Friday, 28 October 2011

BlogalongaBond / The Spy Who Loved Me:
Moore Starts Getting Bond Right

After the relative failure of The Man With The Golden Gun and the departure of co-producer Harry Saltzman from Cubby Brocoli's side, it was time to go back to the last boffo Bond for inspiration. With Ian Fleming only allowing the use of The Spy Who Loved Me's title (and not the story, which you should definitely read), Broccoli simply hired director Lewis Gilbert to virtually remake his previous Bond film, You Only Live Twice, but with Blofeld's name changed to Stromberg, and underwater instead of in space.

Despite all the shameless ripping off of himself, Gilbert delivers a Bond film which, for the most part, exceeds all expectations. It's Bond by numbers, but it's packed to the sprockets with spectacle and cracking action, and by this point we're so used to Bondian ludicrosity that we accept a villain with an underwater base and an indestructible idiot henchman with metal teeth named after a recent hit movie as if we pass them on the way to the shops every weekend.
The plot is, of course, ridiculous and convoluted (Bond must make contact with Sheikh Hosein in order to make contact with Aziz Fekkesh in order to make contact with Max Kalba in order to secure the MacGuffin) and the film's attempts to address the series' by-now-embarrassing misogyny are admirable but doomed to failure when Bond's female Russian "equal", Anya, is played by a plank of wood with tits and is required to completely reverse her stance on passion-driven revenge when Rodge raises one of those magnificent eyebrows.

Still, there is one thing that nobody expected to be as good as it was in The Spy Who Loved Me, and which is still overlooked today, and that's the occasionally surprisingly excellent performance of Roger George Moore. Don't get me wrong, he's still the worst James Bond, but once or twice a ray of brilliance shines through the clouds of crapulousness, and it's those that I'd like to celebrate here.

Where it took Sean Connery three films to find his sweet spot, Moore was comfortable in Bond's horsebit moccasins from the moment he unzipped that Italian chick's dress with his magnetic watch in Live And Let Die. It wasn't until The Spy Who Loved Me, though, that the combination of experience and a few choice nuggets of scripting gave him the chance to show that he was more than just two majestic arches of hair above a pair of twinkling, lecherous eyes. Take his fight with Oddjob-a-like Sandor on a Cairo rooftop: as Sandor holds onto Bond's tie for dear life, you can see Moore calculating how much tie is left before the teetering henchman falls, and the urgency of his questioning and callous dismissal of the bad guy with a brief hand movement are pure Fleming.

Probably Moore's single best moment as Bond comes as Anya reminds him - and us, for the first time since OHMSS - of his dead wife. Bond has clearly locked away all emotion for Tracy somewhere where it can fester in the pit of his soul, and Anya's mention of her causes a chilling reaction. Moore sits back slightly, backing away from a painful memory, then deploys a devastating eyebrow before fixing her with an ice cold stare and cutting her off mid-sentence. He touchingly admits sensitivity about the subject of his widowerhood and then, in an instant, defaults to jovial mode having buried his feelings even further down than before. The exchange lasts just ten seconds but within it Moore gives Bond more depth than in his previous four and a half hours in the role.
The scene also works to signpost a later one, in which Anya and Bond simultaneously realise that it was he who killed her lover in the pre-credits sequence. It's one of the best-written scenes in Bond history, and Moore again rises to the occasion. Bond knows what it's like to lose a loved one, and the weight of his loss and his empathy with Anya is visible even as he turns his back on her. His confession is unapologetic without being insensitive, and when she calmly informs him that she'll be killing him as soon as their mission is over, he gives a barely perceptible resigned nod, as if to say, "yes, I expect you will, and frankly I don't blame you". It's a shame Barbara Bach is so useless because with a better actress to trade off, this could have been one of the series' greatest moments.

Of course Rodge goes on to bugger it up several times during The Spy Who Loved Me, which is all the more frustrating when we know how good he can be, but for a few brief scenes he shows the world that anything Connery's nostrils can do, his eyebrows can do almost as well. But not quite.


