Saturday, 27 March 2010

Kick-Ass: Does it?

Obvious title, simple answer.

Yes, it does.

Kick-Ass is a rollercoaster piss-take of/love letter to the superhero genre. If "Watchmen" was a slightly pretentious essay about the psyche of caped crusaders (epic, self-important, serious), then "Kick-Ass" is a teenage fan-collage of superhero tropes, bursting with colour, humour and snappy, scrappy set-pieces.

The film is based on an eight issue series by Mark Millar, the pen behind the comic-book inspiration for "Wanted", but this adaptation skews a lot closer to the source material than the Jolie/McAvoy caper.

Aaron Johnson is Dave Lizewski, a teenage comic-book nerd who, inspired by the mundanely hateful world around him, decides to become a superhero. He buys a wetsuit and takes to the streets to fight crime, with HILARIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Along the way, he meets Big Daddy and Hitgirl: a dynamic duo massacring their way through the criminal underworld, Frank D'Amico: the head of said underworld, and Red Mist: McLovin in a funny costume.

Nic Cage, by turns geeky-but-caring/talking-like-Adam-West as Big Daddy, reminds us that he used to be a watchable, nay, entertaining presence on screen. Welcome back, Nic.

Johnson makes a credible bid for stardom with an endearingly awkward but forthright turn, Mark Strong adds another charismatic villain to his roster, and McLovin adds a few darker shades to his usual schtick. All solid, enjoyable performances by able actors; all overshadowed by a twelve-year-old girl.

Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl is already the most talked-about character in this film. A pint-sized assassin with a mouthful of cuss-words, she carves, slices and blasts her way through the movie like a whirlwind of chaos and destruction with a purple wig. She also plays cute-as-a-button to perfection, switching between childish preoccupations (asking to go to the bowling alley for a chocolate fudge sundae, whining "Daddy, you're not watching!" whilst showing off with a butterfly knife) and foul-mouthed action-hero one-liners with ease.

Parent groups and Daily Mail readers will cry that she represents the corruption of our youth and sets a bad example for children and shouldn't swear because kids don't know any swearwords in real life and yadda yadda. But most sensible people will recognise the birth of an icon as soon as she sets about dismembering a room full of drug dealers to the nursery rhyme chant of the "Banana Splits" theme.

Matthew Vaughn's use of often incongruous music lends an air of irreverent fantasy to proceedings, often giving familiar tracks a whole new identity as the marriage of image and sound welds into your cranium. He even gets away with using the "28 Days Later" theme to great effect in a protracted kill-fest.

Vaughn's direction and storytelling is of an assured level beyond anything he's ever done before. I'm a fan of "Stardust" and "Layer Cake", but this is leaner, meaner, punchier, spunkier film-making than he showed us in the past. This is probably due to the fact that, after being turned away from every major studio, he decided to make the film on his own and then see who wanted it. He scraped a budget of $50 million together, and off he went. Must be cool to be rich and have lots of rich friends.

For all the caustic verve, however, the film does soften a few of the comic's harder edges, and occasionally leans more toward the fantastic than the source-material did. The changes probably render the movie more satisfying for the general audience, but I'm not sure if they are in keeping with the tone of the original story. The accusation of making vigilantism seem appealing can be levelled more readily at the film than at the comic, due to Millar's representation of the terminally mis-guided heroes being replaced with crowd-pleasing righteousness.

So go and see Kick-Ass if you want a wild and crazy action comedy movie experience, but avoid it if you are overly sensitive about children killing LOTS of people and saying swears, people being microwaved, set on fire, stabbed, batted in the balls, shot, garotted or crushed.

Honestly, it's the most purely fun film I have seen in a long while.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Worst Sound

There is never silence.

There is the quiet of the early morning, before the clatter, rattle, chatter of the waking machines; but even that is masked by the hum of extractors and the hiss of compressors.

After the awakening, in amongst the constant cacophony, there are other sounds. Tell-tales to listen out for.

And then there is another other sound. The worst sound. The sound we never want to hear.

It is as though someone popped a giant bag of crisps.

