Tuesday, 25 October 2011


I have decided to defect to tumblr. If you have the means, why not come along and follow me there? It just seems a bit more suited to a less focused form of blogging. I'll be posting lyrics and short stories and videos and such. It'll be fun! Go here: unwashedmass.tumblr.com

it's a kind of tie-in to my youtube account, which you can find here: www.youtube.com/user/neafcy

There's not much to see at the moment, but in time there will be a veritable cornucopia of amusing bollocks to be looked at.

Hope everything is okay out there in the blogswamp.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Signing off

Tomorrow is my last day as a projectionist.

If there's anyone still out there, you may have noticed a dearth of updates in the past month or two. I think I've told my projection story to the best of my ability, and the urge to write snide comments about films has waned a lot.

After tomorrow, I will no longer be shining a light through a window for a living, and by the end of the month I will be attempting to start a new life in the capital city of England. I will probably still post here every now and then but, if you want to keep up to speed with what's going on with The Unwashed Mass, your best bet is to head to my youtube channel and get subscribed:


I'll be moving more into the audio-visual medium and trying to fend for myself out there amongst the vloggers and dogs on skateboards, all while trying to find my feet in a strange and alien town. I'll be posting songs and video diaries and maybe even sketches and skits on there, so feel free to stop by.

Whoever's still reading, I want to thank you for sticking around. It's been fun. Check back here from time to time, if you like. I may have some writing left in me yet...

For now: Goodbye.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

BlogalongaBond #5: You Only Live Twice

Apologies for the lack of prose lately. Here's another musical effort in association with The Incredible Suit's BlogalongaBond excercise:

If you like it, why not subscribe to my youtube channel here?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Beards, Boobs and Bean

Here's a song about the popular HBO series "Game of Thrones":

Monday, 16 May 2011

Attack the Block: Homeboys and Aliens

If you'd told me, back in the day, that one half of the bedroom-based comedy duo Adam & Joe would one day be working with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson and directing movies of his own which didn't involve cuddly toys and action figures... Well, I probably would've said "Chinny reckon!" or some other such archaic schoolyard denial. Come to think of it, I'd probably have said the same about the director of "Braindead" making "Lord of the Rings", but that's besides the point.

So Cornish follows Richard Ayoade in the leap from small-screen funster to big-screen megaphone-shouter, but his film is far from the warm, stylised introspection of "Submarine".

"Attack the Block" is the tale of a bunch of what you may refer to as "chavs", but I prefer to call "scrotes"; basically a gang of teenaged scummers on a London council estate. When their night of loitering and mugging is interrupted by an alien falling from the sky, all hell breaks loose in and around their tower block.

If you've seen the trailers, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was the new "Shaun of the Dead", but that is a bizarre piece of misdirection on the part of the marketing team. This is a tight, pacey sci-fi thriller with a sense of humour, but it is by no means a comedy.

Neither is it a slave to pop-culture references, Cornish allowing his cinematic influences to inform the film rather than dominate it. Most of the comedy derives from character and the incongruity of the situation the people are faced with.

The young cast make a good impact, spouting often impenetrable street-speak like naturals, with particular standouts being Alex Esmail's cocky Pest and John Boyega coming on like a black, teenage Jason Statham as the pack-leader, Moses. They are backed up by Nick Frost as an amiable dope-dealer, Luke Treadaway as a middle-class stoner, and Jodie Whittaker as a young nurse whose night begins with being mugged and goes downhill from there.

It's certainly not a perfect film, following some typical sci-fi/horror story-beats and logic-leaps, but it is zesty and punchy enough to engage for its duration.

A criticism that has been levelled is that, after witnessing the boys threatening and robbing Whittaker in the opening scene, it is impossible to root for or care about them throughout the rest of the film. I would argue that perhaps the true strength of the film is in showing us the side of these people we may be familiar with - hooded, intimidating figures on darkened streets - in the early scenes, before slowly and subtly humanising them til we see them as what they truly are: scared, confused, selfish, angry kids, trapped in a situation they have little to no control over.

But, lest we get bogged down in socio-political commentary, it must be re-stated that this is a fun, fast ride with thrills, chuckles, a few surprises and bags of ambition, which is only occasionally hampered by the constraints of the dinky budget.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Submarine: in association with Dean Learner

Obvious posterquote-style comparisons out of the way first:

"it's Napoleon Dynamite meets Rushmore in Wales!"

Here is the debut feature from Richard Ayoade, who you may know as Moss from "The IT Crowd", Dean Learner from "Garth Marenghi" and "Man to Man", Seboo from "The Mighty Boosh" (or the original Dixon Bainbridge, if you're really old-school), one of the idiots from "Nathan Barley" or the museum tour guide from "Bunny and the Bull". Or you might not have a clue who he is, in which case: never mind.

