27 October 2011

Movies: The Trip

The Trip (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1740047/

Comedy

Steve Coogan was asked by the Sunday newspaper The Observer to go on a restaurant critique tour across northern England.  Steve's American girlfriend was supposed to travel with him, but she decided to put their relationship "on a break" and travel back to the States to drum up work instead.  Steve asks a bunch of other folks to do the trip with him, but eventually settles on taking Rob Brydon because everyone else turned him down.

Both gentlemen are playing fictionalized versions of themselves.  As I've not watched many British TV shows Rob Brydon is especially unknown to me, whereas I remember remember Steve Coogan from "Tropic Thunder", "Hamlet 2" and as Octavius in "Night at the Museum".

This film is derived from a TV series of the same name. It was pared down from 6 episodes into a feature-length film.  As the film covers a 5 or 6 day period, I suspect the series covered a day per episode.  I've not watched the series, though the film piqued my interest in possibly checking it out some time.

I suppose not knowing much of either actor's past shows or their professional relationship sort of hindered understanding their dynamic at the start of the film, but one can glean from various conversational hints that they've known each other for about 11 years or so.  As to whether or not they're friends outside of a 'professional friendship' is still a little mysterious.

As a film it was somewhat subdued and laid back. It was like watching two guys driving around, staying different places, eating at different establishments, jousting their careers against one another, joking together, passive-aggressive competitiveness, stuff like that. It has its charming moments, its funny moments, its poignant moments, but never really 'popped' in any big way.  I think it probably would be more watchable as a series than as a film. I think the film had to cut too much story extras out, which left it feeling a bit more shallow. 
Some of the best bits are the 'dueling impersonations' moments, when they argue about how to properly impersonate Michael Caine or Sean Connery or a bunch of other actors. At times it gets old, but that actually leads in a bit where Steve voices his irritation at the impersonations. Plus the impersonations highlight the growing gap between the middle aged man and young women when a gal has no clue whose voice it is she's supposed to recognize.

As for Coogan and Brydon's performances - they both did awesome because their film conversations didn't have a scripted feel at all. Some of the interactions with folks along the way at times smelled of scripting, but when the two of them were together it seemed like natural interaction between guys that have known each other for years.

I liked the film, but I don't know how it would work as a movie-night selection. I ended up watching this film by myself because I knew it just wouldn't interest my wife at all. It's one of those types of films that works with certain audiences with certain kinds of patience for a film.

13 October 2011

Movies: Sanctum

Sanctum (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0881320/

Drama/thriller loosely based on a real-life experience

James Cameron's Sanctum is about some cave divers that run into some trouble when a tropical storm turns into a cyclone and floods the cave system before they can get out. Loosely based on the experiences of cave diver and co-writer of the film.

The film has its moments. Some thrilling moments, some neat stunts, decent bloody makeup when the events call for it. However, the first 30 minutes of the film almost landed it in the "I don't care if I finish the film" category. But we stuck it out. Overall the film is okay, some of the later scenes in the film make up for the first 30 mins.

My issues with the first 30 minutes stemmed from the terrible decisions made by this seemingly most experienced best-in-the-world cave diving team. For example, they knew the tropical storm was headed straight for them and might hit cyclone status, yet instead of pulling out until it blows over they didn't pay it any mind until the cave started making weird noises. Of course it was too late by then. Another was a life-threatening decision by a very experienced team member that was compounded by another life threatening decision that just happened to pay off - that is, paid off in the 'life extinguished' column. All in the first 30 minutes. I thought, "no wonder it goes so bad for them all, they make the obviously worst choices right out of the gate."
There was that, the father-son conflict that is predictable in how it plays out, the dialog that at times seems unnatural, a few weird cuts concluding events we didn't know even started.

I dunno. For me it there were some ways it just seemed like one of the sloppiest films with Cameron's name on it in a very long time.  Not technically, just in the dialog and character interactions. Technically the film was fine for the most part. There were a couple technical things that stood out, though. I thought the caves looked a little manufactured because the colors seemed too uniform, but the wife disagrees with me on that point. I also had to chuckle when a scene showing a helicopter fly low over a river resulted in zero rotor wash disturbing the surface of the water. Obviously the helicopter was inserted digitally. That's a mistake right out of Mega-Python vs. Gatoriod's production playbook.

All in all, the film is okay, has its good moments and good thrills. But it didn't do much to make me want to keep watching it early on. I didn't exactly regret finishing the film, but wasn't exactly jazzed about it either.