The ski jump
Having just pulled off the greatest Bond stunt yet with a car that spins 360 degrees while jumping a river in The Man With The Golden Gun, Cubby Broccoli thinks nothing of immediately topping it with this outrageous piece of amazing nonsense. Directed by second unit chief John Glen, who would later direct five of his own Bond films, the stunt is the equivalent of the franchise pulling its trousers down and waving the world's most enormous cock and balls (with a Union Flag tattooed on the scrotum, natch) in the face of the moviegoing public, who gobbled it up. The parachute gag may be spectacularly dumb, offering any remaining villains a nice, bright target to aim at, but it was exactly what was required of Her Majesty's loyal terrier in Silver Jubilee year.

The music
With the Inland Revenue finding a few unpaid tax bills down the back of John Barry's sofa, it was left to Marvin Hamlisch to drag Bond strutting and pointing into the disco era with some astonishing funksplosions incongruously teamed up with a bit of Bach and Mozart, not to mention Maurice Jarre's Lawrence Of Arabia theme. And when I say "not to mention", I mean "let's not mention it". The score works though, Hamlisch's Cairo club music especially effective, and Carly Simon's title song is a thing of effortless beauty that revels in Bond's genital-waving superiority: baby, he's the best.

Ken Adam's sets
Having had a six-year break from Bond, the man who BUILT A FUCKING VOLCANO is back with his second-greatest ever set: the inside of a mind-bogglingly massive supertanker. You might think that you had a big idea once, but until a major film studio builds the world's largest stage in which to house it and gets Stanley Kubrick in to light it, your idea measures less than one ångström from end to end compared to this one. Go away and don't come back until you're Ken Adam.

Derek Meddings' models
If there's any indication of the breadth of skill involved in the making of The Spy Who Loved Me, it's the juxtaposition of Ken Adam's colossal sets with the models created by Derek Meddings. Meddings, having earned his stripes working on various Gerry Anderson TV series, created scale models of the Liparus (a 60-foot long 'miniature') and the submarines it swallowed, which blended seamlessly with Adam's monstrosities. He even mastered the art of realistic miniature water, which was still frustratingly tricky to get right in ye olde seventies. Combine all that genius (look at the wash behind the Liparus) with an expert knowledge of which lenses to shoot his models with for the most realistic result, and you begin to understand why Derek Meddings was given the Special Achievement Award for special effects at the 1979 Oscars.


And finally: Only a knob gag this terrible could make it into Alan Partridge's greatest ever Bond moment:

While entertaining 'Log Cabin Girl' with his penis, Bond receives an urgent message from M via his Dymotape-spurting watch. Bond dresses and makes to leave.

LOG CABIN GIRL
What happened? Where are you going?

BOND
Sorry darling, something came up.
I'll leave Alan's best friend Michael to sum this one up:


BlogalongaBond will return with Moonraker, God help us

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

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Ides Of March

Everything and everyone in The Ides Of March reeks of so much class that it's a shame the story isn't more interesting. It promises much and delivers most of it, but if it weren't for The Cloonz' solid direction, Gosling's unmatchable amazingness and a supporting cast to die for, there's no way this film would be enjoying its own gala screening at the London Film Festival. And the fact that that's all I can think of to say about it is definitely a reflection on the film and not in any way an indication of my own inadequacies.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #5:
A Dangerous Method / Anonymous / This Must Be The Place

Here it is then: the final dump. It's been a mostly pleasurable experience but it's time to wipe, flush and put the seat down on this year's London Film Festival. Some kind of retrospective of the event might be forthcoming in the next few days, but in the meantime enjoy these final reviews if at all possible, and leave a window open on your way out.

A Dangerous Method
The third film in David Cronenberg's Mortensen Trilogy sees Lord Viggo playing Sigmund Freud, who goes round telling everyone that all their neuroses stem from their unconscious sexual desires while he spends every single shot sucking on a long, fat cigar. Do you see? DO YOU?