Ayoade adapted the screenplay from a book, but he obviously had a deep affinity for the skewed worldview and awkward protagonist. "Submarine" is the coming-of-age tale of Oliver Tate, an oddball outsider of the type frequently seen in indie films of this variety. The story deals with his tentative relationship with a spirited classmate and his attempts to rescue his parents' stagnating marriage.

Nothing too original there, and neither is there in the way it's presented. Oliver is a self-consciously studious and pseudo-intellectual individual, so the artistic affectation and new-wave stylings of the editing and photography fit perfectly, almost as if Oliver himself made the film with the power of his mind.

Some will accuse this picture of twee pretentiousness, but what allows it to rise above such charges are the uniformly excellent performances and the fact that it's very, very funny.

The two kids - Craig Roberts as Oliver and Yasmin Paige as Jordana, the object of his bumbling affections - are both fine little talents, with him a deadpan marvel and her a cheeky firecracker, and the adults hold their own as well. Sally Hawkins is brilliantly aloof, yet strangely warm as Oliver's mother; and Noah Taylor is hilarious as his emasculated, emotionally neutered dad. And then Paddy Considine shows up dressed as a ninja with a massive mullet.

It takes an actor of unfathomable (I done an unintentional submarine pun!) talent to not be upstaged by such ridiculous hair (just ask Nic Cage), but Paddy manages to create an all-too-plausible creepy self-help guru with designs on Oliver's Ma.

The script is tight and sharp, with each character drawn in perfect oddball detail, and the plot manages to surprise and at least feel unpredictable, even as it hits many familiar beats.

I feel like I should write more, as I did enjoy this film, but all that remains to be said is: if you like your coming-of-age movies a little off-beat, beautifully shot, damn funny and with a big, awkward heart, check "Submarine" out. It shows much promise from its director and young stars.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Obama/Osama Karma Drama

In a slight departure for me, here's a song about some current affairs.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Insidious: Spooky Same Old?

Here's the latest from some people who made "Saw" (remember that one good "Saw" film, way back in the mists of time before the series descended into slapstick splatter-porn sequels? That's the one they made, I think) and "Paranormal Activity" (which I enjoyed. The first one, anyway) and, with resum├ęs of that calibre, this movie must be presented entirely in spooky-vision, surely?

"Insidious" tells the story of a young family moving into a spooky new house. The eldest kid falls over in the spooky attic and bumps his head. Then he goes into a spooky coma that the doctors can't explain. Then shit gets really spooky.

Basically, we have here a generic haunting film which ticks all the boxes (spooky house, spooky kids, demonic possession, seances, psychic investigators, spectral photography, etc) familiar from films like "The Exorcist", "The Entity", "Poltergeist", "Beetlejuice" and "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey", yet manages to slither its way into the coveted position of "above average horror-movie" in spite of its obvious ancestry.

Where the film scores is with a neat twist on the formula (the comatose kid is the focus of the spookiness, or "it's not the house that's haunted, it's YOUR SON..." in trailer-talk), and with several consistently creepy and memorable images and genuinely surprising jumps. Most of the shocks are slightly cheapened by the typically unnecessary LOUD NOISES variety of musical cue so often employed as substitute for genuine surprise, but you can't have it all.

We also get a nice variety of vaguely derivative apparitions clamouring around the sleeping kid: the Darth Maul-faced bastard offspring of Freddy Krueger and Satan, a creepy old woman in a funeral shroud, a burly fella with long hair, slightly older versions of the twins from "The Shining" and a weird midget child-thing dressed like a chimney sweep.

The plotting is also formulaic and functional, with conveniently placed characters turning up to deliver outlandish exposition and explain leaps in logic which the characters and narrative must take to survive. We are graced with mostly above-average performances to help the increasingly absurd medicine go down, however.

Rose Byrne is particularly effective in the potentially one-dimensional mother role. She deals with trauma, loss, terror, confusion, isolation and determination in an entirely convincing manner, and her Aussie accent never pokes through. Having only seen her humorous portrayal of Russell Brand's airhead ex in "Get him to the Greek" previously, I was very pleasantly surprised by her successful grapple with the horror-movie heroine monster.

Patrick Wilson is also good value as the slightly douchey father. He seems to excel at playing emasculated men who have to dig deep to find some inner strength, and he does so with skill here.

