Review Roundup - Fun and games


So after using all those Morricone tracks in his past movies, and declaring "The Good, The Bad..." the perfect movie (as top picks go, I admit it's a nice choice) - Quentin Tarantino finally gets around to making a Western of his own. It's a blood splattered, pseudo-history epic bordering on pastiche in some places (as you might have expected after his last venture into the 2nd World War) and is full of great performances and slick musical choices for the most part, again no shocks there. Surprisingly, the locations being used are also given their share of screen time too, making for some spectacular vista moments. I really like the film's look, a world apart from the grimy, almost one room theatre of Reservoir Dogs. The action is handled well with plenty of good practical effects, and it's an engrossing movie experience overall despite one or two things that stall the pacing during the final act.

The meat of the story is of course a revenge drama, as our protagonists team up for love and justice. They take down the bad guys (either bounty kills or simply irredeemably awful people) on their way to rescue the title characters wife. In an interesting contrast, the horrors of trading human lives as animal stock for entertainment or labour are played completely straight - against the almost ridiculous level of bullet impacts which start when the villains begin taking hits in the inevitable shoot outs you'd expect from the genre in question. Where the opening scenes of Inglourious Basterds ramped up the real word tension and harrowing consequences of an SS questioning, here the subject matter is laid bare in a great deal more scenes. While it's a relief they are handled with seriousness, at the same time is difficult to sit through. But rightly so.

This is not to say we're getting a humourless drama - much of the story is fine entertainment thanks to the characters and script. The cast is all very strong whether we are rooting for them as saviours or loathing them as grotesque slavers and wanted criminals. Some may be veering into caricature territory at times, but as antagonists they are still entirely unlikeable. The dinner table discussion of race inferiority might be memorable as a sequence and a great performance moment, but the points being offered are only ever vile. Of course the main focus driving the story is Django and Schultz who make for a great duo, the latter deserving the praise and awards which have been bestowed on him. Even so, I doubt it will be converting any new Tarantino fans thanks to the violence levels but it's still recommended as an engaging, well made piece of cinema.   



Disney's interest in videogames over time hasn't exactly been high caliber, however many cult fans of TRON there might be (both new and old have their moments but never hooked me entirely) so it was with a raised eyebrow I approached their latest animated feature, particularly after seeing that easter egg packed trailer full of classic gaming icons. As animation goes, the unexceptional but eye pleasing style seen in Tangled seems to have been the thrust of things in the design department (outside of the existing work of game artists) which isn't a massive issue in itself. It's just a shame that while the intrigue of the opening hook lasts for the first act, I was hoping something fresh to follow it. Later into the adventure it turns out that the less interesting design work is complimented by a fairly typical family adventure plot, and the predictable elements that those usually include soon follow suit. 

The premise is simple enough, but this proves to be a strength and ultimately the weakest element of the story. Sitting atop a smashed apartment block, as a kind of Donkey-Kong or Rampage style villain, our titular residential menace is having a personal crisis after 30 years of being defeated by coin using gamers. Setting out to change his life and get the respect of a hero, the whole world and history of the videogame is set ahead of him - in a convenient tube station linking all the machines and their characters within the arcade that they are hooked into.

Ultimately though after a fun trip into a modern day sci-fi shooter (when did games get so violent?) things get bogged down way too much in the standard stuff - hero's journey to find his place, a cute unlikely romance sub plot and an outcast's chance at being part of the clique. This could have been worked around, but the problem is that the limitless possibilities offered by "game-hopping" are squandered by having all this take place in a single candy themed race track world, something that after a while feels like it could be part of any animated feature. Despite the Mario Kart vibe it suggests, most of it just comes across as a typical fantasy kingdom setting full of wacky minions and bright colours while anything Namco and Sega might have offered is sidelined. The idea of using all those years of game history, all those genres - it never materialises. Villains are revealed, tables are turned and character arcs are completed - it's just so by the numbers after such potential is built up at the start.

In the end it's a likeable, but forgettable trip that could have had so much variety considering who we meet in AA meeting style opener. Perhaps something Pixar might have handled with more finesse. Maybe it just wasn't possible with all those licenses and such a trim film length - but I guess it might just be the balance of audiences they were aiming at, a combination of arcade fans and younger film goers is probably a tricky balance and ultimately I couldn't love the resulting mix.