Penthouse North

I’ve never really understood how Michelle Monaghan got to be in movies, let alone get a star role – let alone headline an actual entire film. It’s not that she’s a bad actress, it’s just she’s – how to say this nicely? – entirely underwhelming. And wet. That sort of came out wrong: it’s just that she’s projects a very strange, prudishly sexless notion of womanhood. Perhaps that’s why Penthouse North works, sort of?

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In it she plays a war photographer (hah) made sightless in a blast, who’s now recuperating in a swish penthouse apartment owned by her handsome new boyfriend. But who is this new man in her life really, and what does she know about him? Does she know he’s a jewel thief or that some very bad men want their stuff back? Does she, doesn’t she? That’s the thing. Anyway, it’s not going to be the breakout movie of 2013 or anything, but it does what it does. Penthouse North is set in Manhattan but it filmed in Ottawa.

Battle Los Angeles

I am well-known amongst my friends for loving movies where aliens blow shit up. In Battle: Los Angeles, the aliens are more destructive than most. They land off the coast of Santa Monica (and twenty other world cities – shocker!) in preparation for a simultaneous attack. And a small group of soldiers from disparate backgrounds are left to rescue a handful of civilians and save the day. Think Independence Day lite. There’s even a mother ship that controls the drones, so it’s hardly original. In fact there are enough holes in the plot to drive a humvee through. On the plus side though, the battle scenes are frenetic and pretty thrilling, and the whole thing is ultimately saved from irrelevance by the ruggedly handsome Aaron Eckhart, who is sympathetic, compelling, and (how do I say this?) vigorous. If California hadn’t gone all Prop-8-Hate-State, I’d probably marry him or something.

Actually, the tragedy of Battle: Los Angeles is that it filmed in Louisiana. I had coffee today with a great lady from the Location Managers Guild of America, who was telling me how production in this town has basically been eviscerated. Sounds like there are more movies filming in Cape Town today than there are in Hollywood.

Eagle Eye

Remember that movie where the bad guys made Will Smith chase through the streets with his shirt flapping open?………. Um, OK, maybe not specific enough? Enemy of the State, it was called, and in it a shady government agency used its superior surveillance technology to snoop and meddle and basically frack up someone’s life. Eagle Eye has a similar plot arch. But then again, it seems to have borrowed quite shamelessly from just about every other skop-skiep-en-donder thriller ever made; in particular it has echoes of the recent Angelina Wanted movie, perhaps because of it’s Chicago locations and the movie’s frenetic look-and-feel. Think Will Smith meets Jason Bourne meets Daniel Craig meets Mission Impossible (same plane-in-tunnel, same goddam actress) – but starring this generation’s Tom Hanks; Shia LaBoeuf.

 

Shia plays twin Jerry Shaw, whose brother was (or wasn’t) doing something clever but shady in the Military. On the day of his brother’s sudden death, Jerry is inexplicably drawn into a convoluted and wholly impractical web of terror which results in car chases, humungous explosions and the kind of crowd scenes that always sidetrack me into budget-consideration cul-de-sacs. There’s not much characterisation going on, but that doesn’t seem to matter, since director DJ Caruso (who, I belatedly realise, is not the same person as David – he who speaks portentiously whilst remaining unable to give eye-contact – Caruso) keeps the whole thing charging along at a cracking pace.

In the end though, it’s lovely Rosario Dawson who smacks down the errant villain with a crow-bar. Enough said, really.