An ear-splitting pop-and-shatter noise, followed by the inevitable shriek of the alarm.

A bulb has blown.

Not in the way an everyday bulb blows in your bedside lamp or your kitchen light-fitting. Let's put it this way: if your bulb was a hand-grenade, this one would be a neutron bomb.

The machine shuts down. The people wonder what has happened. Where did Jackie Chan go? The lights come back up.

I know we have a problem.

The man-who-knows takes charge. He can make it fix.

Opening the machine to get at what's left of the bulb is akin to performing an autopsy on some metal creature whose heart has exploded. We peel away shiny sheets, like blast shielding, to survey the carnage inside. The glass is everywhere. The glittering cascade - a testament to the immense pressure the heart could not sustain.

There is nothing to fear now. The machine is powerless, and the combustible heart destroyed. Were the machine alive, however, we would be wearing flak-jackets, gloves and visors to prevent it from lashing out at our customary clumsiness.

Occupational hazards.

We get another machine to suck out the shattered offal and viscera. We ensure that the rest of the vital organs were undamaged in the blast. We have been lucky.

The man-who-knows performs a hasty heart-transplant.

We close him up.

We bring him back to life.

We tell management that we will be okay to run the next show of "The Spy Next Door". I wonder if the machine's heart-attack was some kind of extreme reaction to witnessing Jackie Chan debase himself for the American dollar. It's "Kindergarten Cop" meets "The Pacifier", for Frith's sake.

Piracy Paranoia

Now is the season of fear.

As the first of the year's big releases hove into view, we are truly approaching the cinema's Summer of Paranoia. The time when distribution companies begin to panic, cinema chains ramp up security to intrusive levels and projectionists get beaten with the shitty end of the stick.

Of course, we have the benefit of never having to look a customer in the eye and say "Excuse me, could I just root around in your handbag for a moment, to make sure you're not a crafty pirate or owt?", but we bear a different brunt of the widespread piracy panic.

As the big movies approach their release dates, distributors have to come up with new and interesting ways to appear to be "fighting piracy". The method grinding my gears at the moment is to simply not deliver the print of your big release to cinema sites until the day before it goes in front of the public.

From a purely personal point of view, this is a pain in the neck. At my site, we have no fewer than six new 35mm films showing this weekend, along with one new digital print. This poses a problem when we usually only have one projectionist on at a time and the two biggest releases of the weekend are going to show up on thursday, which is our busiest day of the week anyway.

This unexpectedly tight schedule we are expected to work to is, as I mentioned before, due to a security protocol from a major distribution company, which we were informed has come "direct from Hollywood", and also due to a recent piracy incident in one of our cinemas.

Now, said piracy incident was a typical gumby-with-a-mobile filming attempt in a public showing, which surely begs the question: How does holding a print back from the cinema until the last possible second stop that kind of piracy?

The prints are often sent to us under false names, they are kept in secure areas of the cinema at all times, and any staff-show or preview is always overseen by a manager/projectionist, or both. This leads me to only one conclusion.

We are suspects.

The distribution companies don't trust the very people who are feeding their product to the masses.

I suppose it's not unheard of; like a low-level drug-dealer skimming off the package, but do they really think that we are sitting in print-checks with a video camera? That when anyone comes to a staff show they bring a tripod and a boom mic? And we're ALL IN ON IT?

I feel a serious lack of trust in this relationship.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Do You Remember the First Time?

I must have been about seven years old the first time I went to the cinema.

Dragging my feet around my hometown for an entire day - probably a saturday - watching my Mam and Dad drift in and out of shops, never seeming to actually buy anything.

I remember the boredom. I just wanted to go home. I remember the frustration at being told we had one more place to visit before we left. I remember sulking as we climbed a long staircase that I would now describe as art-deco styled, but simply felt cosy and welcoming at the time.

I remember the realisation of where we were. How my parents had tricked us. We were in a cinema that I didn't even know existed. The last place we had to visit was a surprise journey to discover the Holy Grail, in the company of one Doctor Indiana Jones. I remember the excitement as the lights went down.