The supporting cast is mostly made up of amusing oddballs, including screenwriter Leigh Whannell (remember him? He was the one who wasn't Cary Elwes in the first "Saw"! Which he also wrote) as a twitchy paranormal investigator who can draw spooky pictures real quick, Magda from "There's Something about Mary" as a psychic medium-type who seems to have all the answers, and Barbara Hershey following "Black Swan" with another weird mother role.

Some of these off-beat turns grate against the fairly natural work of Wilson and Byrne, but they do offer a much needed sense of humour which helps a little to diffuse the absurdity when characters begin seriously discussing astral-projection and whatnot.

Overall, it's a gloomy, ultimately predictable horror film built from a patchwork of familiar material and some shiny new bits, displayed in such a way to hold the interest for its duration and maybe, just maybe, seed a few images in your brain-theatre that might come back to haunt you when you switch out the light...

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Arthur: A Blander Brand?

Russell Brand is a Marmite man. You love him or you hate him. Personally, I quite like him. I appreciate a man who packs a loaded vocabulary and isn't afraid to use it, and who looks like a rocknroll scarecrow but gets girls who look like Katy Perry. That is to be respected.

I enjoyed his (semi-autobiographical) turns as Aldous Snow in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek", but here he is attempting to carry a film all on his own lanky shoulders. Is he up to the task?

On this evidence, I would say yes. Brand is an agreeable presence, brandishing his lounging gait and whimsical eloquence like a pissed-up Willy Wonka, but that's not to say the film is entirely successful.

"Arthur" is a remake of a Dudley Moore film which I have never seen, so I won't be crying "sacrilege!" at any point in this review. It tells the story of a billionaire alcoholic playboy who must choose between embarking on an arranged marriage to save his inheritance or giving up his riches to be with the pretty-but-penniless tour-guide he has a crush on.

The main problem with the film is that it's not that funny. It's not hellishly unfunny, it's just mildly amusing. It's okay. Brand is likable, unless you're one of the many people who don't like him, in which case the movie will inspire naught but rage in you as he trundles around getting into wacky scrapes like the lovable drunken scamp he is.

Helen Mirren is typically good value as Arthur's nanny, Jennifer Garner gives good psycho hosebeast as his forcefully affianced, and Greta Gerwig is positively luminous as the cutesy-kooky tour-guide. Nick Nolte and Luis Guzman are in there too, but are both given little of note to do.

Most of the chuckles (and they are just chuckles) come from Brand's mouth, with most of the limp comic set-pieces falling flat before they even get going, and the film develops a Sandler-esque maudlin streak towards the end of the second act, meaning the meagre laughs dry up even further.

In the end, you are left with a light comedy that never really takes off. Could this be because of the 12A/PG13 certificate? In the attempt to appeal to a wider, younger audience, does the film hamstring the normally X-rated Brand funnybone? It is unclear, as Brand himself seems as at ease here as elsewhere, yet the film rests in an uncomfortable no-man's land, somewhere between good and bad, called "okay". And maybe that's the most offensive thing of all.

Thor: The Lion Viking

This was always gonna be the tough one for Marvel. Thor isn't a superhero, he's not some ordinary Joe who mysteriously acquires special abilities, he's the Norse God of Thunder and he goes around causing damage with his massive tool. It would have been so easy for this story to have ended up a pompous, camp, silly joke of a film.

What director Kenneth Branagh delivers, however, is a hugely entertaining fantasy adventure/fish-out-of-water comedy that never strays to the wrong side of self-importance or silliness.

Thor is a rock-hard fighter, poised to inherit the crown of his Anthony Hopkins-shaped father, Odin, and become lord of Asgard. Being a bit of a cocky gimp, Thor kinda starts a war against his father's wishes and Odin bitchslaps the superpowers out of him and hoofs him down to earth to mingle with the puny humans. Meanwhile, Odin's other son, Loki is eyeing the throne for himself...

The scenes in Asgard are all CG spectacle and theatrical set-design, but there is an attention to human (Asgardian?) drama that never lets the broad, classical story (father and son, betrayal, exile, redemption, revenge etc) be overshadowed by the digital glitz.

What could have come across like "Krull" with better special effects is actually an engagingly realised fantasy world peopled with generally interesting characters. Chris Hemsworth's Thor is all roaring and cheering and bellowing and back-slapping and hammering, Hopkins' Odin is noble yet world-weary, Tom Hiddleston's Loki is troubled and earnest, and Thor's backing singers Lady Sif and the Warriors Three come off like four buddy musketeers, with Ray Stevenson reaping many of the film's chuckles with his turn as Volstagg, a jovial, gluttonous, Viking man-mountain. Oh, and Rene Russo stands in the background not doing much as Thor's mum.

