Archer -The Complete Season One (Twentieth Century Fox) is the hilarious animated spy spoof helmed by Frisky Dingo co-creator Adam Reed. Set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) in New York, the series follows the exploits of suave international playboy-turned-master spy Sterling Archer, who unravels a series of global conspiracies under the watchful eye of his domineering, over-sexed mother, Malory.
Aiding Archer in his fight against international terrorism are his sultry ex-girlfriend, Agent Lana Kane and her pen-pushing ISIS accountant boyfriend Cyril Figgis. Described by creator Reed as ‘James Bond meets Arrested Development’, Archer blends dysfunctional family tensions with retro spy shenanigans to memorable effect. Although you may fear that the spy movie genre has already been spoofed to saturation point, Adam Reed’s aggressively weird slant on proceedings injects new life into a stale comedy genre, and delivers one of the funniest new animated comedies of recent years.
While the shallow title character dominates proceedings with his inept approach to espionage, everyone in the swollen ensemble cast gets a fair shake, and the colourful array of characters are all blessed with the kind of dementedly funny dialogue that deserves to be quoted at length. What’s more, as the series unfolds, the characters’ comic interplay becomes smarter and weirder, plumbing surreal new depths in search of laughs. Although the first series slipped under some viewers’ radars, this welcome DVD release redresses the balance. Furthermore, the second series is currently airing on 5*, and a third series has already been green-lit by FX, so there will be plenty more fun to come. Subversive and acerbic, Archer is well worth checking out.
Directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter-turned-director Paul Haggis, The Next Three Days (Lionsgate) is a remake of the acclaimed 2008 French film Pour Elle (AKA Anything for Her). When his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is arrested and wrongfully imprisoned for a murder that she didn’t commit, mild-mannered teacher John Brennan (Russell Crowe) is forced to take desperate action to free her, and duly pieces together a daring three-day escape plan to circumvent his failing legal challenges and break his unfortunate wife out of prison. Despite some nice touches, The Next Three Days is unfortunately sluggish for long periods, and Haggis imbues the film with a little too much of his trademark earnestness.
Crowe is fine as the ordinary man forced into an extraordinary situation, but his quest to free his wife becomes strangely wearying as the film progresses, and The Next Three Days could have done with another engaging presence to keep the energy up. While Liam Neeson shines in his (unfortunately) brief scene as Damon Pennington -an ex-con who has escaped from prison on seven occasions -Russell Crowe shoulders the bulk of the narrative. As a result, the film only really ignites during its infrequent high-tension moments, such as the fish-out-of-water shoot-out in a meth-lab. If Haggis had loosened up a little, and focused on breathless entertainment rather than glum realism The Next Three Days would have been a lot more fun. Instead, the film is merely solid but unspectacular.
I Come With The Rain (Trinity) is a perplexing exercise in arthouse noir courtesy of Vietnamese auteur Tran Anh Hung (Cyclo, Norwegian Wood). Josh Hartnett stars as Kline, a disgraced cop who finds lucrative work as a private eye after quitting the force.
Tormented by bad memories of Hasford (Elias Koteas), a grisly serial killer with a penchant for constructing elaborate, macabre sculptures using his unfortunate victims’ body parts, Kline finds himself lured to Hong Kong in search of the missing son of a Chinese billionaire. However, once in Hong Kong, Kline becomes embroiled in a violent feud between local cop Meng Zi (Shawn Yue) and Su Dongpo (Lee Byung-Hun), which threatens to derail his labyrinthine investigation
The ambiguous role of Kline is a far cry from Josh Hartnett’s usual material, and -in truth – he doesn’t always seem entirely comfortable with the unwieldy plot. Director Tran Anh Hung has described his movie as ‘a baroque action film, a passionate thriller, both intense and poetic, haunted by three characters from the mythology of film and the Western world: the serial killer, the private investigator, and the Christ-like figure’. Suffice to say, the director’s ambitious storytelling structure doesn’t quite coalesce, and the clumsy narrative frequently lapses into eye-catching incoherence.
Improbably directed by B-movie actor Jason (son of Sean) Connery, The Devil’s Tomb (Lionsgate) marks Cuba Gooding Jr’s latest visit to the straight-to-DVD shelf.
Since scooping the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn in Jerry Maguire back in 1996, Gooding’s career has seemingly been in free-fall, with a series of deeply dubious comedies (Boat Trip, Norbit) giving way to a series of deeply dubious action movies (Linewatch, Hero Wanted).
Thankfully The Devil’s Tomb represents a noticeable step up in quality from the aforementioned action movies, even if its grisly fusion of action and horror still leaves a lot to be desired. Gooding stars as Mack, a world-weary commando who leads an elite squad of soldiers on a simple-sounding mission to retrieve esteemed scientist Lee Wesley (Ron Perlman), who has run into trouble while working on a mysterious archaeological project in the desert. Naturally, nothing is what it seems, and Mack’s assault team quickly get more than they bargained for
Supporting players Ron Perlman, Ray Winstone and Henry Rollins are restricted to blink-and-you’ll-miss-them walk-on parts, and the bored-looking Gooding is the sole household name present in the main cast. However, despite the prolonged absence of the Hollywood big-hitters, The Devil’s Tomb is surprisingly engaging, and the film feels like a cut-price re-tread of Aliens -with the aliens replaced by leprous-looking scientists who have been possessed by the spirits of the Nephilim (fallen angels who have been imprisoned by God)! Taken on its own terms The Devil’s Tomb is an agreeable enough straight-to-DVD thriller, but its disingenuous attempt to play up the minor involvement of Winstone and Perlman is pretty bizarre, and will attract more hostility than happiness from confused B-movie fans.