Filmic roundup

It’s been a fortnight since I last got round to commenting on films, so bit of a November catch-up of what’s out there;

Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One– yep, sequel (or second part, they’re clearly intended to be seen as one longer film) to Mesrine: Killer Instinct. Viewed separately the second part seemed a little disappointing, it had less to say about the man and time than the first part and seemed to be a preamble as to how he arrived at his death. It’s still far better than a lot of similarly themed films and Vincent Cassel is nothing short of extraordinary in the title role, but something felt missing after the first part.However viewed as part of a longer whole, both films make more sense with themes established or hinted at in Part One reaching fruition in Part Two. The opening device of Part One (the assassination of Mesrine) makes more sense as it clearly indicates that for many watching the film now, it will be all they remember about him. It also establishes the fact that he was a misguided Robin Hood figure – not robbing the rich to give to the poor, but robbing the rich who were feeding off of the poor. The politics of the films become clearer, terrorism is shown as an ugly, petty business that benefits nobody.Mesrine has a lot to recommend it, but like Che it should ideally be viewed as a single film that just happens to have credits before the intermission. Viewed separately they’re both good films, viewed together and it’s a possible future classic.

9 – The most positive thing I can say about this is that it has by far the best texture mapping in a computer animated film I’ve seen. Unfortunately the story isn’t up to much and is not so much slight as non-existent. It looks fantastic from start to finish and the production design is nothing short of beautiful, but that lack of story keeps getting in the way.The plot, something about machines wiping out life on earth and the soul of man being placed in nine homunculi. It’s all more than a little vague and a hotpot of other films and books. The director could go on to do better things (there are flashes of brilliance) but he’s possibly better served by leaving the scripting duties to someone else.So, don’t go out of your way to see it, wait for it to turn up in the bargain section at HMV (or similar – remember, other DVD stockists are available) and then give it a try.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – like 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox is (on the surface) as slight as they come. However underneath the obvious affection that has gone into realising the characters and fleshing out a back story for everyone and relationships between the characters makes it a real delight. After Anderson’s last film (The Darjeeling Limited) I was worried that he was essentially making the same film over and over again – he is – but because of the lack of direct performances (so to speak) the quality with which he builds up these dysfunctional families becomes apparent. He’s not holding a microscope to their flaws, he’s indicating that it’s their flaws that make them so appealing.The voice casting is pitch perfect, even down to all of the heroes being American and the villains being British (which is joked about). Clooney brings his easy charm to the role whilst still being essentially the gentleman thief. Even smaller roles are filled out nicely, where else would you get Jarvis Cocker playing second fiddle to Michael Gambon?Ultimately, Fantatsic Mr. Fox succeeds because whilst it has an obvious love of the source material, it doesn’t stick to the story like gospel, instead using it as a means of telling another story about dysfunctional father / son relationships, long suffering women and men who have to make the choice of either growing up and moving on or leading everyone on the path to their downfall.

Lastly, The Men Who Stare At Goats is wonderful for two thirds of its running time, but is let down by a third act that doesn’t really know where to go. Up till that stage it works because no matter how bizarre things get in telling the story about how they got there (its set at the start of Gulf War II) they have a sense of truth. However the last act tries to find a place for the eighties style craziness that proceeded it in the noughties – and it doesn’t really work. It’s not a bad film per se, but this really does affect it.Having said that, Clooney (once again) brings charm to a role as a deranged nutter whilst Kevin Spacey adds another slimy role to his list. The most fun however comes from watching Ewan McGregor keep a straight face as everyone around him keeps going on about “Jedi Warriors”.

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