I remember the thrills as Indy fought his way through Nazis and dudes dressed as Tommy Cooper. I remember trying to act nonchalant during the uncomfortable moments where Indy did rude stuff with the pretty German lady. I remember the laughter as Indy's Dad kept calling him "Junior". I remember the genuine concern that Indy had gone over the cliff in that tank. The film was called "The Last Crusade", after all. I think my Mam reassured me that he would be okay, and she was right. I remember her warning when the baddie drank out of the wrong cup: "This is the scary part". I remember covering my eyes, listening to the screams. I remember the ride into the sunset.

Afterwards, I remember elation. The film had taken me away from the dull day shopping and sent me on a break-neck adventure across the globe, in the company of characters I truly loved and admired.

I remember my Dad pouring fizzy pop into two chalice-like cups and telling me and my brother to choose wisely.

It wasn't the last time I went to that cinema.

I remember the little girl crying in terror when the scorpion attacked during "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids". I remember watching "Jurassic Park" just before I started High School. I remember my friend falling asleep during "The Fellowship of the Ring".

I remember, just over three years ago, reading that the old cinema was closing down. A new, more modern chain-cinema was about a week away from opening. I had just got a job there as a projectionist. We have six screens, they only had two. This town wasn't big enough for the both of us.

They were giving up without a fight.

I remember thinking it would be a great idea for someone to buy that little old cinema and run it independently. Show classic films and art-house stuff once or twice a day. Keep the old place alive.

They tore it down a couple of weeks back.

Indy rode back out of the sunset a year or two ago. I wished like hell he'd stayed gone. Gone where I could just remember that sunset in the darkness, the first time.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

My Cinema Pet-Hates # 5


#5: Phones in the Cinema.

Looking out through the porthole into the auditorium can sometimes be like looking over the crowd at a Bon Jovi concert. Not because everyone's attention is focused on some middle-aged goober in a state of arrested development desperately trying to cling on to former glories (unless there's a Nicolas Cage film on), but because there is often something resembling a miniature star-field stretching out beneath you. The Bon Jovi crowd might stick to their old-school lighters-aloft ritual, but the cinema crowd are resolutely 21st century.

Mobile phones.

Or cell phones, if you hail from across the water.

Up 'til now, my pet-hate posts have been about just that: small personal irritants that rub me up the wrong way. This, however, is a more like an uber-hate; a universal annoyance that pretty much every member of the cinema-going public will experience (or cause) at some point in their lives, so forgive me if I fly off the handle a bit.

I feel the mobile-phone offender falls into three categories:

The absent minded. Those who forget they have their phone switched on and panic and switch it off sheepishly as soon as it pipes up. They then spend the rest of the film silently cursing themselves for forgetting, even after those comedy adverts that TELL YOU IN BIG FUCK-OFF LETTERS to switch your cocking phone off. These are the mild offenders and should be forgiven with a disapproving glare, for haven't we all made this mistake at one time or another? To err is human.

Next up are the dimwits who try their best not to cause a distraction whilst still using the phone anyway: "I put it on silent, and I was only texting so it wasn't noisy!" Fuck you. I don't want a fucking glowing iphone waving around in the dark in front of me while I'm trying to watch a fucking film. If I wanted a fucking light-show, I would've dropped some acid and gone to a fucking planetarium, you massive shit-weasel. And don't try to hide the light under your jacket, either, that just makes it look like some kid is camping out and reading a dirty book by torchlight in the row in front.

And, obviously, there are the complete fucktards who talk on their phones whilst the movie is on, knowingly and wilfully disrupting the show for everyone and anyone in the vicinity. It should be legal, nay it should be fucking mandatory, for these cunts to be kicked to death by the rest of the audience, allowing the wank-stain on the other end of the line to hear their muffled screams and snapping bones as they beg for their worthless life.

I mean, is there any other commonplace, everyday occurence that shows such flagrant disregard for your fellow man? These spunk-bubbles think that the world revolves around them to the extent that, if their conversation is important to them; it doesn't matter what everybody else in their immediate surroundings has paid hard-earned dollar to do (ie. not listen to some dick-brain puke bullshit into a handset).

