Archive for July 29th, 2008

The Dark Knight

July 29, 2008

Very mild spoilers

Let’s dispense with the plot first, shall we?

Billionaire in Kevlar body armour fights maniac with excellent make-up skills in Chicago, mainly at night. Meanwhile, a half-dead looking policeman with a moustache pretends to be completely dead to aid in the capture of aforementioned maniac and a chiselled Fifties film star has half his face burned off, then blames the wrong people for his disfigurement and the death of his cow-faced girlfriend. Maniac kills lots of people, man with half a face kills on the whims of a coin toss, billionaire fights them both and wins, then inexplicably shoulders the blame for the disfigured man’s crimes. The end.

Right, now that’s over and done with, a word of warning.

What The Dark Knight posters and trailers fail to mention is that Eric Roberts is in this movie. That’s right – Eric fucking Roberts. For anyone unfamiliar with the career of Eric Roberts (brother of Julia, and proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice), he’s a fourth – no, fifth – rate action ‘star’ who’s carved a career in woeful kung-fu and mercenary movies that go straight to DVD. Eric Roberts is the Happy Shopper Tom Berenger – cursed to play the villain in a string of films with titles such as Death Force Zero and The Eliminatrix III when the real Tom Berenger is unavailable. Think Chuck Norris without the personality. A poor man’s Ernie Hudson. In short, he’s shit.

Now, until I stumped up £13.50 for two tickets to The Dark Knight, I had never paid more than £2.50 to watch Eric Roberts in anything. The last time I handed over real cash-money to watch Mr. Roberts fail to convince was an ill-advised Blockbuster rental of Best Of The Best II – an ass-kicking kung-fu collective movie starring Roberts, Phillip Rhee (the Black Belt Jones of the modern era) and the late, lamented Chris Penn.

It was shit, but then it was supposed to be shit … because it had Eric Roberts in it. I was happy to fork out £2.50 to watch the monumentally ugly and unconvincing Roberts shove his combat boots up the ass of his enemies because, well, it was only £2.50. But thanks to the producers of The Dark Knight, I now have to confess I’ve spent over a tenner on an Eric Roberts movie. This pisses me off.

OK, so I had to suffer the grotesque Mr. Roberts, but what about Mr. Bale? Did he cancel the toweringly shit performance of Roberts out? Did he make me forget that I’d spent money on an Eric Roberts movie? Well… no.

Annoying as playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne (mainly because he hands in the same performance he did for American Psycho – making you think Bruce is butchering prostitutes when he’s not out fighting loonies), he’s awful – truly fucking awful – as Batman. Cursed with a stupid costume that makes his head look like a pool ball with ears, Bale adds to the misery with a dreadful deep rasp of a voice that gets up your nose. Every time Batman speaks, a viewer who isn’t so enamoured of the character that he’ll forgive him anything sits bewildered as they’re faced with one of the stupidest voices ever to grace the screen. I spent the entire two and a half hour running time thinking, “What the fuck is wrong with Batman’s voice?” I don’t think this is what the director wanted me to think.

Gary Oldman looks like he’s got cancer. Aaron Eckhart gives an Aaron Eckhart performance (the same one he gave for Thank You For Smoking, but with half his face missing). Maggie Gyllanhall is wasted, then blown up. That’s all I can think to say about that trio.

So we’ll move on to The Dark Knight’s money shot: Heath Ledger as The Joker. Anyone who wasn’t wetting their trousers at the prospect of a Joker for the 21st Century could have guessed what performance they’d get from Ledger in this role, and they would have guessed correctly. Shoulder hunched up, daft walk, tongue whipping out every ten minutes (because tongue work’s an essential part of any mentally ill person’s madness arsenal, as are trousers that never reach the shoes), wild, darting eyes, occasional high-pitched changes of vocal intonation, etc. Those boxes checked, Ledger plays The Joker in just the same way any actor of any merit would play The Joker. The performance is phoned in – Actor’s Guide to Playing the Insane 101. Stacey’s mum with stupid hair and idiot make-up.