Sometimes, though, a cigar is just a cigar, and A Dangerous Method sadly offers little else beyond Michael Fassbender looking perplexed and Keira Knightley playing a mental patient in a way that makes Brad Pitt's interpretation in Twelve Monkeys look like a masterclass in restraint. Cronenberg's trademark visceral violence is here limited to a superficial nick with a letter-opener, with the director opting instead for a dialogue-heavy examination of famed psychologist Carl Jung's Freud-feud and his attempt to repress his natural urges to bend Knightley over the sofa and spank her till her freaky nipples pop out.

While it's always a pleasure to watch Fass, Morty and Vincent Cassel throw their acting shapes all over the screen, and Keira Knightley gives another critic-silencing performance (her chin-thrusting mad act is uncomfortable to watch, but only as uncomfortable as it would be to watch someone in that condition), I can't find much more to recommend this to any non-psychoanalysis fans in the house. I'm not sure what that says about me but I expect it's got something to do with my mother. Thu 27

Anonymous
Did Rhys Ifans write everything that's credited to William Shakespeare? Possibly. Was it all part of a cunning plan to influence the lineage of the British monarchy? Maybe. Was Queen Elizabeth as hot as Joely Richardson in her youth? Apparently. Much more than that I can't tell you, because when everyone's wearing identical ruffs and haircuts and the year 1600 looks uncannily similar to the year 1560 and everyone's called by at least two different names and Ifans and Jamie Campbell Bower look nothing like each other despite playing the same character then it's easy to get baffled right out of the story. Never mind Roland Emmerich, I'm sure there's still a popular tourist destination you haven't blown the shit out of. How about Stratford-upon-Avon? Wed 26, Thu 27
[Alternative one-word review]

This Must Be The Place
If there's another film at this year's LFF that looks as good as this one, I'd like to see it. In fact I'd like to hang it on my wall and stare at it for the rest of my mortal days, because This Must Be The Place, directed by Paolo Sorrentino and shot by punchline-to-a-saucy-Italian-seaside-postcard Luca Bigazzi, is the most stunning-looking thing at the festival that isn't encasing Sandra Hebron's calves.

While it would be unfair to call it a case of style over substance, there is a danger that the cinematography might be the most memorable thing about the film. It depends how low your irritation threshold is where characters who appear to be the love manchild of Forrest Gump and Tim Burton are concerned, because Sean Penn, though excellent, trod dangerously close to the limits for me. And even though it's much funnier than expected, it does try a bit too hard to be wacky at times, coming off more wilfully obtuse just because it can. Still, it's a coming-of-age tale with a difference and contains the greatest filmed performance of the titular Talking Heads song I've ever seen. And I've seen two of them. Wed 26, Thu 27

Monday, 24 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #4:
Junkhearts / The Awakening / Wild Bill

The London Film Festival's still trucking, and I'm still dumping. This is turning out to be one of the longest dumps I've ever had.

Junkhearts
Good old-fashioned British misery porn is back with a vengeance in this heart-freezing tale of an ex-soldier (Eddie Marsan going bat-shit crazy, for once) who semi-befriends a homeless junkie (excellent newcomer Candese Reid), only for things to descend into the kind of unpleasantness that the occupants of every inner city council flat must at some point suffer according to the British film industry.

Even at ninety minutes Junkhearts goes on a bit - there always seems to be time to cram in another woozy, out-of-focus drug-taking sequence - and an ostensibly unconnected subplot feels redundant when it finally ties in to the rest of the film. Having said that, the performances are all great, and there's a grimly realistic cloud of despair hanging over everything, which means when the sun breaks through for the brief and infrequent fun bits, there's a heightened sense of hope.

I'm still not sure what The Observer film critic Jason Solomons thinks he's doing playing a barman in an early scene though; what next, Robbie Collin as a pimp? Alan Frank as a crack dealer? Chris Tookey as an East End mob boss? This madness must end now.