It is when Thor gets the boot to Earth that the movie really begins to open up, however, as he is discovered by a pretty young astrophysicist (just go with it) and her small team of researchers, comprising crumpled euro-ledge Stellan Skarsgard and peppy jailbait Kat Dennings. Natalie Portman turns in a solid but unremarkable performance as this astrophysicist next-door, but as complications arise for Thor and Loki, it becomes clear that this film is all about two people: Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston.

(And Natalie Portman's lovely face, of course)

Hemsworth starts from the bluster and braggadacio of the Asgard scenes and gradually peels away layers of Godly behaviour to reveal the man - even the boy - underneath. He is equally adept in both the light-comic situations that arise as Thor walks the earth and the hammer-swinging fightoramas, as comfortable with the burgeoning Portman romance as with the fraught relationship with his father and brother. There's a moment where Thor, crestfallen at his lot and apparently trapped on Earth indefinitely, simply asks his brother "can I come home?" in the most heartbreakingly fragile manner. It's a key moment in what is sure to be a star-making performance. Hemsworth takes the most outlandish character and makes him sympathetic, charismatic and even believable. Thor is in good hands.

Hiddleston's Loki, meanwhile, mutates from the earnest counsel of the early scenes into a seething mass of self-loathing and vengeance. Hiddleston prowls around the screen, managing to remain sinister even in some oddball costumes, sneering like a young Jeremy Irons. In fact, the best way to describe it might be that Odin is Mufasa, Thor is Simba and Loki is Scar, and Hiddleston is a worthy successor to Irons' feline manipulator. The boy will go far.

Branagh handles the action scenes with skill, particularly a bash-up with some Frost Giants and a Big Fucking Monster early on, Thor punching his way into a SHIELD lab to get back his hammer (watched over by a mysterious chap with a bow and arrow, comic nerds!) and a showdown with a Big Metal Bastard What Shoots Fire Off Its Head. Occasionally he gets slightly bogged down in the effects and the CG turns a little muddy, but mostly it's solid stuff.

The key to the film is a lightness of touch, striking a similar tone to the "Iron Man" films and boding well for the oncoming cross-over in "The Avengers" (there's a Bond-style "Thor will return" legend at the end of the credits). Branagh never lets the film disappear up it's own arse, tempering any drifts into self-importance with a streak of self-awareness that engages to the end.

So Tony Stark and Thor Odinsson are present and correct. Now we just have to see if Steve Rogers can hold his own.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Blogalonga Bond #4: Thunderball

It's that time again. For the lowdown on The Incredible Suit's BlogalongaBond enterprise, go here. And please enjoy my tribute to a lesser-known member of the James Bond universe:


I have been neglecting this blog a little of late. This is due to a combination of lack of notable events in my place of work, my inability to watch the latest releases due to school holiday scheduling (we have films on from nine in the morning, meaning no time for print-checks), and the growing realisation that this soggy corner of the blog-swamp will soon be irrevocably altered.

I handed my notice in at work today.

I will leave my job on the tenth of June. No more will I shine a light through a window for a living. No more will I sit in a room with no windows, hearing only the incessant clatter of soon-to-be-obsolete machinery. I'm going out to face the real world.

This decision has been brought about by several factors, namely the impending projection shake-up which will see us replaced with robotronic light-shiners, and my rapidly approaching thirtieth birthday. When the digital changeover hits, I will have the choice of staying with the company and jockeying popcorn or managing shifts (both of which strike me as hellishly unsuitable for my temperament) or leaving anyway. So there is the "jump before being pushed" motivation.

Then there is the fact that I turn twenty-nine next month and have very little to show for my life so far. I've been a projectionist for nearly five years, and think it's time for a change.

So, I'm off to London to seek my fortune. I hear the streets are paved with gold and they make you Mayor if you bring a cat or something.

What does this mean for the future of The Intermittent Sprocket? I don't know. You may see some changes in the coming weeks. I might start writing about wider topics as my access to movies dries up, maybe TV or music or books or crisps or navel lint will become more prominent features. I don't know.

Everyone's flagging down the reboot bandwagon at the moment, so maybe it's time for The Intermittent Sprocket 2.0?

The blog will continue as is until at least the tenth of June, but after that, who knows?

For now, here's some puppets and TV's Kevin Bishop pretending to sing a song:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Movie Piracy

Here's a silly song I wrote a while ago, just in time for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" next month.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Source Code: Jake's on a Train Again and Again

(I saw this film nearly two weeks ago, but only just got round to posting this review. This is in no way a comment on the quality of the film, I'm just so damn lazy.)