I have actually heard of instances when cuntstomers have complained to staff that they couldn't get a phone-signal in the screen. One of them claimed that they were expecting an important call. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN THE CINEMA THEN?!? A place where mobile phones are considered a nuisance at best and a fucking hangable offence at all other times is not the place to wait anxiously to find out if you got the job or if your grandmother's pulled through her surgery or whatever. Fuck off home and watch a DVD!

If you are expecting an important call, put your phone on vibrate, and if you receive said call, get up and LEAVE THE FUCKING THEATRE before answering it.

I genuinely marvel at the mentality of people who get their phones out in the cinema. If you do, you're either selfish, thoughtless, ignorant or just plain stupid. I for one intend to start a campaign for staff to be authorised to twat phone-users with cattle-prods or simply smash the gadget out of their hands and stamp on it whilst screaming "IS THERE A FUCKING APP FOR THAT, MOTHERFUCKER!?!?" in their faces.

That might be quite disruptive in a cinema, but I bet it'd get more applause than any movie.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Other Sound

What is that sound?

No, not the constant clatter of endlessly motoring mechanism. That's been there for so long as to be barely noticable. No, there is another sound; cutting through the silence masked by the machines. A wrong sound. A sound that does not belong.

Sometimes the other sound can be a squeak, like the endlessly repetitive chirping of some harridan bird pecking incessantly at the cranium. Or maybe a single, heart-stopping clunk as the machines splutter into morning life after the inertia of night. Perhaps an otherworldly, ear-piercing shriek will cry out as a switch is pushed too far.

But no. Today the other sound is something different. It is somehow more wrong, more other, than any before. A grating, growling harmony to the usual cacophonous clatter draws toward its source.

Where is it coming from?

From one of the many, endlessly spinning wheels? They do squeak so! But no, this sound is not from the wheels.

Is it from one of the smaller machines? The compressor? The carousels? No, their noise is intermittent at worst, not constant like this.

Could it be one of the machines themselves? A cold dread grips as realisation dawns.

The fourth machine.

Approaching, it becomes apparent that the sound is coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the fourth machine.

But what is it?

The fourth machine is running as usual, but the wrong sound still sneaks out.

Then stops.

Was it there?

Is it still?


Nothing but the chatter of the machines.

Turning away, of course the other sound begins again. As if mocking any attempt to discover the source of its emenation. Dread is too weak a word now. Moving closer it is apparent...

The sound is coming from inside the machine...

There's no way I can stop it.

I just work here.

I sigh and think: "We don't get that shit from the digital one", before wandering off to do summat else, safe in the knowledge that the other sound will eventually blend in to the backdrop of mechanical rattling I have become so accustomed to.

And, if the sound is a bad sound, maybe the machine will stop working. Then the booth will be 25% more quiet.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Shutter Island: DiCaprio's Crazy Face

With "Shutter Island", Martin Scorsese has perfected his most effective story-telling tool. It's not the exceptionally atmospheric art-direction, the gloomy, expressionist visuals or the twisty narrative. It isn't the witty script that zings up the occasionally B-movie dialogue with strong characterisations, and it's not some new, cutting edge digital effect (of which there are few in this film).

It's Leonardo DiCaprio. Or more specifically, his once-boyish mug.

DiCaprio has, like many talented-but-pretty actors, worked hard to prove himself more than his pin-up appearance, and his alliance with Scorsese has been his biggest triumph to this end. Eschewing the goofy disguises favoured by Johnny Depp, the ex-Romeo has made a habit of playing morally ambiguous characters, plagued by inner-demons which make them ugly from the inside out.

Unlike many good-looking male performers, he excels in revealing emotion un-self consciously through his facial and vocal range, making his every expression or utterance seem almost involuntary. The Artist Formerly Known as Arnie Grape's face tells the entire story here. He is on screen in every scene (if memory serves), and gets a lot of tight, claustrophobic close-ups; meaning his performance is key to the atmosphere Scorsese is creating. Every bit of fear, anger, despair, grief, rage, hope and horror is scrunched into Danny Archer's mush, and we can't help but feel every moment of it.

