Posts Tagged ‘Film’

The Curious Case of Benjamin’s Button

February 3, 2009

The youthful elixir. It’s a subject that’s rarely dealt with in film these days – the envy of youth and the desire to travel back to less saggy times. The last example I can think of is Death Becomes Her, the over-the-top act-off between Streep and Hawn that vaguely entertained in the 80s. Maybe we’re less obsessed with the idea than we used to be.

More importantly, two hours and thirty four minutes, this bloody film goes on for. It’s a disgrace. And, even worse, buttons only play a very minor role in the story – so why they even mention them in the title is beyond me. There is no single button in the whole movie that Benjamin (Pitt) gets involved with, beyond fastening his lapels!

Forgetting the fact that the title is entirely misleading (with echoes of that other misnamed picture, Who Has Eaten Gilbert’s Grape?), this isn’t a bad movie at all, if you can handle over two and a half hours of Brad Pitt being nice to everyone and falling in love a couple of times. There’re some Forrest-Gump-for-grown-ups moments – the episodic nature lending itself to what amount to skits on loss, war, fatherhood and abandonment. He goes to sea, fights in the war, has a family, and all the while he is going backwards – born an old man and heading towards infancy. So, even if you couldn’t care less about any of the characters and if the relationship with Cate Blanchett seems as phoney to you as it did to me, you can sit back and enjoy the freaky sight of a doddering and withered Pitt in his infant old age.

Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel (‘The Curiouser Case of Benjamin’s Other Button) in which Pitt is the only one whose lifetime runs the right way and the rest of the world is in reverse. So he watches his mum, dad, teachers etc… get younger and younger as he turns into a wrinkly. Though I suspect this would be more expensive to film.

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The Culture Show

January 28, 2009

culture show mark kermode lauren laverne bbc2

I like the fact that, among the programmes about thin people purposefully getting fat for scientific reasons on BBC2 and their numerous reality television broadcasts about food, they still find a place for a magazine show about intellectual stuff. It’s good that high-minded people have an outlet for their frustrations. The Culture Show is that outlet.

Last night the show was all about the Scotch (I’ve no idea why), so we were treated to Robert Carlysle talking gibberish under the guise of reciting some Burns poetry. Victor Meldrew talked about if for a bit and then the bloke out of Idlewild did a nice little song.Then they talked to the cumulatively irrelevant Franz Ferdinand and finished with an obligatory (but decidedly non-Scotch) African musical collective.

All very nice, inoffensive and aimed at a specific market. Most folk will prick their ears up for the film bits and the musical sections, then go back to their copies of Titbits when an item comes on about theatre – King Lear last night – presented by the woman with the unmoving mouth, Miranda Sawyer.

My main issue with The Culture Show lies with the presenters. The odd couple being, of course, Lauren Laverne and Mark Kermode. The chemistry between these two is really, really odd. When it comes to Kermode’s film reviews, Laverne indulges him with mock-shock gasps when he says something supoosedly scathing and tickles his fancy with scripted questions with blindingly obvious answers so that he can do that thing he does. That thing where he acts like he knows absolutely bloody everything about everything.

Admittedly, Kermode is a very intelligent bloke. He knows a lot about films, but there is one major issue with his style, which is that he’s started to resemble Michael Portillo’s Spitting Image puppet.

His hair is a plasticated lump that looks like it’s been nicked from Gunther Von Hagens’ spleen collection. I can’t get over his ridiculous quiff no matter how hard I try, and whenever I look at Laverne, I can’t get past the fact she works with Steve Jones over on Channel 4 on a weekly basis and doesn’t smash his blasted face in to a mushy pulp to save us from the builder-in-a-skinny-tie idiot.

For my part, I’ve been brainstorming better presenter couplings for the Culture Show – and here are some ideas:

  • James Bardem and June Brown
  • Jermaine and Latoya Jackson
  • Cosmo and Dibs from ‘You and Me’
  • Avon and Stringer from The Wire
  • Karl and Susan Kennedy from Neighbours
  • Harold and Lou from Neighbours
  • Toadfish and Stonefish. From Neighbours.

If anyone at BBC 2 wants to get in touch, I reckon I’d revolutionise your casting sessions. Email at the usual address.

Golden Globes – Winslet’s Acceptance Speech

January 13, 2009

Did you see the clip above on the news yesterday?