Once upon a time there was a little film called "Moon". It was right good. The man what made it was dead into space things and science fiction and that - possibly because his poppa was a funky space-rock deity - and he wanted to make more films of that kind. Turned out, he couldn't afford to make the film he wanted, so he decided to take on a script that someone else had written and make that instead.

That's the story of "Source Code". Well, not the story of the film, but the story of the making of the film. Duncan Jones takes on a studio picture with a bigger budget and star, but can he maintain the heartfelt, humanistic sci-fi quality of his debut whilst giving us more bang for our buck?

Hell yes.

"Source Code" is about Shakey Jake Gyllenhaal playing a soldier who is transported into a stranger's body for the last eight minutes of his life, just before he was killed in a terrorist attack on a train. Shakey must relive this eight minutes over and over until he works out who did the bombing.

So, in lazy film-journo terms, it's "Quantum Leap" vs. "Groundhog Day" vs. "24" or something.

Shakey also has to deal with the shadowy authority figures who zapped him into this mess, played by Jeffrey Wright in grumpy mad-scientist mode and Vera Farmiga as a button-down military-type suffocating under the pressure of authority. They only communicate with Shakey by video monitors in his little time-capsule, and are extremely cagey about the hows and the whys of the situation that Jake repeatedly demands answers for. Is there more to the mission than meets the eye? You reckon?

As an aside, Vera Farmiga has such beautiful, sad eyes in this film that you know she's gonna turn out to be lovely in the end.

So Shakey keeps on leaping, hoping that his next leap will be the one home, all the while uncovering clues of varying veracity as to the identity of the bomber, flirting with the pretty lady sitting opposite him (Michelle Monaghan), and getting blown up after eight minutes. Can he solve the mystery? Is he able to change the course of events that have already happened? What are they not telling him, and why? Etc.

This is a tight little thriller built around an interesting conceit and a nigh-on note-perfect performance by Gyllenhaal.

Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley explore the high-concept in nifty and interesting ways, always coming back to Jones' apparent interest in the human element. Is Jake travelling through time? How does this outlandish technology effect people? Can life itself be recreated by science? How do we maintain our humanity in the face of this techno-revolution? The science may be ambiguous and a little hokey, but the big questions raised are interesting enough and the plot is so pacey (it's only about an hour and a half long) that it's difficult to pick faults.

Jones handles the transition to bigger budget with skill, delivering a number of special-effect money-shots that never detract from the intimacy of the tale.

The film belongs to the one-time Donnie Darko, however, as he is in pretty much every scene and we experience the whole wacky journey with him. Gyllenhaal's Colter Stevens is a masterclass in everyman determination, an ordinary grunt thrust into an outlandish situation, grappling with his mounting confusion and the conflicting emotions of his duty and his need to uncover the truth. He laughs, he cries, he flirts, he fights, he looks befuddled... Jake goes through pretty much every conceivable human emotion and is never less than thoroughly convincing.

He's backed up by solid turns from Monaghan (believable as a woman you could fall in love with in the space of eight minutes), Farmiga (all fragile nobility, suppressed emotion and hypnotic eyes) and Wright (bluster and pomposity on crutches), but they are supporting roles in the very literal sense, propping up the Shakey Jake Tower of Awesome. If Jones keeps getting performances like this one and the Sam Rockwell double-whammy in "Moon" into his films, we might start seeing some sci-fi at the Oscars for once.

As it stands, "Source Code" is a gripping little yarn with much to recommend it. It's not as good as "Moon", but it's an assured follow-up that confirms Jones has a bright future in which to attempt to outdo his debut.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Film I Always Go Back to: Hudson Hawk

This post is brought to you by the Kid in the Front Row blogathon.

Kid commanded me to write a post about a film with a special place in my heart. In his words:

"It's probably not your all time favourite film or the one you mention at party's, but it's the one you make your friends watch, or it's the one you throw on after a messy break up. Whatever it is -- I want you to write about that film you've watched 64 times even though it only has a 3.2 rating on IMDB. That film that SPEAKS TO YOU when you need to be spoken to. We all have one of those films."

I have many, but which to talk about?

The "Star Wars" trilogy, particularly ESB? The "Indiana Jones" trilogy, particularly "Last Crusade"? "Fellowship of the Ring"? "Back to the Future"? "The Deer Hunter"? "Wall-e"? The Burton and Nolan "Batman"s? "Tremors"? "Blade" or its first sequel? "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"? "The Last Boy Scout"? "Forrest Gump"? Any of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" flicks? "Fight Club"? "Ace Ventura"? "Dumb and Dumber"? "Jaws"? "Napoleon Dynamite"? "School of Rock"? "Evil Dead II"? "Duck Soup"? "Candyman"? "Heathers"? "Shaun of the Dead"? "Apocalypse Now"? "Edward Scissorhands"? "The Princess Bride"? "How to Train your Dragon"? "Aladdin"? "The Lion King"? "Beauty and the Beast"? "An American Werewolf in London"? Any of the "Monty Python" films? And OH GOD IT HURTS MY BRAIN.

