Friday, 30 September 2011

BlogalongaBond / The Man With The Golden Gun: The Girl With The Forgotten Story

Following Live And Let Die, Roger Moore barely had time to withdraw from Jane Seymour before he was required to begin filming on The Man With The Golden Gun. The rush to shoot and release the new Bond film resulted in a hectic schedule and a slapdash screenplay that's JW Peppered with nonsense, but it also gave us a film that moves so quickly it's impossible to get bored. If you can put aside the uselessness of Mary Goodnight, the clanging cultural ignorance and the nonsensical plot turns required to shoehorn in another set piece, The Man With The Golden Gun is actually the most entertaining Bond film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

It's easy to point out the film's faults, for they are legion, and many BlogalongaBonders have done so with some enthusiasm. However it's not without its merits: it's probably Roger Moore's best least worst turn as 007, the action sequences are leagues above the previous two films, there's a refreshing lack of stoopid gadgets and the way Bond and Scaramanga are brought together is surprisingly well thought out.
Perhaps the film's biggest crime, though, is the under-exploration of the surprisingly complex character of Scaramanga's girlfriend / sex object Andrea Anders, played with subtlety and dignity by Maud Adams. It's Andrea who kicks off the whole plot by tricking Bond into thinking that Scaramanga wants him dead in order to get 007 to kill her abusive lover first, and although she only appears in a handful of scenes, she hints at a plot thread far more interesting than any that ended up in the film.

From the very first scene it's clear that Andrea's trapped in a mink-lined prison: she looks bored relaxing on a private beach in Thailand and betrays a hint of repulsion at Scaramanga's deformed body. It's not hard to fill in a likely backstory for her: young girl, easily impressed by charming millionaire, agrees to visit his island for a weekend and ends up staying for years. It's only later we discover the extent of her slavery: Scaramanga uses her for sex, but only before each kill, and unsurprisingly she's had enough.
When Andrea becomes a stop on Bond's hunt for Scaramanga, our noble hero doesn't help matters by whacking her in the chops in order to extract information. Why she doesn't freely give it up is a mystery, especially as she wants Bond to kill Scaramanga, and the obvious answer is that the script is rubbish. But as another depressing chapter in her life story, her violent encounter with Bond could have been a fascinating development in the plot that never happened.

Appearing later in Bond's hotel room, Andrea finally reveals her hatred for Scaramanga and that it was she who set him up, and offers her body to Bond as payment for Scaramanga's assassination. It's here that her desperate situation and pathetic lack of self-worth are most touchingly conveyed by Adams - she hasn't fallen for Bond, she just thinks that's how men work, and sadly the filmmakers agree with her, using it as an excuse for 007 to get his oats rather than a chance for some character development. It's at this point that Bond should probably have stopped thinking with his cock and realised that the manly thing to do would be to put her somewhere safe and get on with sorting out her less-than-sweet sugar daddy.

Inevitably, Andrea pays the ultimate price for crossing paths with Scaramanga and Bond, and that's when 007's mission should have become one of revenge for her miserable life and death as well as a futile attempt to ease his own conscience after getting her killed. Sadly nobody involved with The Man With The Golden Gun had the balls to pull it off, and instead we get midgets, flying cars and comedy racist sheriffs.

Still, it's not all bad...

The locations
The Man With The Golden Gun is one of those Bond films where the story was written around the locations, which is reflected in the weakness of the former and the strength of the latter. With filming taking place in, among other places, an actual Macau casino, an actual floating market in Thailand and an actual Muay Thai boxing arena, it's a veritable travelogue of South East Asia, and every inch of the region is squeezed for lovingly-shot detail by the second unit.

The lining of this jacket
Rodge wears six or seven different suits during the course of this film, and considering it's 1974 it's a minor miracle that, by and large, they're not all hideously dated. However it's the lining on this number that, thanks to an unpredictable Bangkok breeze, gets an ill-advised airing. No wonder his reputation precedes him everywhere he goes, he's the only man in the world wearing his grandparents' wallpaper on the inside of his schmutter.

The bridge jump
Without a doubt one of the greatest movie stunts of all time, and certainly the greatest Bond stunt so far, the "astro spiral jump", as it was ridiculously known, was performed in one take by a stunt driver who'd never done it before. It's utterly ludicrous, of course, but that doesn't detract from its genius. What does detract from its genius is John Barry playing a comedy whistle over it as if Bond's trousers have fallen down. BAD BARRY.

BlogalongaBond will return with The Spy Who Loved Me

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Watching Films Outside Is The New Black

Last Friday evening I hauled my ass all the way to London's delightful Fulham Palace to see an outdoor screening of Some Like It Hot.
I don't know about the rest of the country but you can't walk ten paces in London during the summer without tripping over an outdoor screening of something or other. They're everywhere. I've managed to get to a pathetically embarrassing four this year - the Die Hard / Attack The Block double bill at Somerset House, The General at Canary Wharf, Rocky on the roof of the Queen Of Hoxton pub and Some Like It Hot.

Given the right conditions - an absence of rain, at least a bottle of wine per person and a good crowd - these screenings can turn a good film into a great experience. Discovering The General at The Scoop a few years ago, and watching open-air singalongs like Moulin Rouge!, Singin' In The Rain (in the rain) and even Mamma Mia! have been some of the best nights out I've ever had in the capital. In fact I was saddened to discover recently that watching Mamma Mia! at home with less than a bottle of wine inside you is the movie equivalent of going to bed drunk with Amanda Seyfried and waking up in the morning to find you've actually slept with Stellan Skarsgård.
Conditions were almost perfect at Fulham Palace (the audience could have been a bit more enthusiastic: by and large they looked like they were a bit scared to have left the comfort of Waitrose) and The Nomad, who put the screening on, did a fine job with the extracurricular entertainment even though none of it was of any use to me. There was a live jazz band (I hate jazz), a man shining shoes for free (I am rarely seen without trainers) and a small photo studio where you could dress up like a 1920s flapper and have your picture taken (I'm not a transvestite).
Picture and sound quality were tip-top - not an easy thing to get right outdoors - and there was plenty of room to spread out; in fact the only thing missing was my own personal toilet, as it's impossible to duck out of Some Like It Hot without missing a few pages of some of the greatest dialogue ever written for the screen.