The Awakening
Despite all the amusing photoshopping opportunities afforded by the above still, the awakening of the title does not refer to the arousal from a flaccid state of Dominic West's penis by Rebecca Hall via manual stimulation. More's the pity, because The Awakening could have done with a good wanking scene as light hand relief from some of the overwrought melodrama that seems mandatory in British period films, even when they're about wonky-faced ghost children lurking about in a boys' boarding school.

Hall is pretty good as a 1920s ghostbuster - the opening scenes catch her character mid-mission, like the pre-title sequence of some eerie interbellum Bond film, suggesting a possible franchise for her character: Florence Cathcart: The Spook Spook. Sadly what we get is a fairly bog-standard mystery with a couple of mild scares (the wonky-faced child is really quite disturbing) and a TV-movie conclusion that reveals where Take Shelter got all its ending's ambiguity from - nothing in The Awakening is left unexplained, which stops it just short of being a classy chiller. Harmless fun though, and good to see Imelda Staunton making good post-Potter use of her Dolores Umbridge face. Tue 25, Wed 26

Wild Bill
Dexter Fletcher's East End western, complete with the tower blocks of Newham in place of Monument Valley, a last-act showdown in a saloon and the Playbill typeface plastered all over the titles, is surprisingly good fun considering it deals with many of the issues featured in Junkhearts, but without the all-consuming, crushing sense of despondency that made that film such a LOL riot.

Wild Bill also sensibly stays away from the Guy Ritchie school of filmmaking to which Fletcher, with his useless drug dealers and Jason Flemying cameo, could easily have succumbed. In fact as directing debuts go, Press Gang's Spike Thompson is now destined for the "Ones To Watch" lists alongside the likes of Ayoade and Cornish, despite delivering a much more down-to-Earth film. The Attack The Block comparisons won't end there though: Sammy Williams (ATB's pre-teen terror Probs) is the standout cast member here, and the iconic tracking shot beneath the tower block makes a guest appearance, only this time in daylight.

Wild Bill's underworld crims may not be entirely convincing (I don't know, I've never met any) and Andy Serkis' mob boss is a bit of a cliché, but these are minor gripes that - while undermining the Gritty Social Realism (© Ken Loach & Andrea Arnold plc) - do help to make the film an enjoyable experience rather than the glumfest it could have been. Well done Spike! *pats head patronisingly* Thu 27

Saturday, 22 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #3:
Terri / Martha Marcy May Marlene /
The Artist / Bernie / Curling King

Social misfits and repressive cults are order of the day today, with a little bit of ABSOLUTELY AMAZING SILENT GENIUS thrown in for good measure. Prepare to be Reviewdumped on!

Terri
This borderline-delightful indie comedy about an overweight, resigned-to-loserdom school kid finding unlikely friends gets by on successfully non-irritating quirk, John C Reilly having hella fun again and genuine chuckles throughout. That is, until its vastly misjudged booze 'n' pills-based final act, which undoes everything that came before it and makes you wonder if the writers hadn't been at the same stuff while they were sloppily throwing the end of their film together. Sat 22

Martha Marcy May Marlene
With any luck twats like me will soon stop feeling unable to refer to Elizabeth Olsen without mentioning her appalling sisters The Olsen Twins™, because she really deserves to be accepted on her own terms as a terrific actress - especially after Martha Marcy May Marlene, a disturbing but compelling study of what it means to live by other people's rules.

Cutting between Martha's life inside an abusive cult and her attempt to adjust to living with her sister after escaping, the film edges a little too close to Obvious Juxtaposition territory on occasion but always manages to reign itself in without hitting you in the face with another "Look, life outside a cult is a bit like life inside a cult!"

