Wednesday, 28 July 2010

What the World Needs Now: Sequels, Remakes and Reboots!

THIS POST IS PRESENTED IN AFFILIATION WITH THE KID IN THE FRONT ROW "SEQUELS, REMAKES AND REBOOTS" BLOGATHON

Hollywood is all damp-in-the-pants for sequels, remakes and reboots at the moment. An established title is a proven product is a sound investment. So, if they're going to spend all their time rehashing/revisiting old properties, then why not do some that deserve it?

Here's a list of some films that I reckon are dying for sequelisation, remakifying and rebooticating. Some are genuine, others are even more genuine:


ANYTHING WRITTEN BY SHANE BLACK DESERVES A SEQUEL WRITTEN BY SHANE BLACK.



"Last Boy Scout" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" are both dying for sequels. Perhaps a dream-team cross-over where Harry and Gay Perry go toe-to-toe with Joe Hallenbeck and Jimmy Dix? RDJ, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis and that one Wayans brother? You know you want it.

With Mel Gibson systematically revealing himself as a homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist, drunk psycho, maybe it's time to give someone else a shot at playing crazy Riggs in a "Lethal Weapon" reboot? You could get Michael Bay to direct it, get Shia LaBeouf in the legendary mullet and hell, get Mr T to play Murtaugh. Cue lots of knowing in-jokes about "giant robots" and "getting on planes, sucka" that all the kids will be quoting in the playground. Oh and it'll be set in a high-school in Los Angeles. Or something.


HUDSON HAWK



One of the most under-rated comic-adventures of all time positively demands a sequel. Eddie and Five Tone return, but Andie McDowell is too busy selling shampoo or some shit, so she gets replaced by someone actually attractive and/or funny and the team go off on a wacky "DaVinci Code"-style romp across the globe in search of some historical artifact or another, all while singing perfectly timed club-standards. You could even drag Michael Lehmann out of his TV wonderland and get him making films again, cos everyone knows that "Hudson Hawk" was his magnificent octopus. That's right, better than "Heathers".


NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND



I'm not usually one for remaking foreign films, or animated films for that matter, but there are a couple that I think you could make into gob-smacking live-action pictures, using modern cinematic techniques. Nausicaa tells of a strange world where humans are forced to co-exist with giant insects, poisonous fauna and awesome flying machines, and a Princess who must do a load of stuff and bring peace to the world and yadda yadda yadda. Cameron nicked the jungle from "Avatar" off the forests in this flick, so apply that technicality to Nausicaa's effects, get some limber young starlet to climb on the glider for Nausicaa, flesh out the cast with character actors, re-use Joe Hisaishi's score, and HEY PRESTO! It's the new "Last Airbender"! Oh. Right.


AMERICAN BEAUTY



Lester's family bring him back to life via a voodoo curse. Whenever he hears the song "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls, his corpse is reanimated. The family have to overcome a sinister government plot - led by nasty, closeted-gay nazi Chris Cooper - to use Lester to assassinate the President, and get his body interred before sundown or he will remain a dancing zombie forever. Thora Birch flaps her norks out and Wes Bentley looks at a binbag, just like you remember from the other film. Kevin Spacey is too busy being a theatre queen and Annette Bening isn't allowed in films anymore because her face has become too much like a pointy horseshoe, so their parts will be played by Chris Tucker and Ned Beatty, respectively.


NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!



"No shit, Sherlock!" is the latest re-imaginterpretation of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Set in a Los Angeles of the not-too-distant future, Holmes is now a no-nonsense private-eye who plays by his own rules, aided by state-of-the-art sci-fi technology and his trusty sidekick, veteran of the LA gangwars, "Doc" Watson. Armed with such catchphrases as "'Sup Holmes?" and "The game's afoot, motherfucker!" this is Holmes for a whole new generation, whilst staying true to the source material and offering plenty of injokes and references to keep old-school fans happy. Holmes to be played by Jason Statham and Watson to be played by Ice Cube. With a massive afro.