Of course, this is what we expect of any performance, but it is rare to see any actor, let alone a star like Billy Costigan, willing to make themselves look un-attractive in such a way for the sake of a film.

And what of the film, incidentally? Scorsese has crafted an old-fashioned thriller which people will refer to as "Hitchcockian" and "Gothic" (I'm sure I would too, if I knew what those words meant), with psychological/supernatural elements.

Jack Dawson's face is attached to a character called Teddy Daniels, a Federal Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient at an island-based mental-institute in the mid-fifties. What follows is something like a cross between "The Wicker Man" and last year's comic-book video-game "Batman: Arkham Asylum" as Teddy begins to suspect conspiracy and evil-deeds are afoot; even as he is plagued by hallucinations of his dead wife. Is Teddy losing it? Is he Paranoid? Or is there really something sinister going on within the walls of the institution? And even if there is, will he be able to get to the main land with his life and sanity intact?

The film is amazing to look at: the costumes and sets are a lavish combination of film-noir grit and gothic (I know) grandeur, waves crash on jagged rocks, psychedelic hallucinations creep out of bottomless shadows, the architecture looms, and there's a civil-war fort turned mental ward that resembles a level from "Silent Hill" (two video game references in one post! Let the dumbing-down commence!), making for as rich and varied a tapestry as Scorsese has ever presented us with.

Where the film fell down a little, for me, was in the predictability of the plot. I wanted to be led down these twisty, dark passageways with little to no idea of where I would end up, but a theory which I formulated within the first fifteen minutes turned out to be a case-solver. I should be a Federal Marshal. In a film.

This is not a major criticism, but it did dampen the impact of the supposedly earth-shattering climax when I was left thinking "I knew that would happen". On the whole, "Shutter Island" is a journey through the unknown that is well worth taking, but don't be surprised if you end up exactly where you expect.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Green Zone: Bourne Over Baghdad?

Green Zone, like the previous two Jason Bourne movies, is directed by Paul Greengrass and stars Matt Damon. It features Greengrass' trademark shake-o-rama, grainy, documentary-style visuals, some thrilling foot-chases, a smattering of spectacular action, and Damon taking the fight to a bunch of office-bound suits who think they run the world.

Aside from these, admittedly myriad, points (and my soon-to-become-hypocritical post-title), it is a reductive comparison to hold this film up as merely "The Bourne Continuation". What we have here is another brilliantly taut and suspenseful action-thriller - built around an altogether different Damon performance - that tells a more thoughtful, politically charged story than the rogue-spy-versus-the-system series.

The Green Zone of the title is a safe area set up by the US in Saddam Hussein's palace during the occupation of Baghdad. It's kind of like Butlins but in a safer neighbourhood. Damon plays a chap named Miller, who is chief of a team tasked with following intel to find the dreaded WMDs stashed in the area. After a few wild-goose chases, however, Miller is beginning to doubt the intelligence of his intelligence...

As you can imagine, he uncovers a web of intrigue and goes off the reservation and people get shooted and stuff blows up. Pretty standard stuff, right?

Well, yes and no. The premise is pretty familiar, but the plot unfolds in a satisying manner which renders the predictable elements less important. It's less "whodunit?" than

Damon's Miller is a world away from Jason Bourne; a vocal, honest, upstanding man, who goes from just trying to do his job to trying to find out the truth, even if he CAN'T HANDLE IT! Unfortunately for him, while he trumps Bourne on personality, he lacks the "human-killing-machine" quality of the super-spy, and spends a good deal of the film out of his depth and getting his arse handed to him.

Due to the fact that most of my days involve locking myself away from reality in a fantasy world of my own creation, I can't really comment on the authenticity or "historical" accuracy of the film, other than to say: it seems PLAUSIBLE to a layperson that a lot of the events in this film COULD have taken place. However, I do think the film was built around a very definite liberal/left political agenda, and when the morals of the story come out in a couple of on-the-nose bits of dialogue towards the end, it may be a teeny step too far towards preaching.

That said, the film remains a compelling, thrilling ride, contains cheerable heroes, punchable villains and a whole cast of ambiguous characters inbetween. And, best of all, an unrecognisable Jason Isaacs playing a Special Forces officer like a cross between John Wayne and Bennett from "Commando".