Filling every washed out frame with simmering tension and sinister unease, Martha Marcy May Marlene has an insidious quality that doesn't let go till the audience-dividing final shot, and even then it maintains a pretty firm grip. Could do with a more reviewer-friendly title though, Jesus.
Sat 22, Mon 24

The Artist
You must be sick to the tits of people banging on about this by now, but the annoying thing is that they're all right. It's not perfect (a peculiar soundtrack choice towards the end will pull anyone half-way familiar with great movie scores right out of the story and into the car park), but it is an utterly charming, wonderful piece of cinema in its purest form. I can't claim to have seen everything at this year's LFF - well, actually I could, but nobody would believe me - but if this isn't the best thing showing then I'll eat my hat, your hat and Jude Law's hat from Contagion. I'm that srs. Sat 22

Bernie
Richard Linklater's gently comedic true story, starring Jack Black as the titular assistant funeral director who becomes peculiarly close to a small town's resident cantankerous old bat, totally belies its director/star pedigree: School Of Rock 2 this is not.

While the real Bernie's story is quirkily fascinating, it doesn't work in this format. Linklater's style and the (mis)casting of Black make it easy to forget it's based on fact, and as a result you spend a long time waiting for something to happen that never does. It's pitched awkwardly between comedy and drama without featuring enough of either, and its chorus of talking heads made up of a combination of real people and actors doesn't help.

Bernie isn't bad, it just never gets out of first gear: it's structured as two halves, and when it threatens to really get going at the half way mark, it instead settles back into a drawn-out fifty minutes as languid as the first fifty. And to waste Shirley Maclaine like this must surely be punishable by thumbscrews or something. Sat 22, Sun 23

Curling King
As good as a Norwegian version of Dodgeball sounds, i.e. not at all. Sat 22, Sun 23

Friday, 21 October 2011

Contagion

Starring:
It's all very well making a film about an epidemic that wipes out thousands of people, and it's all very well making it more about the infectious spread of fear, panic and greed than the virus, and it's all very well avoiding scenes of people dying all over the place in favour of a handful of personal, interconnected stories, but when you've got Jude Law wearing a flat cap and saying "Crikey" in what may or may not be an Australian accent FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, you may as well just watch Outbreak. At least the monkey could act.

That said...
Best post-screening freebie, like, ever.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Naturally predisposed as I am to not reading any book that the entire population of any given tube carriage is also reading at the same time (see also The Da Vinci Code, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, One Day), I was blissfully unaware of the contents of Lionel Shriver's novel We Need To Talk About Kevin before seeing the film. I don't want to get into a long and boring debate about whether or not this is a preferable course of action when viewing literary adaptations, but in this instance I was so overwhelmed with disbelief and horror at one of the film's final-act events that I thanked my lucky stars I hadn't gone anywhere near the book.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (the film) unfolds in an initially irritating fashion: it hops between four different timelines like a malfunctioning DeLorean, and although it does well to clearly let you know where (and when) you are, sometimes you just wish it would decide on one timeline and stick with it for more than a minute or two. But when the aforementioned event rolls around, tying up neatly with the film's very first shot, the effect is devastating and the method in the madness becomes clear.

That's just one of the positive aspects of Lynne Ramsay's direction, and I mention it first because I don't want this review to seem too negative, hence my burial of the next bit in the fourth paragraph, which the tl;dr generation probably doesn't even realise exists.

If you are still paying attention, then you're probably the kind of person who will find Ramsay's constant in-your-face symbolism as annoying as I did, i.e. quite. Tilda Swinton spends most of the film trying to clean red paint off her fingers: could it be that she feels like she has someone's blood on her hands? YES. A snapshot of a happier time in her life takes place in front of a massive UPS truck: could it be that this was one of the "ups" of her life? YES. The soundtrack is riddled with songs about mothers or sons: could it be that this film is about mothers and sons? YES, WE GET IT. If the film was any more heavy-handed it would need anti-gravity gloves.

And the red! There's SO MUCH RED in this film. I'm not thick, I know why it's there, but at times Ramsay's insistence on cramming as much blindingly obvious red stuff into her frame is in danger of becoming distracting:
Fortunately the rest of the film, particularly the performances of Swinton and Ezra Miller as the titular sociopath, is balls-out brilliant enough to forgive it its faults. If the 'nature vs nurture' debate isn't really explored in satisfying depth, then at least the almost unbearable tension of waiting to find out how Kevin's sister lost an eye is excruciating enough to make the film an unforgettable experience.

