Friday, 28 February 2014

Indie band biopic of the week: The Killers

Droning Vegas rockers The Killers will be happy this week: the biopic of their early days as impeccably dressed hitmen is released on Blu-ray, and bloody great it is too. The Killers stars Lee Marvin as Brandon Flowers and the improbably-named Clu Gulager as guitarist Dave Keuning, and shows the pair during their time in the early 1960s scraping a living as sharp-suited guns for hire.
Smile like you mean it.

Focusing on one of their most intriguing jobs, The Killers tells the story of Johnny North, the racing driver Flowers and Keuning are paid to bump off, and their ill-advised involvement in his affair with a femme fatale. It's a gorgeous, colourful post-noir gem with some truly delicious costume design and a cracking soundtrack which bizarrely, but mercifully, features none of the band's hits.

Notable for co-starring Ronald Reagan in his final film role as Flowers' nemesis Sam Endicott from The Bravery, The Killers is both a terrific sixties crime caper and a document of a little-known period of the band's formative years. Far more entertaining than the 2010 remake starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, and with a gorgeous HD presentation by Arrow Films, The Killers is highly recommended to all fans of classic cinema and wearisome noughties indie.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Steve McQueen to release one Solomon Northup film a year for the next ten years

Arthouse director Steve McQueen yesterday announced that he intends to make one film a year for the next decade based on the adventures of Solomon Northup, the plucky hero who overcame adversity to tear slavery a new asshole in Oscar fave Twelve Years A Slave. Hot on the heels of similar announcements from Disney and Marvel regarding their intentions to release one Star Wars and Spider-Man film - or spin-offs thereof - every year for the foreseeable future, McQueen says that he believes Northup could also become a screen legend for the next generation of cinemagoers.

Work has already begun on Solomon Northup: Shadow Recruit, which will once again see Chiwetel Ejiofor don the rags and tatters of his beleaguered character in a yarn which sees Northup return to Washington to hunt down his captors, only to inadvertently invent the CIA. Further instalments are also in the pipeline, with Northup expected to go into space for Solomon Northup III: Mission To Mars, in which he helps to free the indigenous Martian slaves using the skills he acquired in his origin story.

Thereafter McQueen says he is unsure where Solomon will go next, but he hasn't ruled out the chances of spin-off movies for other franchise characters such as Master Ford: The Good Slaver starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Bass: A True American Hero (From Canada), starring Brad Pitt; nor an Edwin Epps prequel in which Michael Fassbender's drunken, confused racist travels back in time and gives his younger self his first taste of liquor.
Italian distributors have alredy begun work on their poster
art for Bass: A True American Hero (From Canada)

It is also understood that Disney have expressed interest in buying the rights to Solomon Northup, which would allow McQueen to achieve his long-held dream of a crossover movie with the Pixar franchise. "I'd love Solomon to team up with The Incredibles at some point," the director commented. "His special power would be to generate hope where there is none, and that could prove invaluable when Bob Parr and his family go up against The Underminer."

Monday, 24 February 2014

Harold Ramis
1944-2014

"Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and
every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light."
- Dr Egon Spengler, Ph.D., Ghostbusters

Anchorman 2 to be re-released with jokes

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA COATS

News has reached The Incredible Suit that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is due to receive a re-release in cinemas this weekend, this time with jokes. The film was originally released in December, but in a bold move for a comedy, writers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay chose not to put anything funny in it, instead relying on shouting and colossal idiocy to evoke laughter from an audience so in love with the original that they would watch literally anything with Ferrell sporting a bushy moustache, even a series of equally joke-free car commercials.

Asked whether the new version's jokes would be carefully crafted by skilled comedians, as is usually the case in comedic movies, one of the film's creators told us: "Unlikely. We just tend to yell as many non-sequiturs as we can think of at each other until the crew goes home, then we pick one at random and stick it in the film. In theory we could make about eighty versions, each with a different script, each as hilarious as each other." The re-release has garnered an 'R' rating in the US, indicating that the comedy goldmine that is swearing has been plundered for its guaranteed hilarity value.