It made my blood boil with impotent fury.

Acceptance speeches, along with awards shows, are meaningless idiot-parades. Winslet’s Golden Globe means as little to the public at large as the award I gave myself for washing up last night after I tackled a particularly challenging pot. Why should anyone care?

The most grating aspect of any acceptance speech is, of course, the fake-sincerity. And as far as that goes, Winslet delivers a belter. From the expression her face creases into as she walks to the stage (veering between death throes and hyperactive delight), to the squeals of forced delight as she hugs her wealthy husband on the way up.

Then she apologises to the other nominees, forgetting Jolie’s name in the process, hilariously, and everyone chuckles at just how normal she is. Streep looks on, so pleased for Kate, whilst Angelina grits her teeth and crushes Brad Pitt’s fragile hand between her thighs under the tablecloth.

As she tells herself to ‘gather’, twice and then reels off a pre-prepared list of thankyous, the thing that strikes you – and if you’ve ever watched an awards show before, it won’t be the first time – is the arrogant self-importance of it all. As though these awards, or the Oscars for that matter, actually carry any meaning. As if this film is worthwhile  simply because a panel of bores thinks it is, rather than the public who largely are yet to even see it.

By the time she’s thanking hair and makeup, you thank Christ she manages to stop herself short. But then she carries on and is licking the boots of Leonardo DiCaprio. Cut to Leo himself, lapping up the praise as a paid-for-patsy tugs him under the table.

In a final incestuous flourish, she thanks her husband (who directed the film)
and, by this point, the one fake tear she managed to prise out of dry tearducts has run down the length of her cheek, so she’s doing that Hollywood motion whereby sobs are produced without the presence of moisture so that it looks like the sobber themself is a mentally challenged toddler.

Can’t we make awards ceremonies less regular? Every five years maybe?

Quantum of Solace

December 4, 2008

Youtube clip nicked off Joe Cornish of Adam & Joe

The beginning of the new blonde Bond movie is dead exciting. People fall through roofs, Daniel Craig survives slow-mo explosions, a hot lady cracks a safe, planes crash, buildings explode, Judi Dench calls him a renegade – it’s a non-stop medley of action and drama and it is relentless!

Then the adverts end and Odeon have their inexplicable three minute lights up moment.

We’ve been in the cinema 20 minutes, the trailers haven’t even started and already we’ve seen the best bits of the film and heard the theme song numerous times. Make up. Drinks. Phones. Laptops. Televisions. This isn’t a movie, it’s an orgy of advertising – a quantum of synergy slowly destabilising the image of action heroes and brand association across the world.  “They have people everywhere.”

Movie begins; car crashes, rooftop chases and hundreds of extras all feature in a ballet of action – shot (as is the current trend) as if the camera were handled by five year old child with ADD. It seems insulting, employing all those stuntmen to perform daring acts of doing and then hiding them behind camera movements that look like they’re covering up budget defects, but I suppose that’s the style these days.

The plot revolves around an evil SPECTREesque alliance of bad guys called QUANTUM – which makes the title null and void since we were all told it refers to Bond trying to find moments of peace following the death of Eva Green in the last film. In fact, they actually forget about most things pretty early on with the potentially interesting idea of a faction of uber-villains operating without governmental knowledge being abandoned and instead focus on a very boring and sneery Frenchman who’s buying up land for some utterly pointless movie reason.

Remember when Casino Royale came out and a brave new beginning was announced? Daniel Craig was taking the character in a whole new direction and things were going to change, they said. Well that time was over pretty quickly – Quantum of Solace is a blueprint Bond film with all the trademark exploding buildings, casual fucking and overcomplicated plotting, except this time (because he’s, like, y’know, updated and everything) he feels guilty about most of it – which kind of steals all the fun out of the movie.

Pierce Brosnan’s reign of terror may be over and for that I’m thankful, but the producers are clearly terrified of abandoning the forumula that did them so well so they’ve made the same movie as always, except with some solemn faces and kudos casting. I give it one more film before they reintroduce Q as played by Ray Winstone and he’s flying around in invisible cars once again.

It’s a shame, because Casino Royale is a genuinely good film and it deserved a sequel that did it justice. All we have instead is a substandard Bond movie with all the crap nobody missed last time around put back in so it can be distinguished from the Bourne films. You get the feeling that they wrote the film around the product placements and required quota of action, employed a respected director with an indie-standing and then refused to let him do anything interesting lest the Bond brand be tarnished by deviation.

