the signs point to the fact that many of these people wouldn’t kill themselves in other ways if the Bridge wasn’t an option, and these people are dying needlessly.

The Stuff

Another entry in the crappy straight to video style horror stable that tried its best to lure me in when I used to visits Blockbusters back in the 80s.
Finally getting round to watching it, I’m pleasantly surprised to find it’s a pretty whacky take on the classic alien body-takeover movie.

In this case miners hit a vein of white marshmallowy goop that tastes delicious, prompting the swift creation of a company to package it, market it and ship it out across America. Once it becomes a huge hit, the heads of the rival snack companies call in ex-federal agent David ‘Mo’ Rutherford for a bit of corporate espionage. Michael Moriarty plays Mo, and does a brilliant, drawling job of putting across an anti-hero whose motivations and intentions are hard to pin down.
Mo quickly discovers that The Stuff is an alien intelligence which takes over the minds of those that consume it, and his mission changes to the traditional saving the human race, along with help from a fast food celebrity ‘Chocolate Chip Charlie’, a plucky kid whose family have all turned, advertising executive Nicole and a mad, racist, self-styled general of a private army (played by Paul Sorvino).

The whole thing is tongue in cheek with excuses for having gun battles and explosions alongside mad ‘possessed’ acting, and ultimately the energy on display won me over. 
The Stuff genuinely feels like an attempt to have a lot of fun within the straight to video horror genre, rather than being a cynical money spinner, and the shonky special effects from the time before CGI only add to the charm.

The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen stars as a primary school teacher wrongly accused of abuse and ostracised by the town.
Detailing the breakdown in relationships with former friends, the film is a starkly observed study of how rumours can quickly destroy a life without the burden of proof, and Mikkelsen is fantastic as a man stubbornly trying to carry on as normally as possible, confident in his innocence.
While much of what happens is predictable to an extent, there’s enough threat on offer from his fellow townsfolk that you’re not sure how the story will go, and indeed the end leaves things open with many relationships mended but underlying resentment still seeping in the cracks.


Disney’s take on the Rapunzel fairytale makes for an enjoyable knockabout comedy.
In this adaptation Rapunzel was kidnapped as a baby by a witch, who now pretends to be her mother, because her hair has rejuvenating properties.
On her 18th birthday when the witch is out, the tower prison is invaded by the bandit Flynn who is on the run, and thus begins a hearty adventure involving a stubborn horse, bandits with hearts of gold and a fair amount of slapstick.

Inevitably Rapunzel is restored to her rightful royal place, gets the guy and the witch pops her clogs, happily ever after etc., but the journey is an amusing one and it’s quite fun to spend time in the company of these characters.

Not a Disney classic but certainly one of the better of the more recent non-Pixar efforts.

The Princess and the Frog

Very much in keeping with Disney’s middle era, the Princess and the Frog is a transplanting of the classic fairytale to 1920’s New Orleans, cueing a focus on food, music and voodoo.
The first Disney film to return to traditional animation techniques since 2004’s Home on the Range, this is an old school musical fairytale with a heavy New Orleans influence on the tunes.
As the saying goes, the devil has the best tunes, and that’s true of this film, with the better songs, scenes and characters related to the world of voodoo and the recurring antagonist, Dr. Facilier.
Tiana, our heroine, is the first African American Disney princess, but her character is rather damp and earnest, dreaming of opening the restaurant her late father always wanted, only ending up with her prince due to the twists of the story rather than her own grand designs.

As Disney films go it’s certainly watchable, but it won’t be joining a list that you’ll be happy to sit and watch with your kids over and over again, except maybe if you skip forward to the best tunes.


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