HARRY POTTER

As realisation sets in that they are about to wrap up one of their most lucrative franchises, expect Warners to reboot Harry Potter within the next year or two. An all-new cast and a hipper slant will open the franchise up to everyone who thought Potter was "gay" and "for kids": Now set in a LA High School, the kids will all be played by people acting half their age:


Harry (Channing Tatum) is an orphaned bare-knuckle boxer from the wrong side of the tracks, Hermione (Kat Dennings) is a super-hot but implausibly unpopular emo-girl, and Rod (Rupert Grint in the only hold-over from "Classic Potter") keeps getting stuff wrong and falling over and that. Line up the finest in American Acting Talent as the teachers and villains (George Clooney as Principal Dumbledore, Tom Cruise as Doctor Steven Snape) and you have another sure-fire hit franchise which will keep the money pouring in for the next fifteen years.


QUANTUM LEAP




Need I say more?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Emperor's Coming Here?

There's a Big Cheese coming.

The Area Manager or something.

Everyone has to clean and tidy and be on their best behaviour. Reminds me of the geezer at the start of "Return of the Jedi", stammering "we shall double our efforts" at the news of the Emperor's imminent visit.


Makes me wonder if the Big Cheese actually knows what a cinema is really like.

I have to go into the bowels of the building, checking emergency lights and making sure fire-exits open.

Dark corridors, musty smells.

There's a room with no lights that seems to serve no purpose. It has a hole in the floor that leads to another empty room. Forgotten pockets of the huddled mass of the cinema. I don't like this room. I have a morbid fantasy that one day I'll be in the lift and the doors will slide open to reveal the blackness of this room, even though the lift-shaft is halfway round the site. And then something will come out of the hole.

I have more tangible and immediate horrors to face at the moment, though. As I descend the screen five emergency-exit stairwell, the unmistakable stink of stale urine wafts up the steps.

If there was a fire, and you were in screen five or screen six, you would escape into a narrow concrete wrinkle-on-the-face-of-the-city that leads out onto the square. We refer to this dingy crevice as "Piss Alley".

It lives up to its name.

As I reach the foot of the stairs I see the stain on the floor. A reaching, sprawling reminder of years of piss running under the door of the fire-exit, as if Piss Alley were trying to branch out and take over the building like some liquid cancer.

Urinary infection.

Holding my breath, I try to step over the ancient stain to open the fire-door. I am remembering the last time I did this, when I got to this stage and was stopped dead by what sounded like somebody masturbating in the alley. Either that or he was just really enjoying having a very quiet piss. And muttering to himself. I turned away, leaving the door unopened. It seemed rude to interrupt him, whatever he was doing. And I don't get paid enough to add "disturbing homeless junkies mid-wank" to my list of career experience.

This time, though, there is no sound from beyond the door, so I push the bar and swing it open.

A small swarm of flies unsettles into the air. This is not a good sign.

There's poo here.

There's a clump of fossilised shite right in the middle of the doorway. It's human poo. Maybe the phantom wanker wasn't beating himself off after all. Maybe he was just having a nice relaxing poo.

My mind boggles at the thinking behind this cavalier crapping. Obviously, the shitter's mind was addled by drink or drugs or both, but COME ON! This is a doorway! I can understand that if you're out and about - smacking yourself up on the cobbled streets - and you get caught short, you have to go somewhere, but a friggin doorway? The MIDDLE of a doorway, no less? Now, in an emergency situation, our customers have to choose between being burned to death and a trip to Shit-City via Pissville.

I close the door.

I carry on with my tour of fire-exits. Unbelievably, there is another, fresher glob of excrement outside the escape from screen six. It's like they're trying to surround us. Barricade us in with shit and then burn the building down.

I think I've had more than my fair share of shit in this job in the past month or so.

I go back upstairs and tell the site manager about the poo. There appears to be an unspoken understanding between us that neither of us feel inclined to get our hands REALLY dirty for the sake of this job, so I leave any decision about action to be taken to her and clear off back to the safe, hermetically sealed environment of the projection booth.

I wonder about the Big Cheese. Is he like the Queen? Everywhere he goes, people clean up before he gets there, so he has no idea how filthy the real world is. But then, we all only need step a little out of our comfort zone for shit to get real.

It doesn't take much for the grim piss of reality to come seeping under our door.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Whose Tag Line is it Anyway?


I have noticed a disturbing trend in recent family film marketing.


It seems that the people marketing these films think the best way to get people's attention is to slap up some character posters with "snappy", punny tag-lines that supposedly tell us something about the character in question, preferably riffing on some familiar phrase or pop-culture reference. The shitter the better.