The opening says it all – a tough movie punching for realism while naked ladies dance in silhouette around Coke cans. Or was that the adverts again?

Hancock

October 27, 2008

HIDDEN SPOILER AT THE END

You can say a lot of things about illegal downloads; that they constitute theft, that they ruin the entertainment industries, that they weaken the cultural effect of movies and music – but one criticism that can’t be levelled at them is that they don’t half save you from paying good money to watch utter shit.

If I’d paid £7 to watch Hancock at the cinema, for example, or handed over £4 to rent the DVD and subsequently watched this tower of crap, I would have been angry and upset. As it stands, with a bittorrent at my fingertips, I was left with no resentment towards the filmmakers or cinema – just a sense of guilt and regret and a new found resolution to not give my time up so willingly in the future.

Will Smith is Hancock, an alcoholic superhero who is more of a hazard than a help. Flying drunkenly around the city he destroys pretty much everything he comes into contact with and costing the city millions of dollars in damages. So far so good.

He saves the life of charity PR man Jason Bateman who then sets about restoring his image and making him a better superhero. Also so far so good. He goes to jail voluntarily and returns as a reformed man, and begins to do battle with uber-villain Eddie Marsan. Equally so far so good.

That’s half the movie and it’s pretty good – not great, but pretty good; Will Smith isn’t exactly a bastard but he’s kind of fun, the story is pretty interesting and there’s some good jokes and action to keep you involved. Jason Bateman doesn’t come close to the highs of Arrested Development, but as anyone who’s a fan of that show will know that just having him onscreen is a pleasure.

At this point you’re enjoying the movie and all is well. Then they do something*; something that some people may call a ‘daring plot twist’ and others may refer to as a ‘brave story development’ but that I will simply describe as a ‘rubbish and stupid contrivance that utterly ruins the movie’.

Suddenly everything changes; characters are forgotten, storylines abandoned, the rules of the world alter and you find all your interest and curiosity dropped instantly. The film becomes about something else and changes tone, almost as if Bryan Singer were replaced by Brett Ratner half way through shooting. It becomes really boring.

Much like with Will Smith’s last rubbish movie – I Am Legend – everything starts out well and then turns shockingly bad. Does he no longer read scripts all the way through, or is it a deal with the studio where the first part can be all moody and slow as long as the second can be loud and stupid?

What makes this film so bad is not that the two halves are that terrible – they’re not – it’s that together they count each other out. That you enjoyed the first half is forgotten by the end of the second, so annoyed you are at the instant switch that occurs. All the goodwill and fine work thus far is obliterated by the silly story.

And so it ends. By this point I was playing with the cat and my lady was doing the washing up. I have no idea what the point was, just that I know I’ll never get that time back – but thank god I didn’t pay for it.

HIDDEN PLOT-SPOILER NOW

*Want to know what happens that makes it all stupid? Highlight the text below.

It turns out that Hancock has amnesia and forgot that Jason Batemans wife is actually his wife who is also a superhero and his greatest weakness because they are actually 3,000 year old gods who were built as a pair but lose their powers when they’re together and they have to team up quickly to fight Eddie Marsan who has inexplicably learned all of this whilst in prison and is trying to kill people in a hospital he is killed and they must part to keep their powers and so Hancock flies to the moon to print Jason Batemans charity logo on it and thus save the world through the power of branding.

The Wave (Die Welle)

October 21, 2008

It must be difficult being German sometimes; moving on from the atrocities that dominated much of your country’s history in the last century whilst being respectful enough never to forget the lessons that were learnt. How many generations must offer remuneration before it feels like an inherited debt? How many populations must profess guilt before resenting the act? How many children must apologise for the sins of the fatherland before living memory passes on?

It’s an interesting subject, and one that cinematically Germany has only recently begun to address. The Edukators, Goodbye Lenin, The Lives of Others and Downfall are just four of the films that look at the behaviour and fallout of Germany’s turbulent political actions in the 20th Century, told from the perspective of a nation coming to terms with its fascistic heritage.