But it was Billy Wilder's masterpiece that made the evening such a joy. It's at least twenty years since I last saw Some Like It Hot, and its brilliance went straight over my stupid spotty-faced head then. This time I boggled at the perfection of Wilder's compositions, literally almost wet myself at every zinger that flew out of the script, fell in love with Marilyn Monroe, delighted in the company of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis and probably actually pissed myself at Curtis' Cary Grant impression ("Who talks like that?").
I'd like to think that Some Like It Hot stands up to repeat viewings better than Mamma Mia!, but if not I'll be only too happy to find it at another outdoor screening next year and enjoy another bladder-threatening evening of ridiculous fun.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

BlogalongaMuppets #1: Beaker Reviews The Muppet Movie

Sup bitches? I'm Beaker, the greatest fucking Muppet of them all, and this is BlogalongaMuppets. It's like BlogalongaBond but shitloads better because it's got me in it and not some walking pair of eyebrows poncing about pretending to be hard and calling everyone "darling". Wanker.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you all about my first film, The Muppet Movie, so at least have the common decency to shut the fuck up and listen.
It's all right I suppose. There are some good bits, like that little green prick Kermit riding a bike and a giant version of crack-addicted mentalist Animal emerging from the top of a building and that, but by and large it's a bit flat. There isn't a right lot going on to justify even 95 minutes of running time, and some of the songs are a bit insipid. "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?" I don't fucking know, but you're not helping by wailing another one out are you, you great green turd? Jesus. And when you've seen one cameo from a late '70s American comedian, well, you've seen them all. And in this film I think you actually do see them all. Most of them aren't even funny, they're just desperate to jump on the Muppet bandwagon, the pathetic bastards.

Worst of all, I'm only in The Muppet Movie for a few minutes, meeping about with that slapheaded twat Bunsen as usual. He drives me round the fucking bend. After that scene I get shoved to the back of the crowd as usual while the frog, bear and pig hog all the action. They make me sick.
Anyway, never mind. There are five more of these films, plus a brand new one next year so I'm hoping I get a bit more of a look in further down the line. If not I might just shove a whole jar of Bunsen's insta-grow tablets up his arse just to see if he pops, the short-sighted tit.

Cheers!
B x

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Arena Of Destiny: The Face/Off Edition

Last week's competition to win two tickets to this Thursday's screening of Face/Off at the Stratford Picturehouse and a limited edition poster for the event designed by Sam Gilbey drew, ooh, multiple entries, some of which even came from different people. Quick hint: if you're going to enter a competition several times using different names, at least try to make sure every single entry doesn't say "Sent from [your name]'s iPhone" at the bottom. OK, Hafsa Osman?
As is tediously necessary in these situations, all correct answerers (that's a word, right?) entered the Arena Of Destiny so that a winner could be chosen. And who better to pick the victor this time than Mr John Travolta, wearing Nicolas Cage's face while relaxing at home? Nobody, that's who.



Congratulations, lucky winner! I'll be in touch.

By the way, the answer was a) Faces, and not b) Faeces. Sorry Tony Cox and James Whitfield; better luck next time.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Still Great: Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg's masterclass in action cinema set-pieces is re-released for a limited time in cinemas in a trouser-burstingly spectacular new digital print today.

Ignore the clunky exposition and plot nonsense (John Hammond was present at the birth of every single dinosaur in the park? How long has he been there? Does this multi-billionaire businessman really intend to introduce each tour of the park alongside his pre-recorded self? Did none of the scientists know anything about spontaneous sex-changing frog DNA?) and go for the flawless combination of Stan Winston's animatronics and Dennis Muren's CG dinosaurs, Gary Rydstrom's astonishing sound design, Dean Cundey's stunning, hyper-real cinematography and Spielberg's uncanny eye for an amazing shot.

And try not to think about how it's eighteen years since the bearded genius last delivered a truly amazing action adventure film.

*

For more excitable dinowaffle than a paleontologists' convention, go and see what's been happening at The Shiznit's Jurassic Park Week. Some of it's quite good.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

An Exclusive Interview With Empire Magazine News Editor Chris Hewitt!

Mr Hewitt hard at work.
Those pens won't suck themselves.
If you're reading this blog, you're probably vaguely interested in films. If you're vaguely interested in films, you've probably read Empire magazine. And if you've read Empire magazine, you'll probably have had your eyeballs gently fingered by the words of Chris Hewitt, the magazine's News Editor.

You may also know him as Videblogisode Man from the Empire website, and also as the host of The Event Formerly Known As Movie-Con, now known as Big Screen. What's more, he's one of those guys who popped up on Film 2010 every few weeks with a list of tenuously linked films that got everybody cross on Twitter. His talents are literally endless, and on top of all that he's a very nice man.

I met Chris last week at the Empire office where we sat by the kitchen with a nice glass of water and talked rubbish for nearly an hour, thereby delaying next month's issue, for which I apologise. To make up for it, here are the least rubbishy bits of rubbish we said:

What does the Empire magazine News Editor do?
I'm responsible for the news section, so I choose the films and people we cover each month. I set up interviews and conduct a lot of them myself, and I commission news stories, sidebars, photoshoots and whatnot. My job involves a bit of online work as well - I'm meant to bestride both worlds like a Colossus but there's too much to do on the magazine - although I do a lot of video work for the site.
Mr Hewitt researches ideas for the next issue

You've interviewed loads of people. I'm a complete novice. Can you give me any tips?
Relax, do your research, know your subject as well as you possibly can.

Oh dear.
The biggest thing to do in an interview is listen. It seems obvious, but you do get nervous and you won't listen to what someone's saying because you're too busy thinking about your next question. Just have a conversation.

