Friday, 8 March 2013

Review: Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn (2012)
Dir: Dan Bradley
Cert 15 / Running time 114 mins

Finally seeing the light of day (this was filmed in 2009) Red Dawn imagines a scenario where North Korea brings bloody terror to America's doorstep. As most people will likely know, its a remake of the 1984 movie starring people from pretty much every important movie of the 80's. That movie wasn't exactly dynamite at the time nor is it a tale that really needed updating, but hey. We're bought up to speed by a multimedia show at the start of the movie, full of news clips and sound-bites, engineered to paint a picture of a North Korea primed to attack America. For those that scoff at such a reality (as I did myself), pause to consider today's news. Timing is everything. 

The focus is on a small town in Washington as opposed to a large scale epic of how the war is fought on a global stage. The opening attack featuring the enemy planes dropping troops onto Desperate Houswives' suburbia is effective and jarring. From here, it's down to a group of teenagers to begin the resistance.

Pure disgusted at how long it took Red Dawn to be relased
The teenagers in question are led by Chris Hemsworth, who works well as Jed Eckert, veteran and older brother to Matt (played by Josh Peck - even though I couldn't help wondering if he was the milkman's based on lack of shared physical genes). Jed's training and experiences kick in as soon as they attack begins. There are plenty of moments intended to deliver an emotional punch, some hit the target (Eckert senior communicating to his boys through a loud-haler) some miss the target, but what Red Dawn majors on is action. Red Dawn is directed by Dan Bradley, the man who energised the Bourne movies by delivering fresh, raw stunts and fight sequences. This is no small feat - the Bourne movies are now regarded as intelligent, visceral action movies and it served as a catalyst for action movies in general as they clamoured to be more "Bourne-like" (even Bond owes it's new direction to the path Bradley's work laid out).

"Martha, those kids are up to no good, I know it!"
I think if there was a reason this film needed to be made it's because teenagers are getting a bad reputation for being horrifically vacuous, whether they're American or not. It's the age of X-Factor and you can't be blamed for feeling utter despair at the parade of fame-hungry zeroes and idiots masquerading as teenage human beings in the media. Red Dawn attempts to combat this by showing a group of teenagers that get to grips with some pretty heavy shit. They're out of their depth but learn how to fight back and shoulder responsibility, and for that, the film is worth commending.

In all, this is actually a pretty decent film and most involved now have a new calling card. Connor Cruise gives a sweet, understated performance and puts a great case across for being known as Connor Cruise the actor and not Connor Cruise, son of Tom. Hemsworth steps up to the plate to give another likeable turn. Personally though, I feel the real credit goes to Bradley. Because of Bradley, the movie is better than it would have otherwise been; the action is the best thing about Red Dawn. There's not oodles of it, its just effective when it happens. How much better would A Good Day to Die Hard have been had Bradley been in charge...?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Top 5 Father & Son Team-ups

So as A Good Day to Die Hard stumbles on at the box office, I thought it would be a good time to offer our Top 5 Father & Son Team-ups!

No. 5 - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
To get things started, we have what I genuinely believe would be stiff competition for the McClane duo. As good as Jai Courtney may have been, he just can't match the menace of a swearing 11 year old thug. And Vinnie Jones was on great form here in his movie debut, playing a dirty lowlife scumbag... I reckon they would've made for a good spin-off movie. Maybe we can get them cast as decent villains for Die Hard 6.

No. 4 - Vice Versa (1988)
Who the fuck, you might ask, is Fred Savage and what's a Judge Reinhold? Well, they're human beings and damn good ones too. Once upon a time they made a movie called Vice Versa which is basically a faitytale about a father and son who swap bodies. This is a truly horrifying idea and not one worth dwelling on. That to one side, Vice Versa was one of several films to address the "inner child" notion, same as Like Father Like Son (1987) and Big (1988). Why was this one so good? Mssrs Savage and Reinhold, that's why. They are the 80's here and something about them works really well - it's probably down to the fact that they're so damn likeable.

No. 3 - Return of the Jedi (1983)
I don't think that it'll spoil anything at this stage to mention that Luke Skywalker is the fruit of Darth Vader's loins. Yes, for 1.6 films we believed that Vader was going to spell the end for young Skywalker but in true Days of Our Lives fashion, Vader dropped the bomb that he was indeed Luke's father. No need for a DNA show there, Jeremy Kyle. It was when Luke was getting his ass handed to him by The Emperor that Vader finally decides to team up with his son. The Emperor is having so much fun making Skywalker blub like a baby that he does little to stop Vader from hoisting him up and plopping him into the abyss. Shit, was that another spoiler?!

No. 2 - Shogun Assassin (1980)
You may never look at a man with a sword pushing a pram in the same way again. Ogami Itto and son Daigoro (AKA Lone Wolf and Cub) are on a mission. The local Shogun decides to send a crack squad of ninjas to wipe out Ogami Itto and his family but they only manage to kill his wife. Big mistake. The father and son hit the road for one of the greatest revenge sagas ever made, with violence so horrific it's comical and music so damn cool RZA wishes he wrote it.

No. 1 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Just when we thought Indy couldn't get any better, they went and added River Phoenix and Sean Connery to the cast. Its a tribute to Phoenix that he made his short appearance so integral to the myth of Indy, but it was the genius casting of Connery as curmudgeonly Henry Jones that set the movie as the best entry of the three. Sorry, four... (ahem). Connery was only 12 years older that Harrison Ford but they work so sublimely that its seamless. It's fun to see Indy reduced to a teenager at Henry's constant slights and reprimands while its equally fun to watch Indy's frustration at his father for being such a fuddy-duddy. Their relationship conveys some truths of a father / son relationship while being sweet and funny. All while killing Nazis.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Things we learned this week

  1. Robert Downey Jnr's favourite TV Show is Banged Up Abroad. 
  2. Richard Gere won't take work which involves him travelling more than an hour from his house. 
  3. Zach Galligan enjoys grape flavour Jolly Ranchers. 
  4. Paul Rudd would've been a better choice for the Death Wish remake.