Let off some steam!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I love you Phillip Morris: Jim and Ewan's Big Gay Adventure

I'm expecting a lot of walk-outs from this movie. Not because it's a bad film, but simply because I think a lot of the local gumbies will bumble their way into the theatre with little-to-no idea of the content of the film other than "it had Jim Carrey falling over in the trailer, you like when he does that, don't you?".

This is a gay-romantic-black-comedy-crime-caper, and I think when the "gayness" is revealed - in a deliberately in-your-face moment (not literally) in the first reel - some people's delicate sensibilities may be offended. The pop-corn jockeys on the front desk may have to start saying "This film contains bumming" before they tear the tickets.

We meet Carrey as a seemingly happily-married man, living a fairly ordinary existence with Judd Apatow's Missus; but, after a car crash, he decides he has lived a lie for too long, comes out of the closet and leaves his family for a new life with The God-King Xerxes in Miami or somewhere.

The high cost of living his extravagant new lifestyle leads him to take up insurance fraud to pay the bills, which leads to prison and a meet-cute with Ewan McGregor as the titular object of his affections.

As a long-term Carrey fan, I was interested to see him juggle the old-school pratfalling tomfoolery with genuine human emotion and drama; and this film mostly delivers on both fronts. Carrey's cons are carried out with physical dexterity and amusing vocalisations, whilst his star-crossed romance with McGregor is generally as genuinely sweet and optimistic as McGregor's performance, even when tempered with the film's knowing black-comedy.

This is the story of a man who doesn't know who he is and never seems to learn from his mistakes, presented in a refreshingly caustic manner. When an over-dose suicide attempt is pretty much played for laughs, you are in dark territory indeed; but the generally playful and wry tone makes the harder edges a little smoother and more palatable.

Zippily paced, but lacking a lot of momentum or actual narrative direction, Phillip Morris is an amusing, but slight diversion featuring likable turns from both leads and a refreshingly un-sensationalised and non-judgemental outlook on homosexuality. The film isn't about being gay, it's about a man who thrives on deceit; becoming more and more unhinged whilst trying to provide a "dream life" for his obliviously trusting partner.

Some people's enjoyment of this film may, however, ultimately come down to whether or not they can stomach the sight of Carrey reprising the "Would you like for me to take your pants off instead?" scene from "Ace Ventura", but instead of a buxom wench; it's Obi Wan Kenobi ducking out of the frame.

But come on, fellas; how many of us could honestly say that, after being locked in a cell with Ewan McGregor for an extended period of time, we wouldn't be at least a little "curious"? It's the ginger-jock Jedi Mind-Trick. Don't try to fight it.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

My Perfect Movie

Kid in the Front Row set a task on his blog that caught my imagination. The setup is as follows:

"Who would make, and star, in your perfect movie? You can use anyone dead or alive, but you can only use someone once. So, for example, you can't have a 'writer/director.'"

Clear? Well, here's mine:

Written By

Shane Black

My perfect movie would be a buddy action-comedy neo-noir about two detectives, from the pen of Shane Black. Black pretty much invented the buddy genre (Lethal Weapon), and has a knack for the perfect balance of comedy, pathos, thrills and spills, with pithy, punchy dialogue as par for the course. He needs more work, n'all, even if he is apparently directing a "Doc Savage" movie in the near future.

Directed By

David Fincher

The Finch would bring the perfect level of murky grit and fearless brutality seen in "Seven", the none-more-black humour of "Fight Club" and an unswerving, almost Kubrickian perseverence of vision. He also has a swell beard and hat combo, so you know he's a proper director.

Director of Photography

Roger Deakins

There's only one DP I can think of off the top of my head, and it's simply because he is beyond awesome. Pixar got him in to be a lighting advisor on "Wall*e" for crying out loud! Just look at this selected filmography (cribbed from IMDb), and think of all the indelible images he lit and photographed:

Revolutionary Road (2008)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Jarhead (2005)
The Village (2004)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Kundun (1997)
Fargo (1996)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Barton Fink (1991)
Mountains of the Moon (1990)
Sid and Nancy (1986)

PLUS: He looks remarkably like a cross between Jon Pertwee and a Mr Whippy Ice-Cream!


