Review roundup - getting old and growing up

THE LAST STAND (2013)

In a period where it seems as though all the heroes of old are coming back for another screen outing, it's not a big surprise that Arnold tries his hand at doing the one man army act one more time. The less than successful Expendables movies had a handful of incoherent cameos from the Austrian Oak, but overall felt like they were aiming for some modern demographic instead of delivering the oldschool action vibes I wanted. This had to be better, right? Unfortunately the mix of what should have been a fresh approach with 80s action moments ends up as muddled and inconsistent as the tone veers from serious crime drama where Forest Whitaker frowns and shouts orders, to complete schlock in which people are exploded and one liners are spewed.


The movie I wanted to see involved Arnie and Peter Stormare shouting incomprehensible dialogue at each other while faceless mooks get blown away, but despite the latter's best attempts (seriously what was the accent? Sweden or Texas? Does he know this is all terrible?) it barely has 10 minutes worth of that expected goofy action. The scenes of melodrama and FBI seriousness just take up too much time, and interchangeable agents and boring townsfolk get far too much to say. Director Kim Ji-woon's The Good the Bad the Weird had a similar problem to a lesser extent, deciding if it wanted to be wacky or straight faced, and this time the struggle and indecision of choosing genre have a bigger impact. This is the kind of movie where a sidekick character finds a morning star in a museum while loading up for the showdown, and never uses it. It's just the wrong kind of rule breaking.

2/5

LIFE OF PI (2012)

The plot hook of a kid in a lifeboat with zoo animals for company is what got me interested in seeing this, and the parts where that takes place - that middle section where the craziness and survival scenes play out - delivers that in spades, with plenty of amazing visuals and impressive effects work for good measure. The blend of staying alive drama, surreal travel scenes and dream like fantasy moments as the boy Pi (long story) and the tiger Richard Parker (yeah) cross the Atlantic are very well done. How would you live like this? Is this all imagined? How many times will he curse God until his beliefs reach breaking point? How many times has he shouted Richard Parker? These kind of questions are what drew me in. The rest of the journey is less effective which is a shame, but has it's moments - and the themes of faith and which parts of life should be taken at face value are fairly engaging for the most part despite a slow start.



My major issues here are due to the structure - getting interested in the struggle of the boat occupants is the strongest element, but the way it takes place comes along too slowly and having bookend narration with our protagonist explaining things to a journalist in the present day just kills the atmosphere. Particularly near the end as the voyage had become more absorbing. It pulled me out of the story and standard narration, if any at all, would have been simpler and more effective. Overall the trip is worth taking but I felt these disappointing elements are a bigger problem that I'd have expected from all the awards buzz this generated.

3/5