Rumours that the new version of Anchorman 2 will also excise the entirely unnecessary and laughless act in which Ron Burgundy goes temporarily blind, consequently alienating and reconnecting with his friends for approximately the fourth time in the franchise, are currently unfounded. It is understood, however, that the "news team fight" sequence has been extended even further, now running at a full hour and including cameos from whichever actors happened to be passing the studio, because there is nothing not funny about taking the first film's best gag and flogging it until it bleeds.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

That's Rogertainment! Rogisode 2:
Bed & Breakfast

In my quest to watch every Roger Moore film ever except SpiceWorld, my "research" brought me to this unheard-of curio: a 1992 romdramcom starring Colleen Dewhurst, Talia Shire and Nina "Casey Siemaszko from Back To The Future's sister" Siemaszko as three generations of a family living in a dilapidated B&B in the sleepy seaside town of Peelers Point, Maine. Siemaszko's Cassie is a sixteen-year-old wannabe musician (specialising in the electric violin, natch) with a randy boyfriend who's clearly been watching a lot of Jason Priestley in Beverly Hills 90210, but her mother Claire (Shire) and grandmother Ruth (Dewhurst) are both single, lonely and in need of a good roger. Turns out it's their lucky day.
Washed up (no pun intended) on their beach is a mysterious Englishman who claims to have no memory of who he is or how he got there. Naturally, rather than inform the police, they take him into their home, call him Adam and make him their handyman - much to the annoyance of Amos and Randolf, two local men who were hoping to put their own tools to use with Ruth and Claire respectively. Adam turns around the fortunes of the B&B using a winning mixture of charm and bullshit, and simultaneously fixes the emotional issues of three women incapable of sorting their own lives out without the help of a smooth-talking fanny magnet. I haven't checked but I don't think this film is a mainstay of feminist film theory.

What Ruth, Claire and Cassie don't know is that Adam is a con artist, whose arrival on the beach resulted from being beaten up and lobbed off a yacht during the night by a troupe of achingly early '90s bad guys, all wide suits, slicked back hair and t'ai chi. Their pursuit of him throughout the film is half-hearted and comedically sinister, as if they've inadvertently wandered in from a terrible Jean Claude Van Damme film (The Quest, perhaps). Despite all that Bed & Breakfast isn't painfully unwatchable: as an inoffensive family drama it's fine; it's just nowhere near as crude and chucklesome as this amazingly-taglined poster suggests:
Baffling in so many ways.

Prompted by the translation of the film's bizarre German title Agenten Leben Einsam (Agents Live Alone), I discovered that Bed & Breakfast is automatically improved if you imagine that "Adam" is in fact a British spy called, I dunno, James Bond or something, left for dead and either genuinely suffering from amnesia (as in the novel of You Only Live Twice) or going deep undercover to avoid detection. The only problem with this interpretation is that Adam only explicitly nobs the middle-aged mother (it's implied he might have had a go on the grandmother, who's actually the same age as Rodge), whereas if he were Bond he would have no doubt balled the daughter as well just to complete the set.

In terms of Rogertainment, Bed & Breakfast begins well with the aforementioned scrap on a yacht, which features a surprising amount of Roger Moore doing his own fighting. Given that just a few years previously he practically cameoed in his last Bond film, this is somewhat disconcerting, but happily it's not long before there's a shot in which a stuntman who bears absolutely no resemblance to Rodge is required to take his place:
Pretty sure that's actually Timothy Dalton

He gets a couple of chances to deploy a raised eyebrow and a double entendre: the best is probably when Claire mentions that Randolf could quite easily clear out the septic tank, and Adam asks "When did he last give you a thorough flushing?", which is funny until you realise the innuendo requires you to compare Talia Shire's vagina with a large container of sewage. Still, this is a film littered with odd lines: Cassie says her dream of playing the electric violin on a tightrope "would be the ultimate post-nuclear statement", while Ruth berates her frigid daughter by growling "The only person around here that can't deal with the fact that there's a penis in the house... is YOU", a line which has mystifyingly and sadly never cropped up in a movie quotes quiz to my knowledge.