Righto. I wasn't actually listening to any of that because I was too busy thinking about my next question, which is this: What's the worst interview you've ever done? Don't say this one.
My worst interview was, and always will be, Woody Harrelson. It was a Public Access interview, which is a feature we used to do where readers sent in questions. I went to this hotel, it was pissing down with rain and he was late. When he walked in he had a face like thunder, and I thought, I'm in trouble here. I got the stuff about his new film - a dreadful heist comedy called Scorched - out of the way and said, "Right, so this is the Public Access part of the interview, have you been briefed about this?" "No." "OK, well, er, this is the 'quirky questions from our readers' bit, haha". He just treated every question with disdain, giving increasingly terse answers and calling the questions "kinda dumb."
After a few more he went, "Man, if these questions don't get any better I'm gonna have to -" and he pointed at the door, and I'm like, shit. So I looked down at the page in utter panic and I alighted on two questions. One was about his dad being involved in the JFK assassination, and I thought, I am not gonna ask that. I'll ask this one: "So, was Oliver Stone on cocaine when he made Natural Born Killers?" He just stood up, shook my hand and walked off. The publicist came running over saying, "What did you say to him? What did you do?" and they wanted to hear my tape in case I'd just told him to fuck off. I was expecting to be fired, but when I got back to the office they just said well, shit happens, he was in a bad mood, and we never actually ran the interview. I've had bad interviews since but I've never had anything to rival that.

Well, don't worry, there's still today. Let's talk about Big Screen. How was it for you?
I really enjoyed it. Numbers-wise, it was a big success and we're definitely going to look at doing it again next year. Certainly we made mistakes, and we'll learn from those mistakes. Ticketing mistakes were a big thing, scheduling errors too, but we'll look at that, because ultimately we want to give people an experience they can't get anywhere else in this country. From my point of view there were teething problems, but I thought it went really well, and we had a very broad scope of films. Empire's a broad church, and although we get accused of being blockbuster orientated we do try to reflect all sides of cinema. That's what I think Big Screen has over anything else, that scope.

What were your personal highlights?
Interviewing the Muppets wasn't a career highlight, that was a life highlight. The wave of love that greeted Kermit when he appeared on screen was phenomenal, and to have a back and forth with Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy saying dialogue that I had written was just amazing. It doesn't matter how first base the dialogue might have been; I put words into Miss Piggy's mouth and I was fairly happy about that. And the ramshackle things-going-wrong-and-falling-apart element of Big Screen - it's stuff we want to get right next year, but it also makes it funnier.

Now then. The Jack Reacher novels...
Mmmm!

You're a huge fan.
I've got the new book. I'm on page 67. He hasn't punched anyone yet.

So as a Jack Reacher fan and as a film fan, how do you feel about the casting of five-foot-seven Tom Cruise as the six-foot-five Reacher for the forthcoming One Shot?
I've just written a piece for ShortList advocating Tom Cruise as Reacher, which is in no way related to any desire I have to get onto the set of that movie. I know he isn't perhaps quite the physical fit for Reacher that we want, but I can't think of an actor who is. Neeson, maybe twenty years ago. Liev Schreiber, maybe a bit too weasley, Aaron Eckhart if he grew five inches. The Rock, possibly, although he always has a layer of irony going on and Reacher doesn't do irony.

You might as well get someone who can bring star power and will bring an indomitability to the role. I reread One Shot to see how much the action is predicated on Reacher's size, and it's not a lot to be honest, so they might get away with it for this one. [One Shot director] Chris McQuarrie's worked with Cruise before, he knows what he's about and they'll probably go for a more realistic, dialled-down action hero than this man-mountain that [Reacher author] Lee Child has written. The thing with a Reacher movie is that the "right" situation is pretty much screwed up, as in lots of different producers at lots of different studios have a piece of the Reacher pie. There may be nothing to stop another studio launching a rival Reacher film.

Have you written any reviews you'd rather erase from existence?
[Sheepish] You know what I'm gonna say here.

Attack Of The Clones?
Attack Of The Clones. Five stars. Yeah. In fact it has been erased from existence: if you go on the Empire website you will not find a five star review of Attack Of The Clones.

Are you allowed to rewrite history like that? Isn't it a bit 1984?
Of course we're allowed to do it, it's our website! You know, we get things wrong all the time but that one definitely stands out. It was on the verge of getting four stars and I lost my nerve at the last minute. It's not even a very well written review, it's dreadful. It's gonna haunt me to my dying day.
What would you give it now then?
Being generous, three stars. When I watch it now it's with a magnifying glass, trying to see the things I found five-star-worthy, and I don't see anything. I think the Yoda lightsabre fight was the main cause of the five stars. I'm a bit of a prequel apologist and I will happily defend The Phantom Menace, but Attack Of The Clones is so bland and processed. The green screen work is possibly the worst in the prequel trilogy. It doesn't hold up and I'm embarrassed about that review.

Could you rustle up a Top 5 films of all time?
I could rustle up a Top 1 of all time - Evil Dead II. It's astonishing. Someone once described Dennis Bergkamp as being able to put a football on a postage stamp from forty yards, and I think Sam Raimi is like that with cameras. That's a bit tortuous but it's phenomenal, I love it to pieces. It's funny, it's scary, he does things with the camera that no director should even attempt, but he pulls it off amazingly, and Bruce Campbell is just brilliant. What else? Erm... John Carpenter's The Thing, Die Hard, The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws... all that stuff.

What are your picks for the London Film Festival?
The Artist. I've seen it already but I want other people to see it. Film of the year so far. Also The Descendants, Coriolanus, A Dangerous Method... I'm hearing great things about Shame. It looks like a good, solid year. The only criticism I'd have would be that a lot of films have already premiered at other film festivals, which is a bit of a shame. The LFF has the potential to be one of the world's premier festivals and I don't know whether it's quite there. They do well in terms of getting big names there, though - I'm sure Clooney will be there again.

I'm hoping Ryan Gosling will be.
Yes. He is good. Maybe he could play Reacher? No, he's too small. They'd never cast somebody smaller than Reacher to play Reacher, that would be stupid.

