News Column

It's hard to mask faults in remake

August 11, 2013


SOMETIMES it's impossible to ignore the bad buzz, with Gore Verbinski saddling up to re-imagine the iconic western adventurer already being hailed as the flop of 2013.

That's a touch harsh given this is the year of After Earth, but put it this way - the movie cost an estimated $375m to make and market, meaning it must take twice as much to show a profit. Frankly, you've more chance of meeting Jesus on the Piccadilly line.

Mechanical, soulless and lacking in imagination, comparisons with last year's turkey, John Carter, aren't wide of the mark.

Johnny Depp is Tonto, a stoical Comanche who we meet on a train that's carrying villain Butch (William Fichtner) to his execution in Texas.

Also aboard is lawyer John (Armie Hammer) who, when the train is hijacked and the prisoner escapes, dons a mask and joins the Native American warrior to seek justice. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter and Harry Treadaway.

There are action set pieces arriving every 10 minutes, and there's fun to be had watching the Ranger's horse leaping on to a moving train, a bridge exploding and dynamite detonating all over the place.

Western watchers may note that Verbinski is stealing/ homaging pretty much every John Ford film. Thing is, each scene goes on for so long that exhaustion eventually replaces exhilaration and, with the movie clocking in at the two-and-a-half-hour mark, you may find yourself eyeing the cinema's exit signs.

Depp and Verbinski have made a multi-billion-dollar killing collaborating on three of the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies - which, for me at least, ditched storyline and character development in favour of bombast.

This one is little different.

FOXFIRE (15) A GIRL gang gets into all sorts of trouble in this engaging drama set in Fifties New York.

Directed by the man who gave us the excellent The Class five years ago, it's another unsettling but well-observed teenage drama. It's certainly the film of the week but, given the company, that's not saying much.

Abused and ridiculed by the men of their neighbourhood, five 15- year-old girls get together to form the Foxfire gang, who go from feminist empowerment to wanton violence.

Touching on familiar themes of teenage angst, burgeoning sexuality and sexism, here's an eternally relevant story that, despite its period setting, resonates just as loudly today.

Think of it as The Outsiders meets Sleepers with a dash of Spring Breakers.

Sure, it outstays its welcome with a sagging middle act, but things come good with a thrilling finale.

Incidentally, the 1996 version of the film starred Angelina Jolie.

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS 3D (PG) OF THE slew of wannabe Harry Potters we've had to endure, 2010's The Lightning Thief ranks as one of the most forgettable.

The sequel is markedly better even if it feels like a cut and shut of every fantasy flick ever made.

Percy (Poseidon's son) and his pals - a cyclops, a satyr and a demi-god - are seeking the Golden Fleece. A hodgepodge of flicks such as Potter and especially Narnia, what it lacks in originality, it makes up for with decent effects and set pieces.

ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA (15) THE likelihood of this being the comedy of the year - as the billboards are proclaiming - is the same as the car park of Norwich's Harford Bridge Tesco supermarket being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What we have here is another case of a sitcom unwisely stretched to feature length.

There are some chortles, but if there's a reason why episodes of I'm Alan Partridge ran for half an hour each, it can be found here.

Comedian-turned-privacycampaigner Steve Coogan is the titular Norwich radio DJ who gets caught in a hostage situation when a fellow presenter (Colm Meaney) turns violent after getting the boot by new management.

There follows a series of mildly funny hijinks as the vain and self-serving Partridge revels in the presence of 24-hour news coverage with a view to landing his station's muchcoveted breakfast slot.

Sean Pertwee stars as the armed officer co-ordinating the rescue effort, while Partridge regulars Felicity Montagu and Simon Greenall also appear.

When it comes to small-tosilver-screen adaptations, Alpha Papa's nearest cousin might be 2006's Borat, which featured a similarly socially awkward grotesque.

This is much less funny, mind you.

Moments of physical comedy (Partridge losing his trousers climbing through a window or, later, hiding in a septic tank) are buried beneath laugh-free deserts of our anti-hero delivering tedious stream-of-consciousness dialogue with a nasal-twang.

The film's funniest moments come during his radio phone-ins as he asks his listeners to discuss the worst sort of monger ("fish, iron, rumour or war?") or opens the lines to people who've been denied planning permission. It's these pops at parochialism that made the TV shows a treat.

A shame they play second fiddle to the hostage plot. Doubtless, Partridge fans will be quoting their hero's lines for months. As for the rest of us, there's little to speak of.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

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