Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Tourist

Surely you can't go wrong with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp?

Jolie, the searing sex siren and ultimate leading lady of the modern era, alongside the preposterously and irritatingly handsome Depp, the best actor of his generation. So how is that The Tourist is so underwhelming?

Well there's the plot, for a start. Jolie is the classic mystery lady, looking astonishing at all times despite the fact that she is being watched at every turn by Scotland Yard and some very bad, bad guys. It turns out she's the lover of a man who once stole an unimaginable amount of money from both. Following his instructions (by letter) Jolie's Elise Clifton-Ward boards a train to Venice, picks up Depp's Frank Tupelo (a teacher of "math" from Wisconsin), and so begins what should have been a comic farce containing chases, slapstick, sharp dialogue and all around sizzling sexiness.

Yet there is precious little of any of that. Jolie goes all out for the Hepburn-esque movie icon look and, while she is not far short of pulling it off, she seems to forget that her character is in the midst of 'a situation'. Meanwhile Depp's character lacks humour or charm, and instead spends the film in a state of awe and confusion. While few actors can pull off mild confusion as well as Depp, we have seen it all before from him. Isn't it time that this most versatile of actors gave the Jack Sparrow thing a rest? Maybe you think that if it ain't broke and all that.........but I expected a little more.

The baddies are, as alluded to, just that. Lead gangster is Steven Berkoff, a man so bored with his lot that he cannot even summon the acting prowess to unsettle his audience at the point when he promises to re-arrange Jolie's facial features. I'm paraphrasing but he tells her life would not be so kind to an ugly woman, but he also should remember that this film is bad enough without it's redeeming feature being carved into little pieces for the sake of a wedge of stolen cash.

So what's to like about The Tourist? Well, the scene in which Depp is pursued across a Venice hotel roof-top in his pyjamas is half-way amusing, while Rufus Sewell's ubiquitiousness puts one in mind of Waldo from the 'Where's Wally' book series. Only without the stripes. Regardless, you know he's important because he keeps turning up. The film has a few comic moments to enjoy, but it's not certain that they are intentional and you leave the cinema feeling that they could have done so much more with it.

Overall this is not one to recommend unless you are a fervent Jolie or Depp devotee. If the very presence of either on screen is enough to entertain you for two hours then don't let me stop you. Otherwise, you might want to give this one the slip.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 1

After 10 years and what will eventually be eight films the Harry Potter series is finally coming to an end.

Whether you love J K Rowling's stories or you hate them, you have to agree that it is time. The film's stars have grown up before our very eyes. They're real people now, holding onto only minimal traces of the annoying children they used to be. What started as a mystical journey into child wizardry has now developed into an adult drama, with characters with real feelings and emotions.

And it is so much the better for that. The first of two installments of The Deathly Hallows is by far the best of the Potter movies so far. Perhaps this is because the long awaited denoument is now in sight. This film really moves, and the often contrived and confusing plots of some of it's predecessors have been replaced with one of real drive and purpose. We know where we are with this one, even with only a rudimentary grasp of what has gone before. Yet it still feels like a good time to leave Harry, Ron and Hermione behind. Even to this casual Potter observer everything seems to be tying together nicely. It is hard to see where Rowling would go were she to pick up her pen for an eighth book.

We begin with the bad guys. Fresh from his slaying of the much cherished wizard Aldus Dumbledore, the despicable Lord Voldemort is turning his attentions to Harry and his friends. Visiting with his Death Eaters, Voldemort hatches his plan. Yet not before demonstrating the depth of his evil by feeding a former Hogwarts teacher to his snake for the heinous crime of believing muggles (those ordinary folk not possessed of any magic skills) should be free to mix and indeed mate with wizards and witches. Preposterous. Everyone knows that parakeets don't mate with armadillos.

So with Voldemort's quest established, we turn to Harry's which is basically to stay alive in the face of this dogged pursuit. This is every bit as difficult as you might imagine, with Death Eaters seemingly at every turn despite the fact that Hermione possesses the ability to whisk herself, Harry and Ron away to any location of her choosing. My personal favourite is the Forest Of Dene. Complicating their task further is the knowledge that to end Voldemort's pursuit they must find and destroy the five 'horcruxes', pieces of the evil Lord's soul carelessly left lying around for reasons best known to Potter afficianados and geeks. Dumbledore has left clues as to their whereabouts but not much on how to destroy them. What's more, one of them is a locket which is making it's wearer awfully grumpy. Lord Of The Rings, anyone?

Lockets aside, it is the clash between Harry and Ron over the all-of-a-sudden stunningly beautiful Hermione that is causing the real consternation. Ron's clearly in love and, mad as it sounds, there's even a hint that she might feel the same way about him. 'I'm always mad at him.' she offers at one point, as if any further evidence of being in love with someone were required. Yet her relationship with Harry is also growing stronger and, though the specky dufus doesn't seem to know it, there's every chance he might get the girl by the end. Well that would be only right wouldn't it? He's the hero. It's his name above the door.

Though much of the action is focused on these three and their pursuants, the film's makers are acutely aware that they have a loyal audience to stay faithful to. Thus there are brief appearances from many of the films' weird and wonderful characters and the stellar British actors who have contributed so much to the series. Along with Ralph Fiennes' expert turn as Voldemort you can expect to catch glimpses of Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Richard Griffiths, Rhys Ifans, Timothy Spall, John Hurt, Brendan Gleeson and of course Michael Gambon as Dumbledore among many others. Death doesn't stop wizards from making a contribution. Lord Of The Rings, anyone?

For the first time ever, I left the cinema at the end of a Harry Potter movie actually looking forward to the next film. So many questions to answer. Will Harry find the remaining horcruxes and/or slay the revolting Voldemort? Will he get Hermione, or will Ron confound the lazy stereotyping of ginger-haired people by making off with the goods? And will Emma Watson get any easier on the eye? Could she? Not if her boy's haircut at the official premiere is anything to go by. Almost sacrilege. Even the ludicrously short dress couldn't rescue the situation.

All will be revealed in July 2011 when Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 finally opens.