So I decided to focus on a certain aspect of Kid's brief. The bit about the low score on IMDb. There is a favourite film of mine which is terminally derided in most circles. A film which I saw at a relatively young age, before I was aware that you weren't supposed to like it.

"Hudson Hawk".

"Hudson Hawk" was a flop and a critical failure upon its release in 1991, confounding audiences and its own publicity team by being an absurd comedy adventure instead of a typical Bruce Willis actioner. In fact, it is renowned as one of the most expensive and high profile flops ever, dismissed as a misguided Willis vanity-project and a waste of celluloid.

I wasn't aware of this hoopla when I watched it on video when I was about ten or eleven. I hadn't even seen "Die Hard" by this point, and had no idea who Bruce Willis was. I stand by the judgement I made then.

"Hudson Hawk" is a fucking brilliant film.

It follows Willis as Eddie, the titular Hawk, a cat-burglar just getting out of a long stint in jail. He gets blackmailed into returning to his old ways and soon finds himself embroiled in a labyrinthine plot involving the Vatican, rogue CIA agents, billionaires bent on world domination and Leonardo DaVinci.

I think Dan Brown based his entire career on this movie.

The thing that Brown missed, however, is that you can't play a plot this ludicrous straight. "Hawk" is one of the silliest big-budget adventures ever made, hanging its absurd twists and turns on an almost dreamlike structure where Eddie can leap off a building and literally land in the next scene in a completely different location, wearing a look that suggests he is as aware of the ridiculousness as we are. Where he can roll from an action scene on a hospital gurney into a waiting group of badguys, get knocked out, put in a box and wake up in another country.

The film is rife with inspired silliness: Vatican agents communicating via intercoms hidden in light-up crucifixes, CIA agents named after candybars, a pair of gangsters called the Mario brothers, and the ingenious gimmick that Hawk and his partner Tommy time their heists by singing swing standards of which they've memorised the runtimes.

The scene where Eddie and Tommy rob a museum whilst singing "Swinging on a Star" is the kind of thing that, had it been in a straight-up comedy or spoof, would've been lauded as genius. It takes place in a Bruce Willis film which he helped develop, however, so it is dismissed as an indulgence by the star who was dabbling with a career as a singer at the time. This doesn't stop it being fucking funny.

James Coburn (the "Flint" films being a big influence, apparently) plays a brilliantly twisted CIA defector, delivering lines such as "God, I miss Communism. The Red Threat, people were scared... the agency had some respect, and I got laid every night" with glee, but it is Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard as the villainous Mayflowers who really steal the show.

Grant plays Darwin as a slimy, swaggering, gleeful pervert, and Bernhard essays Minerva as a loud, obnoxious, childish pervert. Together, they shred the scenery like a couple of pantomime dames, Bernhard in increasingly outlandish costumes and Grant often literally climbing all over the set.

They are ably assisted by a script full of quotables, with each character spouting one-liners and witticisms too numerous to recount here. Just have a look at the IMDb quotes page and marvel at the sheer breadth of clever stupidity spat out in this film.

Willis and Danny Aiello as Tommy share an effortless chemistry as they bicker like a married couple and croon their way through burglaries and gunfights, but Andie McDowell does bring the tempo down a little bit as the wet-blanket love interest. She makes up for it with a fearless bit of drug-induced idiocy, however.

All in all, it's basically like a Dan Brown conspiracy story made by the Marx Brothers. I genuinely believe it just confused people upon its release, being too sweary and violent for family audiences, but too silly and childish for Willis' usual action crowd. Micheal "Heathers" Lehmann has barely directed since.

If you haven't seen it, do, if you have (and didn't like it) give it another shot.

I leave you with my highlights of the movie:

The aforementioned "Swinging on a Star" heist.

The entire ambulance/gurney sequence: the needles in the face, "ew, menthol", "Hey, Mister! Are you gonna die?", "Exact change?!"

"The Pope warned me never to trust the CIA!"

"Bunny, ball-ball!"

The entire paralysis scene.

"You won't be attending that hat convention in July!"

The Pope watching "Mr Ed".

And Pokie the elephant.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Sucker Punch: Game Over

So it looks like my inner child had to grow up sometime.