Will you be back for Film 2011?
Yep, I got the call. It's back in October. I can't be any more precise than that. I'm delighted to be a part of it, I grew up watching that show. I was at a BBC Films party in Cannes this year and I was three feet away from [former Film Programme reporter] Tom Brook, and I had a massive spazz-out because I couldn't believe I was standing near Tom Brook. He's a legend.
Tom Brook, legend.

I'm not sure I'd recognise him unless he was standing in the middle of Times Square.
I think he lived on that traffic island. He was just some hobo they woke up every week and he looked around at all the cinemas then talked about whatever was on. Did you know Tom Brook was the BBC reporter on the scene after John Lennon's murder? He must have some way better stories than mine. I wasn't at the murder of John Lennon. For the record. Or was I?

No, you weren't. But you are a film star.
Am I?

According to the Internet Movie Database, you played 'Drunken British Slob' in Hostel Part II.
I fucking did, yes!

Now, you're a teetotaller, so, either you're a great actor or you just got really shitfaced.
No, the camera just started rolling, and Chris Hewitt disappeared and 'Drunken British Slob' appeared. Actually 'Man In Bar' would be more accurate, because I don't actually speak. I don't have anything to do except the worst double take in cinematic history. It's extraordinarily bad. It's worse than the pigeon in Moonraker. God bless Eli Roth for a) putting me in and giving me a credit, and b) putting me on the blooper reel. At the end of the day he said, "All right Hewitt, you can talk to the girl now", so we did a scene of "hilarious" improvisation that ended with me cracking up several times at my own jokes. That must baffle people when they watch the blooper reel. Who the fuck is this guy? Why has he got dialogue? Is this a character that was cut from the film? There was a point where I was going to appear again as the corpse of the Drunken British Slob, but sadly I wasn't good enough to play a dead body. I did a magnificent Fagin at a school production of Oliver! though, so if Eli ever needs me for Hostel! The Musical, then I'm available.
Mr Hewitt is on the left

Who's the most famous person you've stood next to at a urinal?
Simon Pegg.

Were you doing a wee at the time, or were you just watching?
[Uncomfortably long pause] Can I take the fifth? Actually I was waiting. There was a big queue. And I wasn't stood next to him, I was stood behind him. I know that sounds worse. And then he shook my hand and I don't think he'd washed. Maybe it was a comment on something I'd written, who knows? I don't actually think I could stand at a urinal next to a famous person. I don't think I'd be able to go. I'd freeze up. And you wouldn't be able to resist a cheeky glance, let's be honest. What if it was Liam Neeson? Technically speaking, if what you've heard about Liam Neeson is true, you wouldn't actually be beside him, he'd be three feet behind. Unfurling.

How much is a pint of milk?
49 to 55 pence depending on your establishment of choice.

You sound very authoritative.
I don't actually know. I'm bluffing my way through this. Some people actually look that up before we interview them. Ricky Gervais is in the next issue, and he said, "Just to show you I'm not out of touch: a thousand pounds".

Is it true that you're Jennifer Love Hewitt's dad?
No, I'm her third cousin. Leyton Hewitt is her dad. Do you think he's the most famous Hewitt?

Probably, present company excepted. What's your favourite colour?
Red.

That's not very interesting. Nick Frost said "shit".
Shit's not a colour. It's a mood. [Long pause] Red.

Finally, here's a quick fire round.
Ooh, I love these! Red!

I haven't started yet.
Sorry.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Next to the kitchen.

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
Syphillis.

What About Bob?
Also syphillis, he gave it to Baby Jane.

What’s Up Doc?
Whatever he wants.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Can I say syphillis again? No, haemorrhoids.

Dude, Where’s My Car?
In the multi-storey car park near Tottenham Court Road. I advise you move it very quickly because the charges are very high.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Nothing. It's all about the Benjamins.

Shall We Dance?
I've got two left feet, but if you want to, let's go for it.

Quo Vadis?
Uh... Everton nil? I don't even know what that means.

It means "where are you going?"
Really? I might just sit here for a while and reflect.

Fine. Thank you very much!
You're welcome.
Mr Hewitt enjoys a post-interview "reflect" with this month's FHM

Thanks to Chris Hewitt for his time, the staff at Empire for letting me borrow him for bit, and Ali Plumb for the delicious glass of water.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Ryan Gosling Week continues at British cinemas with this film starring Ryan Gosling and some other people who stand near Ryan Gosling but aren't Ryan Gosling, but that's OK because Ryan Gosling is in it and yeah.
Despite being the most irritatingly-punctuated romantic comedy of the year, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is actually one of the best, at least for its first snortingly guffaw-laden hour. It's no Bridesmaids, but thanks to a genuinely funny script and some welcome underplaying from the usually-unfunny Steve Carell, it's as enjoyable a rom-com as you're going to get without being fed the same reheated chick-flick cabbage that the likes of Friends With Benefits expect you to swallow.

Thanks to assured direction by the spellcheck-troubling duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, eight characters with intertwining storylines all get their fair share of screen time, and it's edited well enough so that nobody's off screen long enough to miss them. It also helps that none of the cast try to steal the film from under the noses of their co-stars - although one inevitably does, purely by virtue of being Ryan Gosling.

The Goz, in his first broadly comedic role, proves once again that his powers are without limit, and despite his character being a bit of a misogynist asshat, he's impossible not to like. He's confident, kind to strangers in bars, wears an entire catalogue of incredible suits like he's doing them a favour and mixes an Old Fashioned cocktail in pornographic close-up. I left the film ready to pick out curtains with him and I wasn't the only one.
In non-Gosling news, there are some great touches throughout: a couple of crowd-pleasing uses of slow motion and a bravura shot in a bar set to Goldfrapp's magnificent 'Ooh La La' raise the entertainment levels, and a cheeky plot wrinkle that I was having too much fun to see coming kicks off the final act.

