Apart from not having the ability to write about films every week, I don’t know if I have enough to say for a post dedicated to the film. So here are a few thoughts on films I’ve been watching in the cinema lately, with more to come (at some point).
State of Play
Although I am British, I never saw the original television mini-series, so I came to this completely fresh. It is a well-made thriller, with a crusading journalist (Russell Crowe with silly long hair and a messy car and desk, apparently requirements for a job in newspapers) helping his former room-mate, Ben Affleck (they are obviously not the same age), who is now a senator whose aide has died while Affleck is heading an investigation into a suspect company with government connections and it leaks that he was having an affair with the aide, despite being married to Robin Wright Penn. It is updated by having a journalist who does the newspaper blog (Rachel McAdams) becoming part of the investigation, and Helen Mirren does her normal accent even though it is set in Washington, DC. There are nice turns from Jason Bateman and Jeff Daniels, in addition to all the leads turning in good performances, and Kevin Macdonald handles everything with aplomb, confirming his move to mainstream cinema after the documentaries and The Last King of Scotland. The only thing that disrupts the flow is the presence of Brennan Brown in a small role – British audiences are so used to his role as the Hollywood Producer in the Orange mobile phone cinema adverts that you expect him to sell you video messaging in the middle of the film.
I Love You, Man
Because I have what is effectively a season ticket to a cinema chain, I try to watch a film in the cinema every week. Times and availabilities of films can affect my choices, which is why I ended up seeing this. It had got okay reviews, and I like Paul Rudd, but I rarely see comedies in the cinema – humour is very subjective, and trying to make everybody happy with jokes is not going to work. It was a similar feeling here – I could tell when the jokes arrived but I didn’t guffaw, and neither did most of the audience. The story was a little different – a man (Paul Rudd) who doesn’t have what the Yanks determine as a ‘best male friend’ (although he has always got on well with females), and therefore no option for best man when he proposes to his girlfriend, meaning he has to find someone to fit the position. After ‘man dates’ that go awry, he finds Sydney (Jason Segel), with whom they bond over the music of Rush, and Rudd spends more time with his new mate than his fiancée, thus providing the film with some sort of dramatic plot device. There are some chuckles here and there, and a surprising number of faces you know (Jaime Pressley, Jon Favreau [who is looking big], JK Simmons, Jane Curtin), but it’s not a film that merits going to the cinema to see it. There are no huge laughs, no big moments, and the story feels forced – Segel’s character is a cipher who just exists for the sake of being in the movie and allowing Rudd to have his story arc. Not awful but not great.
In addition to the excuse for I Love You, Man (re: unlimited ticket), this article [LINK] where Shane Black lays down the rules for a good action film is also to blame for me seeing this in the cinema: it is worded in such a way that it makes you think there is a connection between Black and the film. There is not. This is a real throwback to 1980s action flicks, which uses the tropes from such films as Die Hard (ordinary cop has to battle criminal mastermind using one crime to disguise a heist), Die Hard With A Vengeance (criminal mastermind has a personal grudge against cop) and Speed (cop is constantly running around to criminal’s plan – the cop in this film even wears a similar ensemble to Keanu in Speed, with a white t-shirt under an open shirt and dockers). The Die Hard connection is apt because it is directed by Renny Harlin, who directed the lesser Die Hard 2: Die Harder (but he also directed a Shane Black film, The Long Kiss Goodnight, so we can forgive his poor resume), and he throws the camera around and blows things up in a workman-like fashion. The ‘star’ of the film is John Cena – a WWE wrestler who, his backers at WWE hope, is going to be the next Dwayne Johnson. He is not. His acting range includes the screwed-face of anger all the way to showing emotion by closing his eyes and tilting his head downwards. Not for him the charisma of The Rock. The freakiest thing about him is the size of his hands – they’re enormous. When he holds his girlfriend’s head in his hands to kiss her, they are bigger than her head. It’s made worse by the fact that he has to spend a lot of the film with a mobile phone in his hand – it just highlights the great big flappy enormity of his mitts, making it look like he’s holding a child’s toy. The rest of him is big, too – there’s no getting over the fact that he looks like a wrestler. Actually, his facial features had me disconcerted for a while before it hit me, halfway through the film: he looks like a steroid-pumped version of Matt Damon, particularly in The Bourne Identity, with the cropped hair; if you inflated Damon’s head and bone structure, you would have Cena. It’s bizarre. As for the film, it’s pretty mindless nonsense, with an insanely detailed plan from the villain to cover up his even more complicated scheme to rob stuff – you are given an idiotic short-cut as to the level of his planning genius when he identifies the winning moves in a chess game he walks past in the street with one glance before explaining it to the players. I felt sorry for the actress playing his girlfriend, who is kept hostage throughout the film as the impetus for our protagonist to jump through hoops, and it looks like the filmmakers felt the same way because they give her some ‘tough chick’ stuff at the very end of the film – for some reason, she can fly a helicopter, which is key to the villain’s plan. However, as she helps her man take down the crim, she says some of the most stupid things imaginable when you are flying a helicopter as your boyfriend fights your kidnapper in the back, and doesn’t seem to realise that the reason where headphones with communicators in helicopters is because they can’t hear what you are saying due to the noise of the enormous rotors above them. A very silly film that I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I saw on the big screen.