I made no secret of the juvenile glee that the promotional material for this film elicited in me, and I must admit that I even allowed myself the hope that the superficial pleasures of the posters, trailers and standees could just be the icing on a satisfying movie-cake.

Of course, this was wrong. The film has no more depth, emotion or entertainment factor than the dazzlement and titillation offered in the two-minute trailer.

The movie tells the story of Emily Browning's "Babydoll", a girl confined to an insane asylum by her wicked stepfather after her mother dies and she accidentally shoots her sister. Bummer. She has five days before she is lobotomised, so naturally she sets about escaping by imagining that the asylum is some kind of bordello and she and her fellow inmates are a "Charlie's Angels"/"Deadly Viper Assassination Squad"-type superhero team undertaking all sorts of wacky imaginary missions.

From the outset, the flights of fantasy are jarring and borderline nonsensical, and it becomes more and more clear that the fantasies of only one person are at work here: director Zack Snyder. His film seems to be set in the olden times - maybe the 1950s - and yet Babydoll's fantasies are filled with anachronistic weapons and references that a manga-viewing, video-gaming, comic-book nerd would take for granted, but a twenty-year old 1950s American girl would be hard pushed to come up with.

The soundtrack pursues this theme, laden as it is with hip covers of songs such as "Where is my Mind?", "White Rabbit" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" (some sung by Browning herself) that rob the film of any historical context whilst illustrating that Snyder's understanding of mental illness is gleaned entirely from pop-culture.

And, of course, there are the dubious sexual questions raised by the fantasy fetish gear and general representation of the young ladies in the picture. Snyder makes the leap into Babydoll's fantasy of the asylum as burlesque brothel with no explanation or logical reasoning, leaving us to assume that he believes that's where all female brains would head for in similar circumstances. Babydoll's fantasy missions all take place while she is dancing for the pleasure of some lecherous male, suggesting that - aside from dreams of physical strength or weapon-based action-fighting skill - the only tool she has to fight for freedom is the objectification of her body.

But surely this is supposed to be a piece of entertainment? To over-analyse the connotations and question the plausibility of its events is to spoil the fun of the film, right?

Nope. For a story so inherently ridiculous, there is a dearth of humour on display and a similar po-faced pomposity to that which you might find in a "Twilight" movie. As the story progresses, the movie becomes more and more callous towards its characters, but fails to garner an emotional response as we have had no chance to get to know anything about them other than the fact that they rock various scanty outfits really hard.

And what of the story? Much has been (and will be) said of the videogame-style plot-structure, and it is an obvious but accurate comparison. The girls are issued missions by gnarly Scott Glenn (Bill to their Vipers), playing a figment of Babydoll's imagination, before battling through various environments full of endless swathes of enemies in order to collect a certain item, usually after defeating a boss of some sort. Then it's all back to the bordello for a cut-scene.

The action-sequences are undoubtedly spectacular, featuring a plethora of memorable images (dragons and mechas and robo-samurai, oh my!) and some excellently choreographed and executed fighting from the Fit Five. Without a dramatic context, however, we can only observe passively until the eventual attempts to inject jeopardy and emotion fall flat from too-little-too-late syndrome.

I'm racking my brains for more positive points, but all I can think of is: It looks quite nice. The fights are quite good. The soundtrack is quite good, if a little incongruous. The acting is generally acceptable. Everything else just kind of isn't there.

People will probably try to compare "Sucker Punch" to "Inception", due to the dream-within-a-dream-fantasy-world type stuff, but it's probably more like what would happen if "Scott Pilgrim" lost its sense of humour on a "Shutter Island" full of ladies in their smalls.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Blogalongabond #3: Goldfinger

It's that time again. The time where I tell you about The Incredible Suit's incredible idea of getting loads of bloggers to write about a Bond film, in order, every month until the new film is released. Read all about it here.

This month is Goldfinger, so here's my now customary musical offering:

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Saturday, 26 March 2011

Adding Insult to Injury

Neat! A free "TRON" t-shirt for every member of the projection team! Just for downloading the programme key off the internet! Oh thank you, Disney marketing group! How kind!

The picture on the back GLOWS IN THE DARK!

Wait, what's that..?

Fuck off. 3D Digital Projection Team? There's no such thing. They should have just written "UNEMPLOYED" instead.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Future of 3D: In a Forest, Dark and Deep

I went to a very peculiar cinema last weekend. It was in foggy Londontown and was unlike any cinema experience I have ever... er... experienced.

The tickets were extremely expensive, and I soon found out why.

