The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi, 105 mins (12A)
Rango, Gore Verbinski, 107 mins (PG)
Overworked, under-staffed...guardian angels don't have it easy either
Sunday 06 March 2011
Most of my male friends suspect that Fate is scheming cruelly to keep them apart from Emily Blunt, so they should relate to The Adjustment Bureau, a mischievous supernatural thriller based, very loosely, on a Philip K Dick story.
It stars Matt Damon as a hotshot New York politician who is certain, after one short conversation and one long kiss, that Blunt is the woman he's meant to be with. The unusual thing is that audiences might agree: he and Blunt have the easy, bantering chemistry that's missing from most romantic comedies.
But not everyone is convinced they belong together. Damon soon learns that an organisation of super-powered men in trilbies is working behind the scenes of reality to nudge human affairs in a divinely ordained direction, and that his relationship with Blunt doesn't fit the plan. Two of these "adjusters", John Slattery and Terence Stamp, tell him to keep away from her or face the consequences.
For those viewers, like me, who relish films with Twilight Zone-like high concepts, The Adjustment Bureau is a mind-bending treat: a science-fiction-tinged, metaphysical love story that bears comparison with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It delivers as a chase movie and a passionate romance, but has pleasingly daft, yet vaguely plausible ideas about destiny and free will. The adjusters, far from being ethereal guardian angels, are overworked, under-resourced company men. And on the two occasions they left the human race to its own devices, they claim, the results were fascism and the Dark Ages.
The film could have done with a few adjustments of its own, its main weakness being Damon's passivity as a hero. People keep telling us how impulsive and determined he is, but even after he meets the adjusters, he gets on with his life as if nothing has happened, and he doesn't do much to fight for Blunt except to sprint along a street in the rain. Most of my male friends would do more than that.
Rango is a cartoon about a pet chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) who gets lost in the desert, finds his way to a Wild West town populated by frogs and rodents, and discovers his heroic side when the townsfolk appoint him as their sheriff. But if that makes it sound like an ideal film to keep the little 'uns occupied for an afternoon, then beware. Rango isn't the standard kids'-cartoon-that-adults-will-enjoy-too, but an adults' cartoon that might appeal to some children, just as long as they've got strong nerves and strong stomachs.
Rather than adopting the shiny, happy colour scheme used in Pixar and DreamWorks cartoons, the film has the harsh, dusty look of a live-action Western, while its mottled and scaly characters are so grotesque that they could have been sketched by Depp's pal Terry Gilliam. There are sly jokes about Hunter S Thompson and immersive theatre, there are deaths and verbal flourishes that wouldn't have been out of place in True Grit, and there's a storyline that recalls Chinatown and There Will Be Blood. I'm not saying that Rango is in quite the same class as those films, but it's defiantly eccentric and often very funny. Alongside Coraline, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Legend of the Guardians, it's part of a new wave of Hollywood animations that reflect the vision of a particular director – in this instance, Gore Verbinski – rather than the house style of a whole studio.
Its only real flaw is its drawn-out, self-indulgent opening, but if those first 15 minutes prompt parents with young children to march out to the box office and demand a refund, maybe that's for the best.
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Also Showing: 06/03/2011
Patagonia (118 mins, 15)
Two warm-hearted road movies for the price of one, as an old Patagonian woman takes a teenage neighbour to see her ancestral home in Wales, while a Welsh couple visit Patagonia.
The Tempest (110 mins, PG)
Not even Helen Mirren's Prospera can redeem the bargain-basement digital effects, rudimentary camerawork, and general shapelessness of Julie Taymor's disastrous Shakespeare adaptation.
Unknown (113 mins, 12A)
This superior Hitchcockian thriller stars Liam Neeson as scientist who wakes up from a four-day coma to find that someone has stolen his identity – and even his wife (January Jones) is siding with the imposter. Good fun.
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Terrible action movie about some knights (including James Purefoy and Brian Cox) defending Rochester Castle against the dastardly King John (Paul Giamatti) and his Danish mercenaries.
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