Monday, March 7, 2011

RANGO rings them in...UNKNOWN, almost

In the rather empty theaters following the rush of good films competing for Oscars, there hasn't been much of worth to watch. Several weeks ago we saw Liam Neeson facing off against amnesia, world hunger, and terrorism, with a lot of help from German beauty Dianne Krueger as a cab-crashing illegal. UNKNOWN is Neeson's follow-up to his surprise action thriller TAKEN from 2009 and follows its formula. A big, hard-hitting but quiet man goes ballistic when he or his are threatened. In TAKEN, his daughter was kidnapped by international nasties. And in UNKNOWN Neeson's memory is wiped out after his cab plunges into the river. The film features a shaky plot, something about curing hunger as a cover for terrorism, but it clips along quickly until it reaches its rather absurd conclusion. It's fun, but not particularly logical.

A definite step-up in quality is the new Matt Damon thriller THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, a trendy blend of old-time romance, chase, and science fiction. Fortunately, the romance triumphs over the rest. Damon convincingly plays a fiery senatorial candidate who falls over sexy and smart Emily Blunt. This doesn't conform to the PLAN of the Guardians (who may be angels but certainly believe in pre-destination).
According to their plans, Damon will eventually become president and change the course of history. Sounds too heavy? Don't worry, there are enough twists and turns and savvy dialogue to keep the philosophical jargon in check. And Damon and Blunt are dynamite together.

But the top choice in this group is the animated RANGO, which features the voice of Johnny Depp as a fast-talking lizard who gets trapped in the wild west and must save a town called Dirt. What follows is a series of clever allusions to classic westerns such as HIGH NOON (several shoot-outs in the dusty main street with no help in sight), THE SEARCHERS, and many others. But the biggest send-up is CHINATOWN, the classic noir directed by Roman Polanski, in which the nasty Noah Cross declares, "The man who controls the water for LA is the man who controls everything!"
As in CHINATOWN, the hoarding of city water for profit is the dirty secret in Dirt. Surrounded by an hilarious crowd of animated desert inhabitants, Rango acts as detective and hero in this clever, adult-tinged farce. See this one.

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