Cinema Review Roundup – Floating Criminals and Bounding Heroes

This week I saw the new Mark Wahlberg movie Contraband and Andrew Stanton’s first foray into live action cinema, John Carter.


Contraband

The film opens up with a container ship getting raided by US customs and a young man dumping the drugs he is smuggling into the water. Staying out of jail was not a good enough excuse for Giovanni Ribisi, the insane bearded criminal the lad was running the drugs for. Luckily for him though his sister is Kate Beckinsale who is married to Mark Wahlberg, an ex-con who was the best runner in his day.

What follows is Mark agreeing to do one last job to get his brother-in-law out of trouble. Think the Gone in 60 Seconds and Italian Job remakes played straight and with a little more grit.

Overall it was enjoyable and nicely made and it was refreshing to see it told in a darker way rather than funky with a jazz soundtrack. The biggest problem with it though is it felt like it was leading up to a big finale but what you get is a bit of a disappointment. It would have been nicer to see Wahlberg let out some more of that rage and flair he showed at points throughout the film.

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John Carter

Disney has recently reported a $200m loss on this film. It took only $65m dollars in the US which if you compare that to The Hunger Games which had an opening weekend of $155m (!) it shows how badly it did. It has almost universally been slated by critics and I was a little apprehensive going to see it, expecting another Prince of Persia style snore-fest.

132 minutes later and I was appalled. As the 8 other people in the cinema with me slowly shuffled out I felt disgusted. That this film has been so badly slated and poorly attended is a tragedy. I really enjoyed myself and totally got what Andrew Stanton was aiming for. While the rest of the cinema sat in silence I was laughing at the brilliant comedy moments that were woven into the story so excellently.

The basic premise is a cavalry man from 1885 called John Carter finds himself teleported to Mars and thrown in the middle of a planetary conflict. While it took a while to settle into the strange names and language used once it starts to make sense the narrative takes over. I can’t remember a single moment where it gets dull or too slow to hold my attention, it is paced perfectly.

When the ending credits rolled and the title appeared I had a beaming smile on my face which quickly turned to a frown as I realised that the chance of the sequel being made is next to zero. I would have loved to see what Andrew Stanton, who clearly loved the source material, would have done next. I’d much rather see John Carter 2 than Avatar 2 and that is saying something.

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