Sadly this is where all the good work unravels and Crazy, Stupid, Love. reaches its own unexpected full stop. The obvious serious psychological problems that have placed some of the characters in the story remain unexplored despite early hints that we might find out why, for example, Gosling a) uses women like disposable cutlery and b) would act so selflessly towards Carell. The script teases a complexity that it's too scared to develop, which feels like a waste of a talented cast. What's more, just as the film was declaring its originality in a crowded market, it blunders into a clichéd finale that comes from nowhere and feels decidedly out of place.

Still, for the most part it's enormous fun and, despite being the least great Ryan Gosling film out this week, is still a new Ryan Gosling film, and should therefore be celebrated for that alone.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Drive

Having scientifically proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Ryan Gosling is officially The Greatest Human Being Alive Right Now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Drive is brilliant. Be warned, though: it's not the "action caper" it's occasionally been mismarketed as, and I'd be surprised if it finds much love in a Friday night audience hoping for something to fill a Vin Diesel-sized gap in their lives. Because Danish arthouse director Nicolas Winding Refn has taken the car heist genre and swapped out its engine for a brooding, noir-as-night heart that beats to the rhythm of an achingly hip Eurosynth soundtrack. Fast 6 Furious this is not.
With lengthy scenes of characters sitting in cars waiting or staring at each other in beautifully-shot silence, Drive relies far more on mood and atmosphere than high-speed chases to get under your skin. That's not to say there's no action, because there is, but when it comes it explodes so viscerally from the simmering heat of the pared-down script that it almost leaves you in shock.

And if Refn and Gosling have employed any kind of philosophy to the creation of Drive, it's that less is more: not just in terms of the unexpected bursts of violence but also the dialogue. Gosling's nameless driver only speaks when he has to, lending every word a chilling significance, and the scenes he shares with Carey Mulligan seem to hang in the air while you infer all sorts of meaning from their near-wordless performances. At times you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching a big screen version of If we don't, remember me, and that's no bad thing.
Hossein Amini's script explores well-worn themes of the darkness within in refreshingly unpredictable fashion, and Refn's visualisation of the light and shade of the characters and situations manifests itself with unfaltering style. Gosling's face is frequently lit from only one side, while his reversible jacket - white on the outside, black on the inside - almost tells his story for him. It would give too much away to describe the fate of the jacket in any detail but rest assured that it's set to take its place alongside Cary Grant's North By Northwest suit and Indiana Jones's leather jacket in the annals of iconic costume design.

Rumbling underneath all this is Cliff Martinez's throbbing score, half heartbeat and half idling engine, perfectly capturing the Los Angeles underbelly setting before occasionally erupting into some of the most perfect '80s-esque electronica this side of Ladytron's greatest hits, and - thanks to one unforgettable tune - questioning what it means to be a real human being, and a real hero.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Win A Sexilicious Face/Off Poster And Tickets To See It At A Cinema Of Your Choice, Providing Your Choice Is Limited To The Stratford Picturehouse

They say good news comes in threes, and guess what? They were right, and here's proof.

Firstly, friends of The Incredible Suit and all round sex machines Sam and Simon of Picturehouse Podcast fame are screening John Woo's illegally entertaining Face/Off at Stratford's Picturehouse cinema on Thursday 29th September, and tickets are but five English pounds each. They'll also be recording a pre-screening podcast in the auditorium, which promises to be both fun and technically challenging. That's not much use if you're nowhere near London though, which brings me to the second bit of good news.

Designer Sam Gilbey, whose previous work for the Picturehomies has included this deeply arousing The Big Lebowski poster, has created another delicious promo for this event, and it looks like this:
Which leads me neatly into the third piece of good news, which is that The Incredible Suit has one of these posters (30 by 40 inches, dimension fans) and two tickets to the screening to give away to the winner of another stupid competition. All you need to do to be in with a chance is complete the following statement:

In Face/Off, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta swap...

a) Faces
b) Faeces

All correct entrants will enter The Arena Of Destiny, from whence a winner will be chosen by some tortuously convoluted method yet to be devised.

Email your answer to me here before, let's say, 10.18pm on Friday 23rd September 2011. Meanwhile, here's some none-more-'90s trailer action to test your underpants' ability to contain your arousal:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

BlogalongaBond Was Just The Beginning

It's nine months since I began BlogalongaBond, my not-dead-yet project to unite bloggers each month in an orgy of James Bond blog posts. It therefore seems natural to announce that after this gestation period, BlogalongaBond has spawned two bouncing baby Blogalongs worthy of your attention, though as siblings go they're about as similar as Charlie and Raymond Babbit.

The first actually arrived back in June, and was borne by Simon Kinnear and his blog Kinnemaniac. BlogalongaRusskie is Simon's seven-month quest to analyse Andrei Tarkovsky's seven feature films. I thought long and hard about joining in with BlogalongaRusskie but when I realised it would mean sitting through Mirror again, possibly the single most tedious film I've ever put myself through, I decided to give it a miss. Solaris is all right though.

If you'd like to join Simon's big Russian adventure, here's the schedule of films to watch and blog about. You've got some catching up to do though:
  • June: Ivan’s Childhood
  • July: Andrei Rublev
  • August: Solaris
  • September: Mirror
  • October: Stalker
  • November: Nostalgia
  • December: The Sacrifice

This month also sees the birth of another blogging marathon much further up my street: The Movie Evangelist's BlogalongaMuppets, whose proud mother is Mark Liversidge. Like BlogalongaBond, it's timed to culminate with the release of a new film in its franchise, specifically next February's aces-looking but unimaginatively-titled The Muppets. If you've got some kind of internet outlet and fancy banging on about felt animals with hands up their arseholes, here's when to do what:
  • September: The Muppet Movie
  • October: The Great Muppet Caper
  • November: The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • December: The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • January: Muppet Treasure Island
  • February: Muppets In Space and The Muppets
I'll probably give this a crack seeing as I've only seen The Muppet Christmas Carol and found it to be unspeakably delightful, by which I mean I cried like a baby at the end.