On the negative side, Rodge at one point decides to go all Goodness Gracious Me by putting on an excruciating Indian accent while talking about how he once made a curry, and for large parts of the film sits around in a chair being waited on. There is a splendid montage of him fixing up the house though, which includes this excellent reaction to the timeless whoops-a-daisy-I've-hammered-my-own-thumb-intead-of-the-nail gag:

Perhaps the ultimate test of the lasting impact of any of Roger's films is to see how fondly he recalls them in his excellent autobiography, My Word Is My Bond (if you look really closely, you can see what he did there). Sure enough, on page 327, there it is:
"I was lured in as an executive producer [...] I should have held out for a better fee and given up the credit."
One for the ages, I think we can all agree.

Rogerating:

The point of all this, such as it is, is explained here.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Her

Stories about people having relationships with technology are nothing new (I could tell you a few unprintable ones about teenage me and my 128K Spectrum +2); nor are stories about the blurring of lines between artificial intelligence and human emotions - look at such cultural milestones as Blade Runner, A.I. or D.A.R.Y.L. for proof. So the tale of a man in love with his computer's operating system is hardly going to be groundbreaking in a time when you're never more than six feet away from another Philip K Dick adaptation. Unless, of course, you put that tale in the hands of someone like Spike Jonze. As you might expect from a man who refuses to even spell his name conventionally, Jonze has gone and made a film about our relationship with tech which isn't about our relationship with tech at all. It's about our relationship with each other, and nothing less than the nature of love itself.

Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore: a divorced, lonely man who whose floppy drive is hardened by his new OS, which names itself Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Imagine a breathy, sexy, less murderous HAL from 2001 and you're kind of there. The concept appears, on the surface, to be a self-righteous snark at those of us who spend more time gazing at and fondling our phones rather than other people, but it soon transforms into something else entirely: a genuine, heartfelt love story, and one far more convincing than most of cinema's current romantic pish.
Look how fucking hot ScarJo is in this.

Effortlessly conveying the core problem with human interaction - that humans are confusing, complicated, terrifying fuckers - Her deftly renders the notion that someone might want to have it off with their PC completely non-ridiculous. Theodore and Samantha's affair is entirely convincing in context; after all, the concept of falling in love is bonkers enough - how much crazier can it be just because it's with a software package? The film even approaches the long-in-the-tooth question about whether an artificial intelligence is capable of genuine emotions with refreshing intimacy, honesty and tenderness.

But it's Jonze's smart, witty script's ability to make us look at ourselves and how we treat, respect, upset and deceive each other that's at the heart of his film. I don't want to get all Dear Deidre on your asses but Her might be the best film for couples to go and see to help them understand each other a bit better. Releasing it on Valentine's Day is a masterstroke; it's the perfect date movie to take either your partner or your iPad to.

It's a little overlong and won't win over detractors of a certain whimsical style of indie filmmaking of which Jonze is occasionally guilty, but Her is a clever, sweet, unpredictable and often surprisingly funny love story which could easily have come across as mean-spirited satire in less skilled hands. And, if nothing else, it's finally proved that there was nothing wrong with me that time I stuck my dick in the tape deck of my Spectrum +2.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A review of the new LEGO advert

The Incredible Suit doesn't normally review commercials, but I saw one recently that's so groundbreaking it's set to open up a whole new world of advertising potential. This particular ad is for a brand of plastic bricks called LEGO, and the genius of this marketing campaign for the popular kids' toy is that you actually pay money to watch it. And people will. And then they will pay more money for LEGO, because the ad is so bloody good. Genius.

Long-form commercials are no new innovation, but while, say, the Gold Blend couple spread their tedious unresolved sexual tension over six years in order to flog brown grit to idiots, if you edited the whole campaign together it lasted just nine minutes. The LEGO commercial, on the other hand, is A HUNDRED MINUTES LONG. How do you get away with battering people over the head with a promo for a toy for so long? Simple: make it really, really entertaining.

The LEGO commercial is a ruddy blast. Like most ads, everything happens incredibly quickly, barely giving you chance to register what's going on, but it's done with such technical skill and a near-palpable sense of fun that it's actually enjoyable to watch. Granted, the experience is akin to what it must feel like to drown in Skittles, but that's no bad thing. Why, if anything, it's almost enough to make you forget you're watching an advert at all! It's also got an excellent voice cast, a positive message (underneath the "BUY LEGO!" one, obviously), a couple of great surprises and a canny kind-of twist. All the things, in fact, that a lot of good movies have.