Ramsay has, by and large, done an amazing job here, and We Need To Talk About Kevin will easily be the film on everyone's lips, rather than the book in everyone's hands, come awards time. Whether or not the whole world talking about it makes you want to see it is a different matter, but you can take it from me that you really should.

*

UPDATE: I wrote this review after several glasses of wine, and reading it back the next day I note that it dwells perhaps a little too intensively on the negatives. Frankly though, I can't be arsed to rewrite it and I'm quite pleased with the anti-gravity gloves bit so you'll have to put up with it. Just to clarify, the film is brilliant. Sorry.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #2:
Carnage / Strawberry Fields / Headhunters / Take Shelter

If you've still got your fingers crossed from yesterday, you can uncross them now: LFF 2011 is getting better already.

Carnage
Based on a French play, Roman Polanski's bite-sized film adaptation makes no attempt to hide its theatrical origins. On a single set over just 79 minutes, four actors exaggeratedly gurn and yell like they're projecting to the cheap seats in a real-time story of the anger, misery, bitterness and disappointment that lurk beneath the surface of middle-class politeness. It's immensely watchable, surprisingly funny (it's got one of the year's best vomit scenes) and doesn't even come close to outstaying its welcome.

A 75% excellent cast make it worthwhile: only Kate Winslet's embarrassing drunk act lets the side down, but watching Jodie Foster screwing her face into a ball of rage in close up (the most obvious benefit of a film version) makes up for it. Unfortunately we never find out much about the characters we don't already know after the first five minutes: their collective arcs just seem to involve going from sober and restrained to drunk and shouty. It's hard to complain about something with such a zippy running time though, and if you can make peace with the stagey feel then Carnage is classy but throwaway entertainment. Wed 19, Sat 22

Strawberry Fields
Sadly not the spin-off about Gemma Arterton's character from Quantum Of Solace (hilarious Bond in-joke) but rather a tedious bit of whiffle about an annoying girl, her annoying sister and the annoying man they fight over while picking annoying strawberries. Recommended for people who like to be annoyed. Wed 19, Fri 21

Headhunters
When you take a step back from a film for a second and look at what you're watching out of context, a shot of a man covered head to toe in human shit escaping from a killer in a tractor with a skewered dog swinging off the front of it is fairly high on the bonkersometer. And while Headhunters doesn't maintain that level of crazy for its entire running time (that would be exhausting), it does repeatedly come up with crowd-pleasingly hellish situations through which to put its hapless protagonist, and it's this that raises it above the standard of most Euro-thrillers.

While the plot isn't watertight and the dull, flat cinematography lets the side down a bit, Headhunters' tale of a semi-professional art thief in over his head (at one point literally, hence the faeces overcoat) barely stops for breath while delivering gruesome thrills and blackly comic LOLzaplenty. I was going to make a joke here about expecting a US remake to have been announced by the time you read this, but in between me writing and you reading it's already happened. Wed 19, Sat 22

Take Shelter
Shit-hot boggle-eyed character actor Michael Shannon gets another chance to headline a film after Werner Herzog's limply-received My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, and he's immensely watchable. When he pops up as General Zod in 2013's Man Of Steel, he'll "steel" that film from under the nose of everyone else in it. STEEL! Ah, dearie me. *wipes eye*

Take Shelter is as weirdly gripping as Shannon's fizzog, despite not much actually going on. His character's apocalyptic visions of an approaching cataclysm are fairly terrifying, and his apparent mounting insanity, which leads him to build a giant metaphor in his back garden, is convincingly portrayed. But while it's definitely About Something, Take Shelter is more interested in building atmosphere and tension than delivering anything as straightforward as an explanation of what's going on. Not that it has to - I'm all for ambiguity, me - but it is likely to cause a lot of head-scratching when it hits multiplexes next month. Fri 21, Sun 23

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #1:
The Machine That Kills Bad People / Oslo, August 31st / Nobody Else But You / Let The Bullets Fly

Right then, here we go. I'll be figuratively squatting on your internet and metaphorically curling out a series of "reviews" of films from this year's London Film Festival over the next week and a bit, so that you can then respond with one or more of the following:
  • "Great! I'll buy a ticket now!"
  • "Great! Now I know not to buy a ticket!"
  • "Great! I've already bought a ticket and am now super excited!"
  • "Balls! I've bought a ticket and now I want my money back!"
  • "I don't care about the London Film Festival! Leave me alone!"
So without further ado, here are two to consider, one to avoid and one you've already missed. Enjoy! Or don't, I don't care.