If, like Simon and Mark, you too would like to have blogsex with The Incredible Suit so I can father your BlogalongaBaby, just let me know. I'm pretty easy and promise not to continually ask why you never call, although I will expect you to pay for dinner.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

At last, a film to celebrate. A film that's "brilliant", "flawless" and, as they say, "the film event of the year" (unless you count, say, the London Film Festival. Or the Oscars). A spy film that doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator with frenetic editing and dumb set-pieces where rogue agents kill each other with towels and keep falling from heights.

A film that's complex, detailed and subtle, that relies on the nuanced skills of its cast to move the story on. A film that actually eschews traditional notions of comprehensible plotting in favour of having its cast portray an inscrutable air of mystery in order to bluff, double-bluff and double-reverse-counterbluff the audience, each other and themselves.

A film that actually dares to make no sense at all to anyone unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the source material or dim enough not to have a degree in Advanced Plot Disentanglement from the University of Confusingly Impenetrable Nonsense. A film that divides the audience into three clearly defined camps: those who get it (the smallest group), those who don't get it, and those who don't get it but are scared to admit it.

A film so unwaveringly baffling that when its Big Reveal finally comes, it has absolutely zero effect because it's nigh-on impossible to work out what's led us to this conclusion. A film that, thanks to director Tomas Alfredson's Scandinavian stylistic traits, looks absolutely fantastic but may as well be in his native Swedish for all the sense it makes.
Bravo. Five stars. I didn't understand a word of it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Why Ryan Gosling Is The Greatest Human Being Alive Right Now

I think it's fair to say, on behalf of all rampantly heterosexual males, that we would all go gay for Ryan Gosling in a heartbeat. I know men who do nothing but drink beer, watch football and shag women 24/7 but when I show them the trailer for Drive they immediately start talking about what a delight it would be to share a soapy shower with The Gozbox and how willing they would be to pick up the soap in the event that it slipped out of Ryan's manly hands, and who can blame them? The man's a god.

If you're yet to have your eyes opened to the glory of Gos, then let me be your guide for the next few minutes. If you're not in the process of constructing a shrine to him by the end of this post then you're either dead inside or in denial.

He's bloody good at his job
I could just list all of Gosling's performances as reasons he's amazing, but his dual role in the heartbreakingly beautiful and brutal Blue Valentine as Dean, a man at both ends of a doomed relationship, is the most mesmerising. He's also sympathetic and convincing (without looking like a nutter) as a man in love with a sex doll in Lars And The Real Girl, he's the best thing about the woeful Fracture and the forthcoming Crazy, Stupid, Love and he's effortlessly cool in Drive. I could go on, but the thing to do would just be to add his entire filmography to your Lovefilm list.

He's got magic hands
In preparation for The Notebook, Ryan built a kitchen table which was used on set. He restored the car he drives in Drive himself. If you left him alone in a forest for a day he could build you a fully furnished log cabin and a boat to sail across the lake in. In fact he could probably build the lake too.


He knows how to spot a turkey
create an avatar
With days to go before filming began on Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, Gosling - having piled on a few pounds and bearded up for the role of Jack Salmon - suddenly left the production, citing the age difference between himself and his character as his reason for bailing. "In fact I left because it became clear I was staring down the barrel of a 32 percenter on Rotten Tomatoes", Ryan never actually said out loud.

On September 23rd, he will own UK cinemas
Not literally, you understand. Although maybe he will, I'm not privy to his spending plans so if he is about to purchase a few British picture houses I'd be none the wiser. What I mean is that he's got two films coming out on the same day, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love, and he's fantastic in both. Furthermore, just a month later he's in George Clooney's political drama The Ides Of March, being all political and handsome. It's interesting that this seems like a treat, whereas Jude Law's forthcoming dominance of late 2011 box office just feels like a chore.

He knows how to wear an incredible suit
While mooching about in Cannes earlier this year, Gozzles managed to look every inch the stud muffin by sporting two beautiful tuxedos - one maroon, one blue, none of your black or white thanks - and what appeared to be his pyjamas but was in fact just a 1940s-esque beach shirt. It's rumoured that every lady - and one or two gentlemen - he looked at while in Cannes fell pregnant as a result.

For more on Ryan's duds, you could do a lot worse than check out this splendid piece at Mr Porter.

He has intimate knowledge of
Sandra Bullock's breasts and vagina
In 2002 RyGoz met Sandra Bullock on the set of Hitchcockian thriller Murder By Numbers and embarked on a year-long romance with her. He was 22, she was 38. The mind boggles at all the things she must have taught him, the jammy bastard.

He does a lot of work for charidee
As well as being involved with the Enough Project, whose modest aim is to end genocide and crimes against humanity, Gozboz has raised awareness of the Darfur crisis by wearing a t-shirt with "darfur" on it. You too can now buy an identical shirt if you think it will make you look like Ryan Gosling, although you may have missed the point.


He's in a band and they're good
Dead Man's Bones - 'In The Room Where You Sleep'

Gosling's ethereal folky band Dead Man's Bones is that rare actor / musician project - one that's not ear-rapingly shit. The band's self-imposed Dogme-esque rules result in endearingly shambolic and spooky tales of ghosts and monsters that sound like Arcade Fire playing a gig in a Mexican graveyard on the Day Of The Dead.

*submits paragraph to Q Magazine, awaits cheque*

He broke the Ryanometer
A while ago I invented the Ryanometer, a device designed to scientifically calculate and compare the amazitude of the world's two greatest Ryans, Gosling and Reynolds. When Buried came out it was a close-run thing, but thanks to the unparalleled awfulness of Green Lantern and the triple-whammy of Blue Valentine, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love, the Ryanometer now lies shattered and irreparable at my feet.

He's a real life hero
"The guy from The Notebook" recently made headlines by apparently breaking up a street brawl in New York, which immediately conjures images of him wading in with a hammer and meting out some Drive-style justice. Sadly the truth, as captured by an excitable young lady on her phone, more resembles an off-duty sailor interrupting a squabble between two toddlers. Still, SWOON.