At first, I thought the effects were a little shoddy, opening as the movie did on what was blatantly a matte-painting of some trees, but this soon faded to a fully immersive 3D environment, the likes if which I have never seen.

The 3D is so 3D that they don't even need a screen, just a raised area and a space in which fully three dimensional characters and props are projected for your amusement.

It's like you're actually there! I felt like I could reach out and touch the performers! If I hadn't been sitting ten rows away from them. Or if I had really long arms.

It even had an interactive laugh-track, in a post-modern nod to ropey old sitcoms, which was presented in uncannily convincing surround-sound. It was almost like being in the midst of a live studio-audience.

It's a game-changer. It raises the bar so high, there is no bar.

And the name of this revolutionary cinematic technique?

They call it "The Atre".

The feature I watched in "The Atre" was a new one from Neil LaBute, the bitter misogynist behind "In the Company of Men" and "The Shape of Things" (which are good) and the remake of "The Wicker Man" (which is shonky piss-ribbons), so I was expecting dubious sexual politics, rambling sweary dialogue and bees being poured on people's heads.

I was only disappointed on one count.

Jack from "Lost" was in it. He worked very well in this new-fangled organic 3D, and was a whole world away from noble Jack, playing a borderline racist, sexist ignoramus with a slovenly braggadacio that was often accompanied by the immersive laugh track. I think he has a bright future in The Atre when it catches on.

He also has a scary beard, but not a beard of bees, unfortunately.

The pretty teacher from "Rushmore" is in it too, but she isn't as good as Jack, her American accent wavering occasionally, and only seems able to pitch her performance as whiny and self-absorbed. It's worth bearing in mind that LaBute directed this turn, so this is very possibly just how he sees women and not Rushmore-girl's fault.

The movie was daringly filmed in a single take, with a static shot brilliantly framed to allow us a view of the entire interior of the cabin in the woods where the action takes place. I say "action", but what I really mean is "conversation".

The movie is just Jack and Rushmore-girl having a chat for about an hour and a half, but don't let that put you off. The chat reveals all sorts of wacky (although not entirely unpredictable) twists and character traits to keep you interested, and both characters get some decent monologues to get their teeth into. As 3D showcases go, it's better than fucking "Avatar".

And, another benefit of the revolutionary presentation of The Atre is the interactive behind-the-scenes materials. It felt like Neil LaBute actually walked right past me as I sat in my seat. Almost as if I could've run at him and poured bees on his head 'til he screamed "NOT THE BEES!" if I'd wanted to. I did want to, but there were no bees to hand. Still; IMMERSIVE.

So brace yourself for the future of 3D entertainment: The Atre. It's the closest you can get to actually being there without actually being there, even though you're actually there!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Tom Cruise: Space Adventurer!

So I was riffling through some old songs that I wrote and found this one about Tom Cruise. It's a bit dated now, but it's short enough not to outstay it's welcome, I hope!

Have a look:

And why not subscribe to my YouTube channel here while you're at it? I promise semi-regular updates with silly songs and other stuff too!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Sucker Punch Regression

You know when you were a kid and you used to draw battle scenes, making sound effects for every explosion and grisly death as you drew it?

Something like this:

It can't have just been me who used to do this, and I know because Zak Snyder has apparently decided to do it on a cinema screen for his upcoming film "Sucker Punch".

The promotional material I have so far seen for this film seems to communicate with me on some kind of primal level. Snyder appears to have tapped into my juvenile lust for chaotic fantasy battles in a manner hitherto unseen; but he isn't satisfied with appealing to just one base, juvenile obsession, so he has populated his film with characters that look like this:

So he's speaking directly to my inner child and my inner horny-teenager. Take the fantasy chaos of my childish scrawlings up top, add a soupcon of fitties in bondage gear, and you get this:

So I was already on board with this film, due to the unfettered boyish glee that everything I've seen from it inspires in me, and then the movie's promotional team did something unfair. They sent us the single greatest display standee I have ever seen in my tenure at the cinema.

Here's a handily annotated photo:

Seriously, this thing is just outside the projection booth and is a source of continual distraction.

Of course, the film has the potential to be a load of bum-gas, but the combination of giant robots, samurai, fetching ladies, Nazis (although they look more WWI, so probably a bit knee-jerk to call them Nazis), dragons, guns, swords, fishnets, explosions, aeroplanes and video-game logic all make an excitable voice in my head squeal "BEST FILM EVER" whenever I ponder its quality.

The film is released on April the 1st, so it could all be an elaborate April Fool's trick to exploit my perpetually arrested development, but I doubt it.

Basically, if you can watch the trailer below and not think "I have to see that", my inner child doesn't want to be friends with you anymore. So ner.