The Wave is another of those films and looks at how, only three generations later, the nations youth are already desensitised to the atrocities of the second world war and the political misdirections of the post war years. ‘The Nazis sucked’ states one bling-clad student before he is swiftly indoctrinated by a class autocracy project gone wrong – ‘we get it’.

The Teacher is one of those hip teachers that only exist in movies; a Ramones loving punk, a leather-sporting smoker whose anarchic spirit never left him – despite a career of enthusing bored teenagers with politics. Teaching an autocracy project and shocked at the disinterest of the students, he creates a class gang called ‘The Wave’ and begins to demonstrate how easily tribal allegiances can be formed and how quickly fascistic characteristics can form.

He’s a fantastic teacher, because within two days he already has his autonomous gang of Droogs wearing identical uniforms, making MySpace pages with gang logos and terrorizing the town with a campaign of graffiti and aggressive hood wearing. Despite several prior scenes where the students quite aptly discussed the societal requirements of a rise to the right – financial upheaval, low unemployment, influx of immigrants etc – they abandon all intellectual interpretation of what is happening and instead embrace their new found mass because, like, it means they don’t get picked on at school, n’stuff

Before you can say “Disturbing Behaviour was just a rip off of The Stepford Wives” the Wave starts swelling in ranks, starts buying guns off the internet, starts picking fights with hilariously-dressed anarchists and starts organising support for the water polo team. By the third day the whole Breakfast Club has been swallowed – the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal – all revelling in the positive effects of mass uniformity.

Had the film tried to be more of a parable, staying within the confines of the school, it could have been much more interesting. Had it used the natural hierarchy of high school as a metaphor for society, or been more of a satire, it could have worked better.

As it stands it plays more like a horror film, where fascism lurks in the shadows, ready to pounce on any slightly disenfranchised teenager who feels the warmth of acceptance. It feels like the inverse of Red Dawn, where uniformity parachutes into the classrooms of a resting nation.

At the end, the teacher reveals that it was just a lesson, an example of how easily people can be lead towards fascism. Of course by now it’s now too late, the Wave are an autonomous mass of upheaval, calling for a conquering Germany and stringing up those who oppose them. A class project lasting six days has united a school and turned mallrats into an army… the audience gasp… the lesson has backfired… fascism has occurred again… the horror… the horror…

It’s a profoundly silly film – well-meaning and with some good ideas but ruined by a ridiculous timeframe and an over-simplified idea. What was initially an interesting debate soon turned into a version of the Blob, where the children fight a quite literal political enemy and not just a metaphoric political enemy that looks like a giant blob from outer space.

There’s still room out there for a really good movie about how the new generation of German youth view their country’s history, but this isn’t it. This is a quite entertaining, but accidentally funny horror film with good intentions, but very little self-awareness.

NewsGush: None of our business, but…

October 16, 2008

Apparently the clapped out pop singer Madonna and her career-kamikaze husband, poshcockney Guy Ritchie have split up. They’re going to divorce, it says here. 

The BBC have this as their lead entertainment story as it’s clearly far more important than the winner of the Booker Prize or the MOBO awards.

“They have both requested that the media maintain respect for their family at this difficult time.

“A final settlement has not been agreed upon yet.”

My thoughts are with David Banda at this torrid and uncertain time. The poor little sod was half-inched from Malawi earlier this year to live in a mansion with a neurotic, self-worshipping mother and a father who’s undergoing a permanent identity crisis. His little head must be all over the place.

‘Who will I live with – the one I call ‘Mum’ or the one I call ‘Dad’?’
‘Am I being sent back to Malawi?’
‘Who are all these white people?’

NewsGush – I’m On The Corner of Baker Street

October 14, 2008

Terrible news for fans of literature / all that is decent. The rumour about Guy Ritchie’s plans to piss orange urine on the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fine creation appear not only to be founded, but also somewhat advanced.

And it looks like they’re out to make Holmes an all-action kind of a character – when (from what I remember) in the books his physical attributes were only alluded to. Empire magazine says:

…this version looks to be more action packed than the traditional adaptations, with the filmmakers promising to make use of Holmes’ bare-knuckle boxing and martial arts skills (it’s OK, they’re skills mentioned in the books).

And, to add insult to injury, that complete and utter cock-end Jude ‘I am the’ Law is in it.

So thanks, Ritchie. At least with Revolver and Rocknrolla you were only fannying about with your own two-bit stories. What made you think you could mess with the big boys?