front room films

Since Looper, I have seen a few films for the second (/third/fourth) time around including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Revolver, the first three Resident Evil films and Equilibrium, but as usual I like to talk about films I have seen for the first time. First impressions are interesting things and for a fickle soul like me it will be interesting to perhaps revisit a few of this year’s posts after second watches to see if I have changed my mind. So what have I seen on my telly-box for the first time this wet and windy October?.

First off was The Three Musketeers directed by Paul W. S. (wideshot?) Anderson most closely associated with the Resident Evil franchise. This was a quite enjoyable adventure action film with some nice special effects and ludicrous physics defying steam-punk influenced inventiveness (e.g. flying ships). It lent a lot to previous incarnations of the stories, stayed relatively true to the original tale by Alexandre Dumas and was heavily influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in its action sequences. Orlando Bloom jumped ship from said franchise only to land in this film as a quite convincing comic villain the Duke of Buckingham. The cast, also including Anderson’s wife Milla Jovovich as Milady were an interesting bunch with a variety of levels of acting ability. James Corden is wasted in the role of Planchet in that he is given very little screen time to spin his comedy turns. It is a fun film and not to be taken too seriously, however I was disappointed to see that the screenwriter has ‘re-used’ the ending from Resident Evil (4): Afterlife in this film (substitute flying ships for helicopters and you will see the obvious similarities). It amazes me that Anderson let them do it.

Which segues neatly to Resident Evil: Afterlife which is a lamentable pile of plop. It opens with an extended homage to the famous guns in the lobby scene from the Matrix, and Trinity falling off a building through shards of glass while shooting twin machine guns from Matrix 2 and only narrowly escapes completely copying it by employing the Alice clones revealed at the end of Resident Evil (3): Extinction. The film suffers from 3D action for 3D’s sake and a far-fetched storyline (zombies are almost a given back drop). The supposedly exciting opening sequence in Japan lapses back to Mila doing an Amelia Earhart impression trying to track down the zombie free utopia mentioned in RE3. It lacks any great characters (or acting for that matter), contains an amazing array of silly bloopers, stupid character decisions, suspension of the laws of physics, and continuity errors and adds very little to the ongoing story of Alice. Having watched RE, RE2 and RE3 in sequence leading up to this film I was sorely disappointed by the sci-fi action clichés and the heavy Matrix influenced opening and closing fight sequences, and would say that my ratings for each film in the sequence go something like this 8/10, 6/10, 7/10, 5/10. It has to be noted that I thought RE2 sucked, but having watched it again I’ve upped the rating by a point – I think I missed the point of who the big guy was the first time around.

The Troll Hunter on the other hand was quite an original film. Okay, it owes a lot to other ‘discovered footage’ films such as The Blair Witch Project, but it has some fun special effects and characters that you actually care about. It tells the story of a group of student filmmakers who travel through Norway on the trail of what they think is an illegal bear hunter who turns out instead to be hunting creatures of a much more fantastical nature. The Troll Hunter is paid by the Norwegian government to keep the troll population in check and within defined territories where they cannot harm humans. Their existence and his job are obviously not common knowledge, but once they catch up with him he lets them film him at his dirty work as he is becoming increasingly disenamoured with the job. The film contains some wonderful shots of the Norwegian forests and mountains and equally nice special effects where the trolls seem to fit perfectly into the expected appearance of mythical giants from fairytales (not as it happens what I thought a ‘troll’ would actually look like from reading such things as Tolkien and Pratchett) – I think this is a cultural thing and perhaps ‘troll’ in Norway means much the same as ogre or giant does to us (a similar ‘misunderstanding’ surrounds ‘ghosts’ and ‘souls’ in Japan and the Ghost in the Shell series/films perhaps make more sense as Soul in the Shell, anyway I digress…). The dialogue appears to be partially ad-libbed and adds to the realism of the characters which juxtaposes nicely with the fantasy aspect of the film.

Finally, I watched the Shinjuku Incident as part of Film 4’s martial arts season. It stars Jackie Chan but contains very little martial arts (perhaps I have got the theme of the season mixed up?). It is somewhat of a departure for Jackie Chan as he plays a villain and there is no comedy to be had in a film which describes gang warfare in Japan. Chan plays an illegal Chinese immigrant who gradually rises up to end up being the big boss of a criminal gang of Chinese in cahoots with at least two other large Japanese mafia gangs. It is similar in a way to Gangster Number One in that although Chan’s character is a criminal it is written in such a way as to engender sympathy – he is not as bad as the rest of the gangsters and most of the time is trying to do the best for his struggling countrymen. I think the film was controversial at the time as it is quite violent and does have some policemen being killed by gang members. I actually found it quite engrossing and for a change the acting of most of the cast was realistic and measured (the only exception was Mr Chan crying rather theatrically a couple of times). I would recommend it if you are a fan of foreign gangster films or simply gangster films in general, it reminded my slightly of the excellent Goodfella, but don’t expect Chan to be doing any crazy stunts this time around!

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