The Machine That Kills Bad People
As good as it was when I saw it earlier this year in Bologna, not that it matters because the last screening was on Sunday. Sorry.

Oslo, August 31st
A complex and meditative (i.e. catatonically slow) portrayal of a drug addict trying to find his place in the world, reconnect with family and friends and deal with crippling self-loathing, Oslo, August 31st is fairly gruelling stuff. Still, this is the London Film Festival and therefore European orgies of bleakness are the order of the day. This one makes for a fairly interesting character study but I'm hard-pressed to remember much about it a week after viewing, except that there's a man in it who looks a lot like Noel Edmonds. I bet they don't mention that in Sight & Sound. Wed 19, Thu 20

Nobody Else But You
This French comedy drama, about an author investigating the death of a girl who believed she was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, looks lovely but doesn't get nearly interesting enough for anyone to care who did her in, or indeed why anyone in the story should care either. In fact the only thing it really made me want to do was watch Some Like It Hot again.

Destined to be labelled "Coenesque" (it's got some weird characters and some scenes in the snow) and, God help us, "Lynchian" (someone's trying to find out who killed a pretty young girl), Nobody Else But You is definitely influenced by both but ultimately nowhere near as satisfying as either. It's occasionally funny, well-acted all round and has a great soundtrack, but the pedestrian execution of its unoriginal and uninvolving plot means it finds a home in that sadly overcrowded box of film festival films marked "three stars". Thu 20

Let The Bullets Fly
The opening train hijack sequence - in which bandits flip a locomotive in the air head-over-heels (not that trains have heads or heels but you get the idea) - is inspired, but is an all-too-obvious metaphor for the train wreck that follows. Supposedly a battle of wits between a bandit and a mobster (a tragically wasted Chow Yun-Fat) in 1920s China, Let The Bullets Fly becomes more a battle between confusing plotting, messy direction and the audience's patience. The audience loses. Wed 19, Thu 20


Join me again soon for Reviewdump #2! And cross your fingers that it gets better.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

Under normal circumstances, the thought of watching a motion-capture film makes me want to puke shit from my cock. Those creepy characters floating through space occupying a horrific netherworld between the cartoonish and the photorealistic just leave me cold and uneasy, their dead-eyed lifelessness coming across like bad taxidermy but without the LOLs.
Finally though, someone has not only found the perfect subject for mo-cap ["actually I think you'll find we call it performance capture these days in order to distance ourselves from Beowulf" - Peter Jackson], but has done it better than anyone else, and has made it serve the story and the action rather than stick it in your face and hope you don't notice the yawning lack of substance it's trying to hide.

And thank sweet zombie Jeebus that that person is Steven Spielberg, finally atoning for the heartbreaking Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull with The Adventures Of Tintin, a film that finally sees him relaxing and having fun like we haven't seen him do since Jurassic Park.

It's no coincidence that Tintin contains several nods to Old Beardy Features' greatest hits: Jurassic Park, Jaws and - most obviously - Indy are all referenced in such a way that it's like he wants us to know that he's rediscovered his mojo, and while this film doesn't hit the heights of those masterpieces, it's still a welcome return to vintage 'bergery. A lengthy chase through the streets of a Moroccan port done in a single shot, with the camera flying through impossible spaces, is easily a contender for action set-piece of the year.
From the ingenious Catch Me If You Can-ish titles through to John Williams' cockle-warming end credits music, The Adventures Of Tintin is classic rollercoaster filmmaking. The mix of breakneck action and considered sleuthing is spot-on, and with the running time a breezy 107 minutes, Peter Jackson's sequel is a mouthwatering proposition. There's room for improvement next time, though: Tintin himself is a little bland in this film, with all the backstory and character depth going to Captain Haddock's whisky-soaked sea-dog, and bumbling fattards Thomson and Thompson feel like they've been shoehorned in to please hardcore Hergé fans rather than to add much to the story.

