Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Review Round-Up 7

I've come to the conclusion that, once again, I need to rethink how I put together my film reviews here. Some of these films I saw around a month ago, meaning that more than I would like of some of these reviews is made up of what I wrote on Facebook's Flixter application combined with whatever I can now remember of my reaction to the films at the time I saw them. So, these Review Round-Ups will most likely come to an end in the near future if I can work out how better to get my reviews up here without making the entries too brief or too lengthy.

This entry is made up of reviews of films I've seen at the cinema. I'll do another entry soon on the films I've seen recently on DVD.

Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs
This film felt very aware of the fact that it had two films behind it to develop all of the returning characters, which turns out to be both a good and a bad thing. Good because it means that the foundations are there to start off another adventure with familiar characters without trawling through backstory. Bad because some of the main characters' storylines feel very underdeveloped and almost like afterthoughts as to what to give them to do for this installment. Diego, for example, a pivotal character in the first film, is now placed firmly in a second fiddle position and unfortunately given a storyline that could be written down on the back of a postage stamp. Crash and Eddie suffer a similar fate, although I wasn't so fussed by that. The main storyline itself is the simplest of all the Ice Age films so far, but this is still great fun and enjoyable all the way through. The characters are not tired yet (although I'm not sure if they could all withstand a fourth installment) and the introduction of Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg) is a welcome one who provides real humour throughout. The Scrat skits also get a fresh twist, and are as hilarious as ever.

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Tom Felton stands out in a returning cast that appears to simply be going through the motions, especially during the first half of the film. He brings new depth and believeable turmoil to the character of Draco Malfoy, something that Daniel Radcliffe as the eponymous teenage wizard fails to pull off in this installment. Jim Broadbent is well cast as Horace Slughorn and puts in a strong and charming, if exaggerated and hammy, performance (but what else do you expect from British stalwarts in Potter films?). However, the film overall never grasped my attention enough, with the magical elements underwhelming and the story oversimplified to the point of incomprehensibility at some points (good luck to anyone planning to understand this film without having read the book to fill in the gaps). Ultimately, in no way is this a particularly bad film. There are enjoyable elements scattered throughout, and, from the point of view of someone who has read the books, it is less frustrating to watch than Prisoner Of Azkaban. It's just that, in most ways, it's distinctly average.

The Proposal
Below average, with all the familiar elements of the rom com formula presented in a half-hearted fashion. Having two capable actors in Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds as the leads drags it up a little, as they do have genuine charm, at times even chemistry together, and you feel they are doing the best with the poor material they have. They're never believeable in the roles they've been cast in, especially Bullock as the bunny-boiling bitch (made even more disappointing if you've seen her in 2005's Crash, in which she plays a similar character with real flair). One truly funny scene and another moment involving '80s hip-hop stand out as small and unexpected islands in a sea of writing and direction mediocrity.

Land Of The Lost

Feels decidedly amateurish and relies too much on "teenage boy" humour to carry it (I lost count of the amount of jokes about boobs). Will Ferrell is amusing enough, and has some relatively funny dialogue, but for the most part feels as though he's on auto-pilot, making his character of Rick Marshall feel like a watered-down mish-mash of several previous Ferrell incarnations, making for a mediocre and unsatisfying performance. The other cast members are on the whole unconvincing and feel too one-dimensional to be anything more than just adequate human scenery for Ferrell. The plot is paper thin, at times almost non-existent, and large sections of the film leave the characters simply bumbling around aimlessly without any real focus. If you have nothing better to do then you could do worse, but be prepared to switch your brain, and your crap filter, firmly to "off".

The Time Traveler's Wife
A real mixed bag in many ways. At times the time travel element feels cleverly handled and executed with genuine flair and humour; at others it feels confused, and almost as if the film-makers themselves were unsure of what they were depicting and the rules it is governed by. Eric Bana is excellent throughout, bringing depth and humanity to a role that would be easy to turn into a parody or cliche of the time-traveller archetype. Rachel McAdams is satisfactory as the eponymous spouse of Bana, but rarely shows the range and depth required to make the character feel genuine. Very enjoyable with some truly inspired parts, but at the same time frustrating - many characters feel severely underdeveloped, some to the point of having no purpose in the film whatsoever. Some elements and scenes also feel oversimplified, giving those parts an unsatisfying feel and taking away from the film overall. Considering the film as a whole, Bana is very entertaining and, whilst the plot occasionally lapses into the simplistic and sentimental, the story requires enough brains to make this worthwhile and enjoyable.

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