It's no wonder, then, that LEGO have gone as far as to call the ad The LEGO Movie, although it's a little disingenuous to describe a commercial in such cloaked terms. What if people go to the cinema thinking they're actually paying to see a movie, rather than a riotous, exceptionally well-made attempt to get them to buy more LEGO? I guess in the end it doesn't matter, because it works equally well as either. So bravo, LEGO marketing team. Next thing you know people will be giving them even more publicity by writing about their product on the internet for free. Imagine!

Friday, 7 February 2014

RobotiCopper

I can't deny it: remakes make me cross. Believe me, I've tried not being That Guy, but every announcement of yet another remake causes me to weep one more tear for the death of originality and creativity. It's not so bad if the film being remade was a good idea squandered by inept execution, but to remake something that's well-liked and ingrained in film culture just seems arrogant to me. Which brings me to this do-over of the adventures of the original tin can copper, a remake which has got me all hot and bothered for an entirely different reason: I really, really wanted to hate it, but it wouldn't let me. It's actually not bad. And I'm totally fucked off about it.

Let's not get carried away. RoboCop: Shadow Remake isn't a great film; it's merely quite good. If it ends up on my Top 10 of 2014, it's because I died before I saw ten films this year. It's a distinctly average superhero origin story we've seen a thousand times, with a bland lead actor in a forgettable costume, no cool catchphrases and no theme tune to speak of apart from a snippet of one stolen from its 1987 self. It's also too long, with one training sequence too many, and it takes its sweet time getting where it needs to go. And let's not forget that it's a remake, which, as I think we can all agree, is a sin.

But, annoyingly, none of that seemed to annoy me. I'm not sure why: maybe it was the immediately disarming gag with the MGM lion. Maybe it was the genuinely exciting opening scene, with policebots versus suicide bombers on the streets of Tehran. Maybe it was that it didn't slavishly attempt to recreate iconic scenes from the original for the sake of a sly wink. One thing's for sure: it benefits enormously from its supporting cast, which includes Michael Keaton in some lovely cardigans and Gary Oldman in a series of strokable knitted ties; if you don't enjoy the sight of Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon maniacally shouting at each other then what are you, some kind of EMOTIONLESS MECHANOID?
I can at least get annoyed by the BBFC's certification: 12A seems to me a wholly inappropriate rating for this film. I realise I'm an old twat, but a lot of people get shot in this film, quite inconsequentially and with precious little blood spilt, and I'm just not sure kids of any age should be watching that. Furthermore, the film's biggest coup, a reveal which I won't spoil here, is almost as unsettling and horrific as anything Verhoeven spattered onto his (still 18-rated) film. It's a brilliant moment, but even I, with my advanced years, found it surprisingly disturbing.

But that's a whole other debate. The argument now is whether or not this Robo is much Cop, and the answer seems to be "well, uh... kind of?" The new film's best ideas are cribbed from the original, apart from a vaguely political running commentary about the use of drones by the military and the influence of right-wing media. The drones argument is an interesting one, but it's handled a little clumsily via a tacked-on Fox News-esque programme which bears little relevance to the plot and is largely designed to show us Samuel L Jackson in a funny wig. But like its other drawbacks, none of this makes RoboCop the disaster I really wanted it to be in order to deploy my raging fury at its shittiness. Its most offensive and egregious moment is the suggestion that Bing is the search engine of choice post-2020, and when that's the worst thing about a remake it's hard to get too angry. Though God knows I tried.

Happy 100th birthday you little tramp!

It's exactly one hundred years today since Charlie Chaplin's insanely successful 'Little Tramp' character made his debut on cinema screens, so to celebrate this momentous landmark date I've spared no expense, pulled out all the stops and written a short blog post about it.
The snappily-titled Kid Auto Races At Venice, California probably isn't regarded as comedy gold by many these days (although it's still funnier than either of the Anchorman films), but its importance can't be misunderestimated. At just six minutes long, it's more of an extended sketch than a short film, but it's one of the first examples of a comedian recruiting an oblivious public into his act by being unfathomably annoying in order to provoke a reaction. This was also the very first time the general public had seen Chaplin's Little Tramp (not a euphemism), and the short provides an excellent opportunity to see history in the making: their reactions, shifting from bafflement to amusement, would be echoed in cinemas around the world for the next century.