Still, with a pleasing amount of gunplay and a surprising amount of alcoholism, The Adventures of Tintin at least feels like it's been made for kids and adults without resorting to tiresome winks at the older audience, and there's so much detail packed into the frame that repeat viewings are destined to prove rewarding.

The cast do an excellent job too: they've been chosen for their talent rather than their recognisable voices, so The Clooney Effect is avoided and at no point does the image of Daniel Craig leaping about in an all-in-one lycra suit leap to mind. Unless of course you want it to, and so what if I do you do?
A pleasant surprise, then, for someone who a) usually can't bear mo/perf/whatever-cap, b) didn't give a parp about Tintin beforehand and c) had all but given up on Steven Spielberg. In fact The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn is almost good enough to persuade me not to mention how pointless the 3D is. Only almost, mind.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Semi-Naked Old Man Birthday Nipples Of The Week #2

84 today and still he hasn't played (or indeed been made) the Prime Minister. What kind of a world do we live in?

Made Up Reviews 4.0: Live Free Or Make Up

As another week trundles by with a bunch of releases I haven't seen, it's time to fall back on the old ideas again and make up a load of balls that's of no use to anyone, anywhere. I think this feature might be single-handedly responsible for Rotten Tomatoes' stubborn refusal to let me on their list of so-called "Top Critics".

First Night stars long-faced ham Richard E Grant and ageing warbler Sarah Brightman as Adam and Eve, and is an explicit, X-rated account of the events that occurred on their first night in the Garden of Eden. With thought-provoking scenes of temptation, desire and eye-watering fisting, First Night goes where few biblical epics fear to tread. The BBFC have cut sixteen minutes from the ejaculation scene for "extreme slapstick violence". Nicolas Cage plays the snake.

Dolphin Tale stars Morgan Freeman as Dolphin "Dolph" Lundgren in this daring biopic about the marine mammal who famously became human after swallowing a magic turtle or something. The movie focuses on Dolphin's journey to becoming an action star with the body of an adonis and the brain of a cetacean, and reveals fascinating hitherto unknown facts. For example, I had no idea he was paid in mackerel for playing He-Man in Masters Of The Universe, or that he once broke Sylvester Stallone's nose after Sly stuck a banana in his blowhole.

Albatross is a documentary about the crazy life of movie star Jessica Alba's world-famous bottom which, for the sake of this feature, she has always referred to as her tross. Features previously unseen footage of the Alba tross from its early days being sat on for a living, through its difficult teenage years when it started to develop its undeniable talent but hid from a public unable to legally admire it, right up to the fateful day where it met its soulmate in Alba's Fantastic Four lycra outfit. Nice to look at but essentially full of shit.

Footloose is a remake of the classic '80s film about Ren, a man born with Jellyankles, a rare medical condition which renders the feet permanently loose and uncontrollable. When Ren's girlfriend Louise pulls him off of his knees his troubles deepen, and it becomes a race against time for his best mate Jack to get back before all his leg joints fail and he literally cracks. This version stars a bunch of nobodies and THE QUAID, who staunchly refuses to remove his Sunday shoes in a cavalier fashion.

Real Steel stars Hugh Jackman as a debt-ridden steelworker who, in an act of mad desperation, makes off with all the steel from his factory and replaces it with papier-mâché painted to look like steel. He gets away with it until a skyscraper built with the fake steel collapses, killing thousands, and now the police and probably the mob and maybe also some aliens are after him and the real steel. In an astonishing twist it turns out he's actually a robot made of steel and could have paid off all his debts by selling his hi-tech detachable penis to a time-travelling Japanese inventor.