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RT on DVD: G.I. Joe. Public Enemies, Ice Age 3

Plus, the brilliant Tyson, seasonal Four Holidays, and My Sister's Keeper

by | December 2, 2009 | Comments


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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The G.I. Joe team, an elite crack squad of muscle-bound good guys, take on a whole host of bad guys, including an evil organisation and some arms dealers who are on the hunt for the very latest in metal-eating weaponry… Oh sure, the plot is ludicrous, but then this is a film that was inspired by a line of plastic action dolls.

This is popcorn cinema at its purest and it delivers some serious bang for its buck. The CGI is thrust into overdrive as explosions take out European landmarks with some serious gusto. And lines such as “The French are pretty upset” — in response to the annihilation of Paris — will have you grinning like an eight-year-old boy who likes to smash stuff. There are chases and ninjas and explosions and underground secret desert lairs and super-cool accelerator suits.

Enjoy this film for what it is: a hyperactive pre-teen boy fantasy, and you are in for 118 minutes of adrenalin-pumping, blowing-stuff-up bliss.


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Public Enemies

It is the Depression and John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) are walking the line between crime wave and heroes as America’s most notorious bank robbers. J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) are the men who want to bring them down.

As we can expect from director Michael Mann, the film is heavily stylised. The hand-held camera will annoy some but for others it adds to the chaos, and allows us to get even closer to the violence. And this film is violent. It is also a little confusing. The movement, the jumble of characters and the slightly disjointed plot all work to separate us from the story and it succeeds in keeping the portrayal of these historically fascinating characters at a very surface level. But, as with many pieces of art that work at the surface, it is very slick and very beautiful and extraordinarily sexy. The sexy, of course, comes not just from the atmospheric moodiness of this dark gangster flick, but from the likes of Johnny Depp and his exquisite love interest, a hat-check girl played by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard.


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Tyson

It is hard to imagine a world where Iron Mike Tyson is a sympathetic character, but this documentary about the world-famous heavyweight shows a new side to a man so often dismissed as an enraged monster.

It helps here that Tyson tells his own story to camera with the support of photographs and gripping archival footage. Despite the obvious bias that comes from Tyson’s involvement in the making of the film, this remains a mesmerising documentary. While the story Tyson tells might be his own version of the truth, he’s still telling a truth and that is very moving.

The split screen technique works well. To see Tyson telling his story, in his almost gentle lisping voice, side-by-side to imagery of such base violence, reminds the audience at all times they are watching not just a sportsman and a pop-culture icon but also a man defined by barely-contained ferocity.

For those who are not a fan of the man, or indeed the sport, do not be put off. Tyson himself described this film as a Greek tragedy the first time he watched it, and it is. It is also a powerful and emotional portrayal of an extraordinary life.


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My Sister’s Keeper

Based on the best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult, this movie tells the story of a mother fighting desperately to keep her cancer-ridden daughter, Kate, alive. Her other daughter, Anna, was conceived as a donor for her sick sister but now when asked to go through yet another procedure, this time to donate a kidney, she hires a lawyer to regain control over her body and stop the operation.

Cameron Diaz takes on the role of the mother in this half-a-box-of-tissues drama. Jodi Picoult writes novels designed to make you cry into your pillow. Director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) makes films designed to make you weep into your popcorn. Combine the two and you should be advised to keep your fluids up because there will be sobbing. It is beyond your control. You will cry.

Fans of the book should be warned, the film does deviate from the original plot. Much of the moral and ethical debate has been exchanged for family angst and, oh my, is there a lot of family angst. Also, we are not in the practice of giving spoilers but the ending is radically different.


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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The whole gang are back for the third instalment of this ice age animation — now the third highest grossing film of all-time at the international box office — complete with Scrat and his never-ending hunt for the final acorn. Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and Denis Leary may sound a little like they are going through the motions but Simon Pegg makes a lovely addition to the cast as a one-eyed weasel.

The animation in this series has always been exceptional and in this film it is no different. The discovery of a new world filled with even more prehistoric beasts will thrill young fans. And that is the point. This is a film for the very young. While many of the best animations of recent years have worked on a number of levels, allowing adults to take as much pleasure as their children, this one does not translate well for the over-sixes.

However, kids will love this bit of ice-aged craziness, which makes it a perfect distraction at this hectic time of year.


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Four Holidays

Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) have a routine. Every Christmas this self-absorbed couple skip town in an effort to get as far away from their families as is humanly possible. This year their plans are dashed when a rogue fog grounds their plane and a local news crew splashes their faces across the TV, alerting their ‘loved-ones’ that they will indeed be home for Christmas. With two sets of divorced parents between them they have no choice but to grit their teeth and get through four manic Christmases.

The movie has a knockout cast. Vaughn is a force of nature and drives the pace of this somewhat frenzied film. Witherspoon’s comedy is a bit subtler but she certainly holds her own. Robert Duvall and Jon Favreau are standouts as Brad’s alpha male father and testosterone-heavy brother and the rest of the cast — Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight — do their best at the various stereotyped horrors they have been given to play.

There are a handful of funny scenes in this film, sadly revolving around baby vomit, but in large the comedy is very slapstick, usually founded on humiliation and you can see the set-ups a mile away. The message about only truly knowing someone once you know where they came from feels a little too sweet after the mean-spirited barrage that has come before.

If you like your Christmas with a dose of cynicism you will enjoy the hard edges of this romantic-comedy.

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