Thursday, 29 December 2011

Back To The Future Thumbnail

Just finished watching the trilogy, so I thought I might as well slap my thumbnail review up here. Can't hurt, can it?

Back to the Future is one of those classic film sagas that become enshrined in the pantheon of pop culture. However, as the ropey reputations of some of the Star Wars films attest, being fondly remembered by a nostalgic generation is not automatically a mark of quality. Yet for all its more dated and childish elements, namely moments of broad humour and general silliness (not to mention how amusingly off the mark the second instalment’s imagining of the 2010s is), the trilogy has an undeniable zing, a sense of fun that elevates its playfully daft time-travel plotting. Most importantly, it sports two excellent lead characters in the shape of agile every-teen Marty Mcfly (a blessedly non-obnoxious example of a teenaged protagonist) and that loveable eccentric for the ages, Doc Brown. The first film is charming, though its depiction of teenage love and bully-defying heroics is cringe-worthy in its idealism, even by Hollywood standards. The third film has an appropriately dramatic finale, and a satisfying resolution to Marty Mcfly’s character arc. Yet Part Two is the stand-out, cleverly using the time-hopping, paradox-dodging mayhem of its premise to play around with the original’s plot, while throwing in plenty of fresh drama, fun and peril, not to mention a higher ratio of memorable moments.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ironclad: A Review

Ironclad doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a blood and thunder medieval action movie, and delivers the anticipated carnage with considerable aplomb. However, the film gets off to an unprepossessing start, with waffling talk about freedom and other pious abstractions to set up the central conflict between a heroic rebellion and Paul Giamatti’s cartoon villain of a King John. The film’s glorification of the Magna Carta rather unfortunately evokes Ridley Scott’s dud of a Robin Hood movie, and early fight scenes suffer from the curse of choppy and confusing editing.

After the brooding Templar protagonist and his plucky band of rebels get settled in at a strategically-vital castle, and King John turns up with army in tow, the film really gets going. Ironclad is grimly, relentlessly, gruesomely violent. Characters and extras alike are mutilated in a creative variety of ways, the fallen scream and writhe, and prisoners are tortured before a gloating mob. The loving attention given to fleshly violation is to be applauded in this instance. A depiction of medieval warfare that limited itself to the occasional tasteful shower of blood would fail to do justice to the horrible reality of siege. The constant death begins to get wearisome by the third act, however, outstaying its welcome by a whisper.

Underneath the sometimes deafening clash of steel is a strong cast that gets a lot of mileage out of the script in its sharper moments (that thankfully outnumber its moments of plodding idealism). James Purefoy brings his usual effortless cool to the underwritten lead role of a Templar who (predictably) doubts his faith, backed up by capable thespians like Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi. Even the thankless role of the love interest, played by Kate Mara, brings something to the table, as the quiet tension between her and Purefoy is a welcome dramatic break from the noisy, grisly set-pieces. The stand-out, however, is Paul Giamatti’s ranting, bloodthirsty King, who rises above his clich├ęd evil by putting on a master-class of perfectly-judged ham. He deserved more screen-time.