Howard Shore

Not in bombastic, operatic LOTR mode, but in his broody, sinister, atmospheric setting as heard in various Cronenberg films and his work with Fincher himself. Then he can bust out the rousing stuff for the action scenes.


Roderick Jaynes

Introducing the only fictional character in the crew. Jaynes is a psuedonym used by the Coen brothers when they edit. The Coens' slick, assured editing would go with Fincher's smooth stark style like icing on a sexy cake. Black, Deakins and Fincher being cut by the Coens? Creamy.


Humphrey Bogart

Bogart is noir. Boozy, grouchy, witty, permanently wreathed in smoke. He's a man's man on a mission and not to be messed with. As the older half of the buddy pairing, we'll be going with an "African Queen" sort of period Bogey.

Harrison Ford

As Bogey's mis-matched partner, we'll be hiring a young, cocky Harrison Ford. Earthy and blokey enough to give Bogey a run, but also charming and charismatic enough to steal the show and the audience's hearts.

Monica Bellucci

It's not a film noir without a femme fatale, and they don't come much more fatale than Bellucci. Drifting between ethereal beauty and commanding sexuality, she would be dynamite between Bogey and Fordo (not literally. Well, depends on how the script develops). Plus, she is an absolutely fearless performer (read: does nudity).

Marilyn Monroe

Serving as the ultimate antithesis to Bellucci's smoulder would be bright and innocent Marilyn, playing a similar naive tone to Sugar from "Some Like it Hot", but with a dash of the sly nature of Lorelei in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". If Bellucci is the femme fatale, then Monroe must be the detectives' secretary, or the grieving widow of a murder victim or summat.


Groucho Marx

Out of his usual uniform, of course, Groucho plays a motor-mouth informant who gives important exposition with a side order of wisecracks. May be killed towards the end of the second act.

Anne Ramsey

The scariest woman in cinema history would have to play somebody's terrible mother or the head of some crime family or summat. She'd even scare Bogey and Fordo. And probably kick the shit out of them, too.

Micheal J Fox

A young, spritely MJF would be the perfect antidote to the blokey leads. Playing some sort of cheeky street-hoodlum, or a rookie cop or summat, heading for a fall. Also may be killed toward the end of the second act.

Natalie Portman

A "Leon" period Portman would be cast as a waif or homeless urchin, or maybe somebody's daughter or summat. Whatever, her precocious, wise-beyond-her-years kid brings out the fatherly instinct in our leads. May get kidnapped at the end of the second act.

I think the title would either be "A Life in Ashes", "The Long Crawl" or "Denny and Bongo Fuck Shit Up". Bogey is Denny and Ford is Bongo.

Somebody get me a time-machine/re-animation device/cloning kit and let's get this sucker made!

Hurt Locker For the Win

The Oscars are tonight, and the main event is an epic grudge-match smackdown between divorcees James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow. A knockdown, dragout fight between giant blue people and men in funny green space-suits.

Actually, that would probably be a lot more interesting than the way it's going to play out.

Cameron and Bigelow are nominated for best director, and their films (Cameron: Avatar/Bigelow:The Hurt Locker, incase you aren't up to speed) are both nominated for best picture. Cameron's epic sci-fi fantasy versus Bigelow's gritty modern-war thriller. Can Bigelow pull the ultimate ex-wife stunt and be proclaimed better than her ex infront of the whole cinema-going world?

Most likely.

It is my unconsidered opinion that Bigelow will receive the best director award. She has crafted a gritty, topical and exciting film; AND she's a woman. The members of the Academy will want to show how forward thinking they are by "allowing" a lady to win the Oscar, irrespective of the merits of her film (of which there are many).

Working against Cameron is the thinking that it takes a greater effort to film in real (in The Hurt Locker's case, often dangerous) locations than on a soundstage in front of a blue-screen. Avatar's best picture chances will also be harmed by this, as a great many people in the industry may well still be untrusting of the motion-capture technology Cameron utilised to make the film, a stigma which led to Cameron having to make a case against Avatar being classed as an animated film.