The press has made a lot of this, his final completed performance – yet I would argue it’s nothing special. We can laud praises on the actor all we want, but this is not De Niro in Godfather II. This is an as-you’d-expect performance of a silly character in a silly comic book movie. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s good, but he’s not that good. And – going against the grain here – he’s nowhere near as good as Nicholson, in my opinion. Nicholson at least made the character fun.

Did I say ‘fun’? Well if you’re looking for that, I’d hang on for next month’s Tropic Thunder (which at least promises fun from the trailer). The Dark Knight is anything but fun. It’s ridiculously long for a comic book movie, takes itself so seriously it’s insulting and has a plot that plods along at a snail’s pace.

It’s wordy, morbid and borderline stupid in too many places. Off the top of my head, these are just a few things that pissed me off about The Dark Knight’s plot:

  • Why does a moral crusader agree to illegally extract a wanted criminal from China and bring him back to the United States? Doesn’t that make him the same as the criminals he’s taken it upon himself to fight?
  • The Joker must spend hours getting his make-up to look like that – strange for a man we’re constantly reminded doesn’t give a fuck about anything (with the notable exception of male grooming … weird male grooming, but male grooming nonetheless).
  • Alright, Two Face’s missus is blown up by The Joker, but why does this tip him over the edge and make him an ally of The Joker? His subsequent crusade to get justice for his dead partner (that leaves out kicking The Joker’s ass) makes no sense at all.
  • Is it just me, or was there an actual point to Gary Oldman faking his own death?
  • Who the fuck agrees to work for The Joker? People with a death wish? Suicides who haven’t got round to it yet? He kills everyone who works for him … surely word would have got around about this?
  • A knife slash to the side of your mouth doesn’t kill you.

There were plenty of other things that mystified me about this awful film, but I’ve had enough of thinking about them. If you want to waste your money on an up-its-own arse, overlong action movie that contains hardly any action but does contain Eric Roberts, then by all means waste it on The Dark Knight. If, however, you want to spend your moollah on a comic book movie that won’t bore you, insult you, and annoy you, I’d recommend you wait for Iron Man to come out on DVD. At least that film was stupid but fun. The Dark Knight is just stupid.

And it’s got Eric Roberts in it.

Dragons’ Den – 28.7.08

July 29, 2008

I think we can confidently say that long before yesterday’s show, Meaden twigged that she is desired by not one, but all of the Dragons.

Obviously the real battle for Debs is between Theo and Jonesy and, since the mahogany-skinned makeover and the lovely hair-do, Debs has proved she is more than up to micro-managing a love triangle. Last night saw her assertive and prickly nature reach boiling point in the early stages before she settled into a brooding, menacing sensuality for the rest of the show, watching the boys run rings around one another, all desperate to impress the Debsmeister.

Let’s jump in. Once the opening credits were out of the way it was time to get down to business. And by ‘business’ I mean REAL business, conducted in the business world by business men and business women. And Dragons, obviously. It is a tough and fickle world, the business world. Just ask Samantha from Manchester who went up first in front of the reptilian bastards.

She was trying sell them a strange idea based around home security. A little box with motion sensors would make a fake TV turn on whenever it was triggered, fooling hapless burglars (who obviously would never have heard of such technology) and scaring them into doing a runner. It was a dumb idea, already trumped by the fact that you can get those mains-timer things on the market to make your lamps and electrical goods switch on and off whilst you sip cocktails in Aberwystwyth. Debs stepped right up with her critique, safe in the knowledge that all the Dragons possessed a twitching semi with her name on it. She declared herself out swiftly and effectively. Theo managed to find out that this dotty trembler already owns a successful business so the general response was ‘stick to the restaurant, we’re out’.

Next up, the Sinclair C5 of rollerblades as one Dragon put it. Pedal-powered skates that looked too much like hard work and failed to inspire anyone. Theo had a go as he knows what makes good telly, stumbling about on these monstrosities for laughs. All he needs is a pencil thin moustache and some round-framed spectacles and he’d make a great silent movie comedy-hero. Anyway, they all opted out. I’d have opted out too – that kind of rubbish reminds me of the imbecilic berks you see in Central London roller-blading, skateboarding or even tin-scootering down the middle of a busy dual lane in rush hour traffic.