This got me thinking: What if all ensemble films were promoted in this way?


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS:








THE AVENGERS








INCEPTION:








And finally:





It's not as easy as it looks.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Inception: The Dream Movie?



You hear that? A distant rumble as if a raging torrent of liquid was suddenly released? That is the sound of millions of nerds wetting themselves in excitement about the release of Christopher Nolan's new film. "Nolanites" - as they are sometimes known - can be found in various corners of the internet, often in snarky web-combat with their natural enemy: the "Avatard", proclaiming Chris Nolan as the most important film-maker since the Lumiere Brothers and saying how his output is the best body of work since the dawn of movie-time.

The strange thing is that, judging by "Inception", they may be on to something.


"Inception" is the kind of film we need to see more of. It's a big, thrilling blockbuster ride with amazing special effects and stunts, great performances from a stellar cast, a relatable and compelling emotional core and a lot of interesting, memorable ideas that will generate much post-screening pub-convo.

Leonardo DiCaprio wears a slightly less crazy face than we have seen from him for a while as Dom Cobb, a man with a troubled past and a very unusual line of work. Cobb, along with Arthur, his right hand man (played by my latest man-crush, Joseph Gordon Levitt), steals secrets off people by James-Bonding his way through their sub-conscious via matrix-style constructed dreamscapes.

Get it? You will.


Nolan takes his high concept and lays it out in a way that seems fully organic, neither over-complicated or too simplistic, establishing the rules of the world along with character and plot almost simultaneously in dextrous and entertaining ways.

I will not say much about the plot as it is best to know as little as possible in advance, suffice to say that the film is brilliantly structured and paced to perfection. One of the key elements for suspense in drama is "The Ticking Clock", a deadline that must be met lest dire consequences be faced. "Inception" features deadlines within deadlines, piling up the suspense until the movie's "Ticking Clock" is more like Doc Brown's lab in "Back to the Future" with hundreds of alarms going off at once.


The cast work this complex material brilliantly, with DiCaprio skilfully shouldering the heavy lifting in terms of emotion and exposition with a subtly powerful performance. Another step forward on his journey to becoming the most compelling male actor working in Hollywood today.

JGL is brilliantly stoic and deadpan as Arthur, and he gets the film's best action scene in a zero-gravity punch-up that makes "The Matrix" look like a dated NES game. This should finally be the film that makes him the star he deserves to be.


Tom Hardy comes over all cynical and English, bringing a good portion of the comic relief with some snipey interplay with JGL, and kicking some serious arse in the later scenes. Ellen Page lends heart, wonder, a little arrogance and smarts-beyond-her-years to the role of the new-kid-on-the-team/audience's way in, Ken Watanabe is funny and strangely noble as the team's benefactor, Marion Cotillard is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS and bloody terrifying as a mysterious projection from DiCaprio's sub-conscious, Cillian Murphy starts out oily and pompous, before brilliantly seguing into heartbreak and determination as the object of the team's mission, Dileep Rao from "Drag Me to Hell" and "Avatar" is a breezy and amusing presence, Tom Freaking Berenger does a solid turn, and Mickey Caine pops in for a reliable two-scener. It could be the strongest ensemble in a summer blockbuster in most of forever.

The action is brilliantly handled, often juggling several dreamscapes and realities at the same time, and the editing rarely misses a beat as the tension ramps up. The effects are often spectacular, and there are those rare occasions when you will be looking at the screen in genuine awe and wonder, thinking "How the hell did they do THAT?!".


This is a meticulously constructed film, from the epic, bombastic and emotionally charged score, to the stark and practical photography presenting a plethora of indelible images, everything is designed to draw us in, tease our minds with thoughts, our hearts with feelings and our eyes with sights we could not imagine. Nolan has shown what can be done when a cerebral, yet commercially savvy film-maker is given a vast wad of cash to indulge his own sub-conscious. It could have very easily have resulted in Nolan disappearing up his own arse, but he has understood the importance of coating his brain-fuck pill in dramatic action-thriller sugar in order to make it go down smooth.

There is, of course, the danger of over-hyping this film. The rave-wave that it rode in on must break eventually, but, as it stands, this is very probably the best film I've seen so far this year. It's just a film, of course, but it's a damn fine one.