Saturday, 10 September 2011

55 Films I'll Be Seeing At The 55th London Film Festival Once I've Cloned Myself And Invented Time Travel

No time for an irreverent introduction with some comedy photoshopping, there are 55 films to get through. Although I should just say that all films are in the order in which they appear in the LFF brochure.

OK? Let's go.

1) 360
The opening night gala is a globetrotting "roundelay of love", whatever that is (Sandra Hebron's words), featuring an impressive ensemble cast (and Jude Law) getting it on with each other. Looking forward to some Hopkins-on-Law action.
2) The Deep Blue Sea
Officially Important Filmmaker Terence Davies' 1950s-set melodrama about unrequited desire will be technically faultless but as it's the closing night gala it may send a celluloid-stuffed audience to sleep.
3) The Ides Of March
George Clooney and Ryan "Oh My" Gosling do knicker-dampening political drama. I will be taking contraceptive pills before viewing because otherwise I will almost certainly get pregnant just by watching.
4) The Descendants
The Cloonz again, in Alexander Payne's Hawaii-set tragicomedy about a man suddenly having to get to know his young daughters who hate him. Obviously he doesn't bring Brad Pitt round for dinner enough.
5) The Artist
Utterly delightful and apocalyptically charming black and white silent film that perfectly captures the magic of silent cinema without yelling "Look at me, I'm a silent film in the 21st Century! Honk honk!"
6Anonymous
Roland Emmerich swaps destruction for deconstruction with a no-doubt ridiculously entertaining look at who actually wrote all that boring twaddle credited to William Shakespeare. My money's on Dan Brown.
7The First Born
The Archive Gala is a 1928 silent drama, lovingly restored by BFI boffins in white coats. It was co-written by Alma Hitchcock (Alfred's wife), so it's the closest we'll get to a new Hitch film until his long-awaited resurrection.
8We Have A Pope
Italo-French comedy about a new Pope suffering a crisis of faith. I've seen about 30 seconds of it and that made me do a LOL, so at 104 minutes there should be 208 solid ROFLs in there. Maths innit.
9A Dangerous Method
If you don't want to see a new David Cronenberg film starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel then you can get out right now. Go on, get out. And don't come back.
10Shame
Fassbender again, as a man suffering with a terrible compulsion to have sex with everyone and everything. More exciting than the fact that it's a new Steve McQueen film is that it stars James Badge Dale, aka Chase from series 3 of 24.
11W.E.
It's compulsory to see this new Madonna-directed film about Wallis Simpson, even though it's almost certainly self-serving bunk, otherwise you can't speak with authority about how utterly cack it may or may not be.
12We Need To Talk About Kevin
The movie adaptation of That Book Everyone Was Reading On The Tube A Couple Of Years Ago went down well in Cannes, so LFFers are duty-bound to agree or we'll look like moronic philistines.
13The Kid With A Bike
I suppose I should know a bit about white-hot directors the Dardennes Brothers, but I don't. Apparently they're Belgian and they make films, like Hercule Poirot. This one's about a kid. With a bike.
14Tales Of The Night
Stunning animation brings six tales of fantasy together in this French flick that's the LFF's Family Gala. Apparently director Michel Ocelot is "the master of French contemporary animated cinema". So there.
1550/50
Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in this rib-tickling tale of a man diagnosed with cancer. Could this be another step on Rogen's path to becoming a non-annoying tit? Christ I hope so.
16Alps
The latest film by Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos promises to be just as baffling, arresting, intriguing, unsettling and shocking as its predecessor. I haven't thought of any good mountain puns yet.
17The Awakening
Creepy haunted house stuff with Dominic West and Rebecca Hall. Apparently references The Innocents and The Others, which is exactly the kind of low-level horror I can take before I have to shut my eyes.
18Bernie
Richard Linklater and Jack Black reunite for the first time since School Of Rock in this comedy about an assistant funeral director in Texas. First critic to use the phrase "puts the fun into funeral" gets shot.
19Carnage
Roman Polanski's newie about the worst dinner party ever held sees another dream cast of Oscar bait get their acting on. And it's only 79 minutes long, which is good news when you're hoping to see 55 films.
20Dark Horse
Todd Solondz brings us dysfunctional disasters waiting to happen in this story of a 30-something man living with his parents and trying to fall in love with OH WHO CARES, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN'S IN IT!
21Footnote
This innovatively-shot Israeli black comedy about a bitter father-son rivalry won the award for Best Screenplay at Cannes this year, just after The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wrote "it may not get a prize". LOL.
22The Future
Miranda July writes, directs and stars as a commitment-phobic 30-something in this probably-weird film narrated by a cat. I think it's the same cat from Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, but I might be wrong. It's happened before.
23Headhunters
I saw the trailer for this Norwegian film at Empire's Big Screen event and it looks like the kind of action-packed thriller that shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the LFF. See it now before it's remade.
24Hunky Dory
Minnie Driver plays a drama teacher in Swansea in 1976, attempting to put on a rock version of The Tempest with a reluctant cast of students. You can tell from the title and synopsis that the soundtrack will rule all.
25Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life
Herzog-directed documentary in which the German fruitcake interviews muderers on death row. Interesting in anyone else's hands, this promises to be incendiary with The 'Zog at the helm.
26Like Crazy
Drama about a long-distance relationship between Star Trek's Anton Yelchin and Chalet Girl's Felicity Jones. Probably not as awesome as a Star Trek / Chalet Girl crossover would be, but it went down well at Sundance.
27Martha Marcy May Marlene
I am contractually obliged to mention that star Elizabeth Olsen is the Olsen sister that isn't one of the Olsen Twins. Elizabeth is in this film about a girl who escapes from an unpleasant cult, Mary-Kate and Ashley are an unpleasant cult. ZING.
28Michael
Punishingly dark, bleakly chilling and painfully uncomfortable, this film about a man and his cellar-bound captive ten-year-old promises to be the lighthearted knockabout romp of the Festival, if you're Josef Fritzl.