So dig out a hundred candles, inadvertently set fire to your bottom or something and enjoy a slice of cinema history. And if you come away underwhelmed, go and watch The Rink afterwards to see what Chaplin could do when his director wasn't trying to choke him.


Further, excellent reading: this piece by Silent London's Pamela Hutchinson.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

TV Corner: Fleming

With a depressing 625 days still to go before the release of the 24th James Bond film, fans of the world's greatest secret agent are seeking a fix to satisfy their filthy habit. Fortunately, that fix is about to arrive in the shape of the criminally underrated Dominic Cooper as James Bond's creator Ian Fleming, in a new four-part miniseres from Sky Atlantic called, with devilish cunning, Fleming. Or, if you're in America and not into the whole brevity thing, Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond.

Fleming covers the wartime exploits of the original sexist, misogynist dinosaur, taking us from his final days as the world's worst stockbroker right through to the end of World War II, by which time he was a reasonably successful Naval Intelligence officer with hundreds of ridiculous hun-foiling schemes in his pocket waiting to be assigned to his literary alter ego. Fleming's battles with military red tape while he struggles to make some of these plots reality are balanced with his volatile relationship with Ann O'Neill (Lara Pulver), with whom he conducted a lengthy affair before marrying her in 1952: an event which did not see the end of his (or her) extra-marital escapades.

Anyone who's ever taken any interest in Ian Fleming will be aware that his life was nowhere near as bonkersly mentaloid as Bond's, and that in fact he spent great swathes of his career sitting behind a desk. It's natural, therefore, to be thrown into a mild panic that any dramatisation of his story is going to be either truthful and spectacularly dull, or a second-rate Bondesque travesty full of dream sequences and weapons-grade cobblers. It is with no small sense of relief, then, to discover that Fleming mostly avoids both of these pitfalls, cherry-picking the most telly-worthy of its subject's adventures, filleting out all the typing and filing, throwing in a soup├žon of fantasy without devaluing the truth and being bloody entertaining to boot.

The first episode flies by in a whirl of period detail, fabulous dresses and bombing raids on London, and drops Cooper straight into the role of a feckless playboy with no respect for money or women. Despite looking about as much like Ian Fleming as my mum does, Cooper is excellent as the aimless, bored toff, bringing his innate charm to the role of a pretty unlikable cad. Lara Pulver is great too, a porcelain princess without a hair out of place but a gaping hole where her moral compass should be. Anna Chancellor also gives good hairdo as Second Officer Monday, obvious Moneypenny substitute and (entirely fictional) secretary to Fleming's Navy boss, Admiral Godfrey - largely believed to be the template for M.

Things get a bit darker and more complex thereafter, as John Brownlow and Don Macpherson's script probes Ian and Ann's heavily S&M-tinged affair (their first sex scene is uncomfortable viewing for a couple of reasons), and Fleming's involvement in the war becomes muddy and a little tricky to follow. In an attempt to up the action ante, those cheeky fantasy sequences creep in, but they're handled satisfyingly enough to please the casual viewer without insulting the obsessive fan. Plus, let's not forget: this is how Fleming liked to see himself; we're watching a man's imagination unfold on screen as much as his story. And while Dominic Cooper might be less successful at waving a gun around than he is at portraying a lazy socialite, as it's the nearest he'll ever get to playing James Bond it seems fair to cut him some slack.
Fleming should be taken with a fistful of salt, but it's a vast improvement on previous screen versions of the author's life (remember Charles Dance in Goldeneye? Of course not). It's to its credit that it's not fixated on being Bond 23.5, instead becoming a ripping war thriller which treads its own path and delivers a portrayal of a complex man evolving as a person and as a writer. It undertakes its problematic objective in a knowing and intelligent fashion, and survives with only minor casualties. Mission accomplished.

Fleming starts on Wednesday 12th February at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD and will be available to download on Sky Go from Wednesday 5 February at 9pm.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Look how Leon's young star has blossomed in the last twenty years

1994

2014


The 20th anniversary special edition Blu-ray steelbook of Leon is released today. This blog post definitely justifies the screener I was sent.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman
1967-2014

"We're all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive.
Each of us knowing we're going to die, each of us secretly believing we won't."
- Caden Cotard, Synecdoche, New York