To paraphrase Mr T, real name Lawrence Turead, who appeared in The Blues Brothers as ‘Guy on Street’ and has a son named T Junior, I pity the fool who doesn’t read Cinemascape this week.
Real Steel (12A)
A rock ‘em, sock ‘em, robot version of Rocky starring Hugh Jackman as a washed-up boxer in the not-too-distant future, forced to bond with his estranged son while eking out a living playing robot wars with hulking mechanical marvels, Real Steel might sound kinda stupid, but is in fact a great guilty pleasure, a shamelessly stirring, cleverly executed family drama from Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy.
Loosely based on a short story and subsequent Twilight Zone episode, Steel, both written by I Am Legend’s Richard Matheson, Real Steel takes place in a world where boxing has been outlawed and audiences now get their kicks watching remote-controlled robots beat the circuits out of one another. It’s still violent, and that’s the way we like it, but no longer a blood sport. For the folk of the future, and the Disney audiences of today, oil sports are fair game.
A nomadic loser who can’t catch a break with the remote control rustbuckets he schleps from ring to ring, Charlie Kenton (Jackman) is a selfish, irresponsible, hard-boiled son-of-a-bitch – with a heart of gold. Forced to spend the summer with the 11 year-old son he never knew he had, a smart, spirited kid (Dakota Goyo) who’s a chip off the old block, the two end up restoring a broken-down bot and rising together through the robot boxing ranks.
An against-all-odds, triumph of the spirit, rust-to-riches tale of father-son, son-robot and father-long-suffering-girlfriend (Lost’s Evangeline Lilly) bonding, Real Steel is about as manipulative as movies get, but damn it all, for once I just relaxed and allowed it to pull my emotions every which way, and like most of the other critics in the audience, particularly the blokes, there was an escalating moistness to my ocular cavities that I won’t deny.
Besides the mushy stuff, which totally worked for me and I dare say will work for you as well, the movie’s effects, the motion-captured boxing robots, are a genuine knockout. Maybe even more than a wookiee, what every boy dreams of is a robot of his own, and beyond that, maybe Wolverine for a dad. And that’s what this movie delivers in spades, a thrilling, wish-fulfilling saga with, on the one side, terrific performances from Jackman and sparkling newcomer Goyo, on the other, masterful string-pulling from director Levy, and on the side after that, awesome robot violence. Hooray!
Everything Must Go (15)
A smart, affecting and neatly understated comedy drama from first-time writer/director Dan Rush, this sees star Will Ferrell shine in an uncommonly realistic tale that’s a world away from his usual broad schtick. As much as I love the likes of Anchorman and Blades of Glory, it’s refreshing to Ferrell trying something different, and succeeding. He tried it once before, five years ago in Stranger Than Fiction, but that was just too dry and up itself. In Everything Must Go, there’s room for Will to make us laugh, but now he makes us feel for him as well, which is new, and I like it.
A lapsed alcoholic, freshly fired from his job and dumped by his wife, Nick Halsey (Ferrell) arrives home to find everything he owns strewn across his front lawn. Locked out of the house, with his car repossessed and credit cards frozen he has no choice but to drink heavily and live on his lawn. Wallowing in self-pity, he’s ultimately inspired by a pregnant neighbour (Rebecca Hall) and weird chunky kid (Christopher Jordan Wallace) to hold the mother of all yard sales, and maybe even sort out his life. Witty and heartfelt, well made and played, everyone must go to Everything Must Go.
Also at the Cinema…
From Morgan Spurlock, the guy who almost died eating McDonald’s for a month in Super Size Me, comes the equally gimmicky The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (12A), an entertaining and reasonably insightful documentary about branding, advertising and product placement funded by brands, advertising and product placement… From Paul W.S. Anderson comes an adaptation of The Three Musketeers (12A) that’s as grotesquely inept and fiercely underwhelming as you’d expect from the director of Soldier, Alien vs Predator and Resident Evil. Stick with the Seventies version.
A remake of a cheesy Eighties dance movie that serves solely to make the original seem ever-so-slightly less awful, Footloose (12A) tells the tale of teenage rebels who just wanna dance. Personally, I’d love to live in a town where dancing is forbidden. Also, where every version of Footloose is forbidden… Finally, the tale of a tail, A Dolphin’s Tale (U) is a touching family drama about a boy and a matey marine mammal with a prosthetic end piece.