29Miss Bala
This Mexican actioner about a girl sucked into the Baja underworld looks as tense as I don't know what and judging by the BFI's write-up, promises to be all thriller, no tortilla. That works, right?
30Rampart
Woody Harrelson is a dirty cop in a post-Rodney King LA in this James Ellroy-scripted crime thriller. Could be the one to put Harrelson back to his Kingpin career best. Remember the bull's semen scene? Great days.
31Restless
More cancer fun in Gus Van Sant's tale of two young lovers. The BFI write-up uses words like "delicate", "melancholy", "airy", "whimsy" and "swoony". Stars Vin Diesel and The Rock.
32Sarah Palin - You Betcha!
Nick Broomfield's latest doc sticks its shotgun into the barrel and takes aim at the distinctly fishy Sarah Palin. Probably not quite the crackpot-off it would be if Werner Herzog was directing, but you can't have everything, can you?
33Snowtown
An Australian crime drama that takes a true story as its starting point and is the feature debut of a promising young director, Snowtown's apparent similarity to Animal Kingdom will be either its making or its breaking.
34The Surprise Film
The Iron Lady? Haywire? Tintin? Straw Dogs? Moneyball? Hugo? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? War Horse? The Woman In Black? Piranha 3DD?
I DON'T KNOW DO I?
35Take Shelter
The soon-to-be-massive (not literally) Michael Shannon is plagued by apocalyptic visions in this gloomy-looking Cannes-pleaser. Maybe he's predicting the surprise film will be Adam Sandler's Jack And Jill.
36Terri
Azazel Jacobs' sweet-natured comedy about a chubby outcast teen's relationship with his teacher (John C Reilly) is possibly the only film at the LFF whose director shares his first name with one of the X-Men.
37This Must Be The Place
David Byrne-soundtracked road trip with Sean Penn in drag as an oddball rock star on the way to visit his sick father. I used to go to a nightclub in Stoke-On-Trent called The Place. I hope it's the same one.
38Wuthering Heights
The only reason I'm interested in this retelling of the famous Kate Bush song is because it's directed by Andrea Arnold, who I love but still haven't forgiven for the time I watched Red Road with my mother-in-law. It was enough to put a man off oral sex for life.
39Dreams Of A Life
True story about the discovery of the body of a woman in her flat, who had been decomposing for three years with the TV and heating on before anyone noticed. Directed by Carol Morley, for the two of us who saw her film Edge at LFF2010.
40Junkhearts
Good old British miserablist social drama about three troubled characters doing stuff that troubled characters do in British miserablist social dramas. One of them is Eddie Marsan though so you are required to see it.
41Wild Bill
Who'd have thought it? A film directed by Press Gang's Spike Thomson! Dexter Fletcher's debut looks to be more British miserablist social drama, WOO HOO, but starring Will Poulter instead of Eddie Marsan.
42The Fairy
French bonkersness which looks to be as delightful as Amélie, though almost certainly won't be as good. Features an underwater ballet with pastic-bag jellyfish, apparently. Those crazy Frogs!
43Last Screening
This film about a psychotic, possibly murderous cinema projectionist not only looks as blackly comic as American Psycho (only French) but also looks set to confirm everything I ever thought about cinema projectionists.
44Nobody Else But You
Delightfully titled Poupoupidou in its native France, this is a dramedy about a crime writer, new in a town where there's just been a convenient death and everyone has something to hide. Spoiler: Marilyn Monroe did it.
45Dreileben
I might be utterly mental in wanting to see this trilogy of German films linked by an escaped sex offender, but I'm a sucker for experiments like this. Although if the first one's rubbish I'll be heading to the Benugo Bar for a pint of sausage rolls.
46Curling King
If anyone can do comedy about a reformed middle-aged curling team competing for a national prize, it's those cheeky Norwegians. I prefer their original title though: Kong Curling. Especially if you say it straight after Curling King.
47Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
There's always room for Ghibli-esque Japanimation at the LFF, and this tale of girl-meets-boy-but-boy-turns-out-to-be-superhuman-monster-slaying-warrior-from-the-land-of-Agartha is this year's.
48The Dish And The Spoon
Almost certainly painfully hip indie with Greta Gerwig embarking on an unconventional relationship with Olly Alexander. You know, him off of Bright Star and Enter The Void. I think I just cut myself on its hipness.
49Let The Bullets Fly
A massive crowd-pleaser at the LFF press launch, featuring as it does train robberies, shootouts, explosions and CHOW YUN-FAT, bwoyee! It's 132 minutes long though, so will almost certainly outstay its welcome.
50Mitsuko Delivers
Follow-up to LFF2010's Sawako Decides, which I wanted to see but didn't. Hopes are therefore low in terms of my attendance, but this dramedy about a heavily-pregnant teen cheering everyone up sounds sickeningly adorable.
51Natural Selection
Described as Coenesque and Hawksian by the BFI, this story of a dutiful Christian housewife making some surprising revelations about her family stars Napoleon Dynamite's Uncle Rico. Instant five stars.
52Superheroes
At last, someone's made a documentary version of Kick-Ass and Super. The true stories of real-life costumed vigilantes like "Mr Extreme" and "Thanatos" promise to be comic and tragic in equal measure.
53The Machine That Kills Bad People
Roberto Rossellini's little-seen 1952 comedy makes an appearance in the "Well Old Stuff" strand. It's a delightful tale about a well-meaning but murderous photographer who only kills, uh, bad people. Obv.
54Do The Right Thing
All the short film collections are worth seeing, but if I had to choose two (and I do), the first would be this one, simply for the inclusion of Blue-Tongue Films' Bear, directed by Nash Edgerton.
55The School Of Life
The second would be this one, again solely because it contains Terry Gilliam's typically insane-looking new short The Wholly Family, about an American family in Naples getting into all sorts of surreal shenanigans.



Phew. I hope that was as hard work for you to read as it was to write. If I'm being realistic I'll probably see about fifteen of these, but goddammit I will DO WHAT I CAN to see them all. In the meantime, feel free to browse the other 150-odd at the London Film Festival website. Tell them I sent you, but don't say anything about the 54 images I pinched from them.