Predators: Nostalgia's Not Enough


Remember "Predator"? Yeah? Ace, wasn't it? Big, burly blokes with big bastard guns, swaggering through the jungle, killing baddies and blowing shit up? A mysterious creature sneaking about and eviscerating them one by one? Arnie immortalising corny dialogue in the way only he can? Apollo Creed getting his arm shot off (you can totally see it tucked behind his back!)? Billy the psychic Native-American taking his top off and self-harming? Shane Black telling bad jokes? "Long Tall Sally"? Goddamn sexual tyrannosauruses? "Over here... Turn around"? "KILL ME, I'M HEEEAAAH! DO EEET!"? "GET TO DA CHOPPER!"?


Reading the previous paragraph amounts to pretty much the same experience as watching "Predators". This is a film that was promised as a return to the roots of the series after the absurd developments and fanboy in-jokery of the "Aliens vs Predator" series. Robert Rodriguez dug out a script he wrote in the 90s as a sequel to "Predator 2", polished it up, hired the hilariously monikered Nimrod Antal to direct, and got cracking.

The film opens interestingly enough, with Adrien Brody waking up whilst falling from a great height. He panics, waves his beak around, tumbles through the air a bit, then a parachute seemingly opens automatically and he falls into a jungley place. So far, so moderately entertaining.

It doesn't take long for the film to start to go south.


As soon as Brody is up and about, inroducing himself to other parachutees, the cracks begin to show. The dialogue is stilted, unconvincing and contrived, and the concept immediately feels forced and juvenile.

It emerges that all the characters (Brody, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga and some others) are proper good at killing folks (Yakuza, Special Forces, Drug Cartel Enforcer, RUF geurrilla chap etc) and were all in some sort of combat situation when they were abducted by aliens and dropped in a jungle on another planet. I'm pretty sure I wrote this story at high school one time.

It may seem churlish to lament characterisation in a film of this kind, but everyone here is simply a type, with no development beyond the superficial "I know about hunting" or "I am a good sniper" or "I am Russian". The exceptions being Topher Grace as a Doctor apparently brought along by mistake, and Big Larry Fishburne as a (surprisingly well-fed) Ben Gunn-type character who has been surviving alone in the jungle for ages, dresses like a Predator and talks to his imaginary friends.

Many have voiced surprise at Brody's casting as a hardman action-fighter, but he applies himself well. Even if he is just playing a low-rent, imitation Riddick complete with selfish amorality and a less convincing character arc.


Along with the lack of anything approaching a relatable or likeable character, the action is strangely static and un-inspired, the Predators look cartoonish and silly, and the movie is steeped in the un-neccessary in-jokes that so marred the AVP films. When, in the first five minutes of the film, someone starts firing a mini-gun wildly into the jungle, I started to cringe. I didn't really stop cringeing for the rest of the film. They're all here: "Over here... turn around", "Kill me! I'm here!", a character takes his top off for a last stand show-down with a Pred-head, Adrien Brody ends up stripped to the waist and covered in mud for no apparent reason, and "Long Tall Sally" (a song which has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EVENTS OF THIS FILM) plays over the end credits. It's the equivalent of watching the film with someone who keeps nudging you in the ribs and going "Remember "Predator"? Good wannit?" at regular intervals. This only serves to remind you repeatedly of a film you would rather be watching.

There is a problem here which faces many remakes and sequels to "classic" films. They are being made by fans. They end up becoming box-ticking fan-wank, attempting to elicit an emotional response by reaching into people's brains and pushing the button marked "nostalgic nerd-gasm". This is not enough.


There are a couple of moments in "Predators" that keep the interest (Grace and Fishburne, the moment when a corpse pleads for help), but they are almost entirely drowned in flat action, suspense-free "horror" and aimless and contrived plotting. "Oh, theres a plant that excretes a paralytic neuro-toxin! I wonder if that will come into play later on?" "Of course the Yakuza guy would find an ancient (but still shiny) samurai sword in a derelict spaceship! How else would he be able to have a worryingly inert and unimpressive kendo set-to with a blade-wafting Predator?"

