Monday, 3 May 2010

What I've Been Watching: Cemetery Junction & Iron Man 2

E4E92DB8-3F77-440D-8292-D1D838045F58.jpgCemetery Junction
A.K.A. Dead End

Mark Kermode, on his blog, posted a piece about whether a comedy needed to be funny to be described as such. He argued that despite Cemetery Junction's lack of laughs, it was still a good comedy because it was a good film. I would disagree with this argument. Cemetery Junction is simply not a comedy.

Given the involvement of Gervais and Merchant (The Office, Extras, The Invention of Lying) I can understand some critics' need to classify it as such. However, trying to cram it into that genre by redefining what a comedy is, seems to be completely missing the point.

Anyone who's seen the final episodes of The Office or Extras will know that these two writers know, not only how bring comedy out of the most excruciating of circumstances, but also how to build to great character moments. For example, when Dawn finds Tim's picture on her way to the airport in The Office or in Extras, when Andy launches a tirade on reality TV, while at the same time making a heartfelt apology to Maggie live from the Big Brother house.

15C763EE-68CE-4E74-BB63-9D5D78BA2874.jpgCemetery Junction essentially turns the comedy vs drama tables on us: being primarily concerned with these the latter, and only giving us little nuggets of funny in between. This was always going to be a risky move for these two writers, however, I think it's paid off pretty well.

Instead of the story moving in a direction that creates the most awkward, cringeworthy moments possible, we instead get a very tight, well-constructed plot about four people in the twenties trying to make something of their lives.

The characters, whether major or minor, are all incredibly well written and cast, with nearly all of them having moments that make you believe in their real, three-dimensional personas.

One other thing to look at is the significance of gifts in the movie, in particular, the manner in which they are given and received. Nearly all the important moments in the movie are when one character gives another things like a cup of tea, a beer, or a crystal bowl. Perhaps this best sums up the style of writing in the movie, where big things are said through little gestures.

Cemetery Junction then succeeds as a coming-of-age drama with a great heart and well developed character arts. If, however, you're expecting something with the comedic tone of Gervais' earlier works, I'd recommend re-watching your Office/Extras boxsets.

08572EC8-4D8F-43E3-B4F9-F7D5A074300F.jpgIron Man 2
He Came. He Saw. He Ironed.

When Iron Man was released in 2008 it was almost greeted as the second coming by some movie geeks. Its combination of snappy dialogue, a well constructed world, and a perfectly cast Robert Downey Jr leading some to question whether The Dark Knight, released a few months later, could surpass it for entertainment value. Needless to say, Nolan's Batman movie, is now considered the pinnacle of the genre. However, perhaps it's a little unfair to put the original on that high a pedestal.

You see, Iron Man is a film much like its main character: loud, brash, and cocky while at the same time wanting to do something worthwhile.

At the end of the first movie, it was incredibly refreshing to see a superhero finally 'come out' and admit to his secret identity. This dynamic is nicely used through out the sequel, as people are forced to believe in the man Tony Stark, as oppose to his alter-ego Iron Man.

Compare this to every other superhero movie, where the main character must decide what it is they stand for when they're dressed in their capes and cowls, and the impact this has on the normal people around them.

At the end of the first act of the movie Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) targets Stark, and declares he has won because he made him bleed, he made him fallible. Arguably this resulting conversation is the high point of the movie. With the nature of Stark's new role in "privatising world peace" rightly questioned by this new enemy.

5A311444-B0D9-444F-BB33-DDC3E5113167.jpgUnfortunately, like the first it quickly descends into action movie territory in the final third, with all the interesting stuff put to one side in favour of more robots hitting each other. And we all know Transformers has cornered the market on that.

My only other complaint is the inclusion of The Avengers which will only really make sense to fans of Marvel comics. It still hasn't been clearly established why Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation is so important, or what the threat it is they're dealing with. As such, the inclusion of these scenes in the middle of the movie made little sense in terms of the story of Iron Man 2. As well as causing it to suffer from Spiderman 3 syndrome as we were introduced to yet more characters.

Don't get me wrong I'm as excited as anyone at seeing Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, et al on the screen together in one movie, but I feel like more justification needs to be given to seeing Samuel L. Jackson pop up in the middle of each of Marvel's flagship titles.

Iron Man 2 is a movie that brought me with it for the first third, but seemed to run out of things to say by about half way. I never felt any real threat towards the characters, what it was Tony Stark was really fighting for, or what his dilemma in the movie was. As such, while entertaining, I don't think it holds up well when compared to the emotional heart of similar sequels like Spiderman 2, X-Men 2 or indeed The Dark Knight.

Reviews of Date Night and The Disappearance of Alice Creed will be published later this week.

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