Sunday, 27 December 2009

(500) Films of Empire - Day 103

288 - Who Framed Roger Rabbit - 3 stars
Why does this not have a question mark in the title? It means that Who was the one that framed Roger. Was it Doctor Who?
It uses the familiar film noir plot of having the private detective being involved in a frame job, and then investigating the crime behind the crime, the twist here being that the people involved are not people but toons.
Before we had Jar Jar Binks, Gollum or Avatar, it was Bob Hoskins acting against cartoons.
Roger Rabbit was famous for having the cartoon characters from both Disney and Warners interacting together on screen for the first time, with Donald Duck and Daffy Duck recreating the piano scene from The Cat Concerto during a club cabaret night.
Let me take a moment to talk about Jessica Rabbit, the hottest cartoon character of all time, with a figure too hot for a PG cartoon, like she says "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way". It was a great piece of casting to get Kathleen Turner, the modern day Lauren Bacall, to voice Jessica, a sultry femme fatale who may or may not have any underwear!
The action is quite extreme for a PG, with a couple of murders, Christopher Lloyd's Judge Doom is a terrifying creation, and "The Dip" that dissolves toons is sure to distress young kids worried that Roger might end up going the same way as Bambi's mother, not to mention the fact that a cartoon woman is married to a rabbit... if they had kids would they be half rabbit/half human toons?
A problem I did have with the film is that between Zemeckis, Lloyd and Silvestri doing the music, I occasionally got a feeling a Back To The Future deja vu!

489 - Brick - 4 stars
Another film that puts a unique spin on film noir, transporting the hard boiled world and language of the genre into a high school setting.It is a method that has previously been used successfully in films like Clueless and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet.
Initially confusing and jarring to the ears, the audience has to deal with lines like;
Look, I can't trust you. You ought to be smart enough to know that. I didn't shake up the party to get your attention, and I'm not heeling you too hook you. Your connections could help me, but the bad baggage they bring could make it zero sum gain or even hurt me. Better coming at it clean.
No, bulls would gum it. They'd flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they'd trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we're doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit.

But stick with it and you are rewarded with a tightly paced film noir full of red herrings and double crosses.
There are great little touches like Brendan losing his shoes during a foot chase to stay silent, or the hilarious moment when two rival gangs meet up to discuss a deal and are served lemonade by the Kingpin's mum.
One of the main reasons for its success is the performance of Joseph Gordon Levitt. All grown up from the days of 3rd Rock From The Sun, he excels as the protaganist, as quick with his wits as he is with his fists (even though he is on the receiving end of quite a few beatings). G.I. Joe aside, Levitt has made some great film choices recently, choosing work for the role rather than the money e.g. Mysterious Skin, The Lookout and the great (500) Days of Summer.

Fascinating to see how the Film Noir genre has evolved in style over the years. From the black and white Warner Bros classics like Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, through the 70's with The Long Goodbye and Chinatown, to modern day 'noirs' like The Big Lebowski, Brick and the fantastic Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.

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