Clive was up next with his opportunity to join him in a venture he called DiamondGeezer.com (I’ll not include a link unless he pays me for advertising). This was essentially a retail website selling posh-rocks. His manner wasn’t particularly endearing despite the potential in his venture. And to add to his woes, Meaden, cushioned by the certainty that all in the Den hold a blue-veined baton with her name on it, screamed that Clive’s been in touch with her before which is AGAINST THE RULES. She was out immediately, bless her. Bannatyne then rather unfairly laid into Clive with a stream of disconnected questions. He was oot.

But then Clive’s luck changed and the other three opted in for a 40% stake. 30%, countered Clive. The Dragon’s did not waver and Clive idiotically turned down the offer on a business which is currently only making him three hundred quid per calender month.

Greetings cards for dogs, one would think, is the preserve of batty old eccentrics. And ol’ Debs proved this to be true by admitting her horses, cats and dogs all receive christmas gifts. More money than sense. The rest of the Dragons, like us right-thinking folk, thought it was ludicrous and kicked it out of the Den.

Impact Items went next with their Space Putty. The boffin who’d created this stuff had dyed his hair and goatee purple, thinking this was a surefire way to secure investment. In the event he got laughed out of the room. Probably a good thing, as I had a sneaking feeling I’d seen this putty stuff before. And I had.

On the theme of kids’ stuff, the next pitcher was asking for trouble with his sinister notion. Tokens kids have to earn through good behaviour in order to buy TV, DVD and PS3 time struck me as being completely unethical. One of the great joys of being a child, though we don’t realise it at the time, is to be completely free of money-worries. Those decisions are made for you so you’re free to kill ants, hang around in abandoned houses and go foraging for pornography in bushes. Why any parent would want to introduce a complex system of capitalism in their own parlour is beyond me and was beyond Bannatyne who told this chap he hopes he fails. Harsh, but probably fair. Jonesy said it wasn’t a bad idea – it was ridiculously mad. Add to the fact the guy could have financed it himself and it seems we had a bit of a slippery snake on our hands. And he seemed so nice…

The apple juice lolly that followed looked tasty, was healthy and was already selling well. But as it was 100% apple juice, packaged tastefully and completely inoffensive, it obviously wasn’t cost-effective. Quality rarely is these days. So everyone was out.

The penultimate item was an illuminated Baby On Board sign which, sadly, was unreadable during the day. So one presumes you’re meant to stick the Baby On Board sign that lights up next to the Baby On Board sign that can be seen in daylight. Weird. Jonesy used this as a platform to mock Baby On Board signs in general, which I reluctantly agreed with him on. They are bloody stupid, when you think about it. Jonesy, sensing he had everyones’ attention, also had a pop at an enthusiastic Bannatyne with ‘when was the last time you drove anywhere in the last 20 years?!’. ‘Fair point’, responded a humbled Dunc.

So – lastly we saw some girl who appeared to have stepped out of the Grazia magazine my missus left in the toilet. She was after money for her venture which went by the dreadful name ‘Neurotica’. She wanted to make fashion for the leading high street stores and was already making headway in the area. Unfortunately, like the apple lolly people, she was only just breaking even. Peter Jones broke all the rules and offered more money than she was asking for in a twist that left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, from where I was standing.

Jonesy’s always trying to be the cool one. Whether it’s his dalliances with Levi Roots, his foray into publishing with the nauseating rag Wonderland, trying to rock out with Hamfatter or this adventure in fashion, he wants to be a scenester.

Well, sorry Pete. You’re a seven-foot corporate tit who does crap ads for BT and sits in Simon Cowell’s pocket. You’re about as far removed from the notion of ‘cool’ as it’s possible to be, so leave that stuff to Bannatyne – the beating heart of Dragon sophistication. In a couple of weeks time, Meaden will see the error of her ways and lurch towards Dunc’s inimitable, brusque stylings – mark my words.