If you fancy some Predator action, I would recommend you watch the original over this. Or even the second one. At least that has Bill Paxton. And Crazy Gary Busey.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Toy Story 3: Mortality Play

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOY STORY 3


"Toy Story" was a kids' film about toys that came to life when no one was watching. It was witty, exciting and strangely poignant. It was also a parable about the dangers of jealousy and insecurity, the importance of friendship, loyalty, self-awareness and the ability to understand and accept one's place in the world.

"Toy Story 2" was all about accepting that nothing lasts forever, so enjoy it while you can. It was about the inevitability of loss. It was about coming to terms with mortality.

"Toy Story 3" is mostly about facing mortality head-on. How do you react when your time is up and you are finally facing the nothing that will last forever?

The film kicks off with most of the familiar toys packed away in a chest, lonely and desperate, as their owner is all growed up and getting ready for college and they may never be played with again. Through a series of tragic convolutions, the toys end up being donated to a daycare centre, which seems like it may actually be the perfect place to live out their days. But, of course, all is not as it appears...


Like its predecessors, "Toy Story 3" is a fast, funny and exciting ride, with some gripping sequences, memorable lines and indelible characters, but it is the resonant subtexts which genuinely interest and will ultimately lead to it outlasting most other films aimed at family audiences.

The toys having to face up to Andy's lack of need for them is played in a brilliantly human manner; the packing off to daycare is alarmingly similar to an elderly parent being abandoned to a residential home by children who have moved on with their lives, and the too-good-to-be-true daycare centre emerging as a kind of unforgiving prison-camp for toys lends a sharp dramatic edge to the comedy capers.

There are a number of sequences which may well challenge younger or more sensitive kids who've spent too long being molly-coddled by celebrity-voiced, wise-cracking animals dicking around in non-threatening adventures, but that can only be a good thing. There's a baby-doll that is like some sort of Frankenstein's monster henchman-thing, and a cymbal-clapping monkey that is destined to linger in the same childhood-trauma nightmares as clowns and the fucking Child Catcher. Plus, there is as terrifying a vision of the journey to hell as you'll ever get in a kids' film about toys.


Which leads me to my solitary problem with the film. As I've already stated, thematically speaking, both this film and the previous entry in the saga are preoccupied with acceptance of mortality. Everything ends, and that's okay. My problem is with the ending of the third film, so there are spoilers coming up.

There are two points toward the end of "Toy Story 3" where the theme of mortality (in toy form) is blatantly addressed. In one, brilliantly profound moment, the remaining toys literally and finally accept their deaths. It's a harsh but beautiful scene; unlike anything I can think of in an animated adventure film outside of the end of "Watership Down". And in another scene, it appears the toys will be separated - Woody going to college with Andy, and the others being packed into the attic - and everyone says their goodbyes in a ruefully optimistic and understanding manner. Both purely brilliant scenes of bittersweet truth.

The finale, however, takes a slight swing toward the patronising, as Andy ultimately decides against mothballing his plastic pals and carrying the chick-magnet cowboy-doll around campus with him, and gives them all to a little girl who is nice to toys. This somehow felt like an ending designed for parents to comfort their little tykes on the drive home, at the expense of thematic cohesion. Instead of confronting their mortality, the toys get to start all over again. So nothing lasts forever, but it's okay, you can just move on to summat else?

Of course, if you want to be really pretentious about it, you could argue that the new life with the little girl represents some kind of afterlife for the toys: their reward for fighting their way through hell and back to do their duty to Andy. Or perhaps it's more like a reincarnation? Though things may change, the great circle of life continues...


Seriously though, it's a bloody brilliant film and I was only really unhappy with the ending because I'm a miserable get and wanted them all to die (literally or figuratively) so I could shout "THAT'S WHAT LIFE'S LIKE, KIDS! LEARN IT WELL! STOP CRYING, YOU WEEPY LITTLE CHIMPS!" at all the devastated children.

It's often hilarious, frequently thrilling and always surprising, and rounds out a consistently inventive and pioneering trilogy. There really is very little to call between all three of these films;each one telling its story masterfully and assuring its place in movie collections for the unforeseeable future. This one'll make you want to squeeze your cuddly extra-tight when you snuggle into bed afterwards, though.

Not that I sleep with a cuddly. I just heard you did.

Oh, and how does Andy know Jessie and Bullseye's names? Didn't he christen them "Bazooka Jane and her Jet Powered Horse" or summat at the end of "Toy Story 2"?