This ground-breaking process could be seen as making Avatar an "important" movie to the industry, the environmental and liberal themes can be argued to make it worthy of Oscar glory, and Avatar has brought a lot of money into the multiplexes, whereas The Hurt Locker made about $2.30. It seems more likely, however, that the academy will vote for the film that they see as more "socially" important or politically pertinent or whatever, rather than the film which is important to the industry.

In summary, the smart money is on The Hurt Locker tonight. Not just for the above reasons, but also because it is a better film than Avatar. Might not be the best film of the year, but Bigelow can rest assured that her film has infinitely more spunky tension, better performances and less annoying blue people than her estranged ex's magnificent octopus.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Burton in Wonderland

I think Tim Burton has been waiting his entire life to make a movie of "Alice in Wonderland". His particularly skewed outlook on Carroll's absurd surrealism must be a match made in Wonderland, right?

Kind of.

Burton's excursion down the rabbithole is a mixed bag of the mundane and the fantastic in pretty equal measure.

Alice is all growed up at nineteen years of age, and is adrift in materialistic high-society - heading for a hasty, semi-arranged marriage to a ginger numpty at some garden-party - when she is distracted by a rabbit in a blazer and falls down a hole. Thus begins this sequel of sorts to Carroll's original tales.

Burton touches base with the majority of the memorable scenes and characters, whilst attempting to curtail some of the episodic tendencies of Carroll's writing by hanging them on a new narrative framework: a coming-of-age story involving fantasy staples such as prophecies, magic swords and a "chosen one" champion on a journey of self-discovery culminating in a big old shit-kick between two armies.

The strength of the film lies in the freak-show characters, the actors having a ball in the playing, and the undoubted picture-book beauty of Wonderland onscreen. The Cheshire Cat - lounging in midair and charming with Stephen Fry's mellifluous tones - almost steals the show, but faces fierce competition from Johnny Depp - playing The Mad Hatter as a split-personality veering between lisping upper-class twit and growling glaswegian psycho - and Helena Bonham Carter channelling Miranda Richardson's Queenie from Blackadder II.

Epic run-on sentences aside, some of these performances are unfortunately overshadowed by the CG make-up jobs they have been done up with. Carter's massive head is funny, Depp's oversized eyes perhaps a little distracting, and poor Crispin Glover's solid performance as the Knave of Hearts is rendered useless by his digital-spindly make-over as, everytime he's onscreen, you're thinking "His head's not on right!" or "His arms don't look real!" Or "That's George McFly! Hey George, you ever think about running for class president!?"

The CGI is perhaps overused, but is arguably all part of the fun. Burton has always gloried in the artifice of cinema, and Wonderland's landscapes are evocative, painterly renderings with no "Avatar"-style claims of "Photo-realism" to be made. Personally, however, I would rather have seen Burton's Wonderland in the deliberately shonky models-and-sets style of his earlier films, or perhaps even in stop-motion. Or with shadow-puppets. Or a flip-book.

The film's major weaknesses are in story - the occasionally unclear plot (sorry, why do they have to all go and have a battle on the spadoinkle day or whatever it's called?) being little more than an excuse for an "Alice's Greatest Hits" collection - and in the lead actress, Mia Wasikowska.

The newcomer attempts to imbue Alice with a spunky spirit and determination but never fully convinces, leaving a hollow point at the heart of the film. Of course, Alice is the "straight man" of this story, but Wasikowska never manages to communicate any level of emotion, and a large amount of her line-readings seem to be just that. Judging by this performance, she has been attending the Orlando Bloom school of acting: fluctuating between block of wood and soggy biscuit.

And finally: Danny Elfman's score actually made me laugh at how "Elfman-esque" it is, and The Mad Hatter does a horribly misjudged dance at the end that made me want to punch someone in the face quite hard.

Oh, and "Carry On" and "Eastenders" veteran Babs Windsor gives a career best performance as a gobby Dormouse. Make of that what you will.