Monday, 15 December 2014

A couple of statements

Here is a statement from EON Productions, published at 007.com on Saturday 13th December:
EON PRODUCTIONS, the producers of the James Bond films, learned this morning that an early version of the screenplay for the new Bond film SPECTRE is amongst the material stolen and illegally made public by hackers who infiltrated the Sony Pictures Entertainment computer system. 
Eon Productions is concerned that third parties who have received the stolen screenplay may seek to publish it or its contents. The screenplay for SPECTRE is the confidential information of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Danjaq, LLC, and is protected by the laws of copyright in the United Kingdom and around the world. It may not (in whole or in part) be published, reproduced, disseminated or otherwise utilised by anyone who obtains a copy of it. 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Danjaq LLC will take all necessary steps to protect their rights against the persons who stole the screenplay, and against anyone who makes infringing uses of it or attempts to take commercial advantage of confidential property it knows to be stolen.

And here is a statement from me, published at theincrediblesuit.com on Monday 15th December:
Just don't be a dick. If you think you've got a copy of the SPECTRE script, keep it to yourself or, preferably, delete it. It's in nobody's interests to spoil the surprises contained in any new film; all that does is confirm you're a twat. And if you spoil SPECTRE for me then so help me I will come round your house and hide large numbers of rotting fish in hard-to-find places.
Remember, if you're tempted to be a dick, simply follow the golden rule: 
JUST DON'T
BE A DICK.

Carry on.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Incredible Suit's Top Ten Films Of 2014

So 2014's been all right, hasn't it? I mean, it's no 2011, but then what could be? At least it wasn't 2010; Jesus, imagine having to go through that again. Anyway here, as is mandatory for anyone given control of a film blog regardless of talent or knowledge, is a list of ten films released this year that weren't as bad as all the others. This particular list very nearly included the following, but didn't, so get over it: The LEGO Movie, Starred Up, The Guest, Locke, Boyhood and The Raid 2. If you haven't seen any of those, or indeed the next ten, get out and don't come back until you have. You disgust me.

HER Under the guise of spinning a yarn about a man who wants to fuck a laptop, Spike Jonze might just have delivered cinema's most incisive commentary on love. The relationship between Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore and Scarlett Johansson's "Samantha" isn't just believable, it's recognisable, and Jonze's Oscar-winning script for Her paints a picture of a species so baffled by the concept of love that it's no wonder we might turn to technology for an easy life. Essential viewing for people who want to try and understand people a little better. Review

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST In a year overstuffed with underenjoyable blockbusters (none of Captain America, Spider-Man, Godzilla or Guardians Of The Galaxy did much for me at all), just one effects-packed tentpole flick tickled my pickle. With X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Bryan Singer returns the X-franchise to its glory days, delivering a well-paced, intelligent crowd-pleaser decked out in shit-hot shirts and shades. The triple-pronged assault of Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy leading a megabudget superhero film feels like Singer's way of making up for the lesser X-films caused by his absence from the series, and his promise to return for X-Men: Apocalypse means I'm already in the queue. Not literally, you understand. That would be ridiculous. Review

THE ROVER An intriguing second step in the path of a truly visionary director, David Michôd's second film takes only another cracking Guy Pearce performance from his debut Animal Kingdom, spinning a morality tale of avarice and self-destruction for a potentially doomed generation. Brooding and leisurely, The Rover is in no hurry to get where it's going, and with good reason: it begins in a hellish near-future and can't see that anywhere else will be any better. It's pessimistic and unpleasant and leaves you drained of all hope, except that Michôd will keep walking the same path for a long time to come. Review

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT Like a Gallic update of 12 Angry Men, Two Days, One Night sees one angry woman swallowing an entire vat of pride as she attempts to convince colleagues, one by one, to forego their bonus in order to save her job. The Dardennes brothers' remarkable script digs so deep into the strata of human interaction that they strike gold, aided in no small part by Marion Cotillard, who teeters on the brink of emotional collapse for the entire running time. One of the most incisive commentaries on the effects of the financial crisis, this brings everything down to the most identifiable level and leaves you uncomfortably wondering how you'd act in the same situation. I can tell you right now that given 1000 Euros I'd fire Derek from accounts in a heartbeat, the useless tit.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET If there was ever any doubt that he's his generation's Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio takes that doubt and blows it up a hooker's arsehole within the first ten minutes of Martin Scorsese's breathless The Wolf Of Wall Street. The infuriatingly awful Jordan Belfort is a hideous creation (more so because he actually exists), and DiCaprio expertly stomps the fine line between appalling and appealing - thanks, in no small part, to Terence Winter's rollicking script, almost every scene of which begins with unbridled debauchery and cranks up the crackers from there. Easily Scorsese's best in decades, with star turns from Matthew McConaughey, Joanna Lumley, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin making the film an 18-rated Royal Variety Performance, and the instantly-classic quaaludes sequence its roof-raising highlight. Review

UNDER THE SKIN The story of a life from birth to death, Under The Skin covers pretty much every basic human emotion in under two hours; remarkable stuff from a film whose protagonist isn't even human. Spend 108 minutes marvelling at every gorgeous frame or a lifetime contemplating its potentially infinite themes, from the existential (what does it mean to be human?) to the deeply sinister (what does it mean to be a sexual predator?), it's entirely up to you. Challenging, unsettling and original in equal measure, it's a perfect storm of filmmaking excellence in every department, not least Mica Levi's nightmarish score. Review

MR. TURNER Timothy Spall grunts, flobs and porks his way through Mike Leigh's exquisite telling of JMW Turner's later years with all the characteristic skill that allows him to completely disappear into each of his roles despite his unique countenance. Leigh, meanwhile, is the true old master here: in total control of every stage of his filmmaking, he presents a beautiful, thoughtful biopic that's as much about his own love of cinema as it is about Turner's love of painting. Expect the National Gallery to have Mr.Turner playing on a giant telly hanging in Room 34 soon; it'll fit right in. Review

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Another odyssey and another Ulysses, but Inside Llewyn Davis is a more mature, introspective affair than the Coens' O Brother Where Art Thou, even if its anti-hero is a man of equally constant sorrow. The brothers' films have never been lacking in memorable characters, but Oscar Isaac's Davis, while wallowing in moral and literal poverty, is surely one of the richest. Both protagonist and antagonist, he's a classic folk song legend, subconsciously determined to bring as much shit upon himself as possible in order to fuel his own story. An ode to struggling, misunderstood (and occasionally misguided) artists everywhere, the film uses a pivotal moment in the history of pop culture to tell a timeless story; if it was never new and it never gets old, then it's either a folk song or a Coen Brothers film. Review

'71 Remarkable for being the year's best action film despite being a) British and b) rooted firmly in a sensitive, true-life milieu, '71 remains the most criminally underseen movie of 2014. Boasting set-pieces so tense that you'll spend the credits trying to prise your fingers out of the arms of your chair, '71 delivers some of the year's greatest scenes, the single shot that weaves in and around a West Belfast pub being a strong contender for one of cinema's most finely-constructed sequences. Amazing work from Jack O'Connell and first-time feature director Yann Demange, who deservedly won a BIFA for his efforts; let's hope it's the first of many such accolades (the second being his film's place in this list, obviously). Review

12 YEARS A SLAVE Installing itself at the top of this list when I first saw it at the 2013 London Film Festival and refusing to budge ever since, Steve McQueen's immeasurably important, desperately moving depiction of the story of Solomon Northup is the most crushingly effective film I've seen since, like, ever. Leaving me in puddles of tears and snot both times I've seen it, 12 Years A Slave's reputation as a miseryfest conceals its underlying messages of hope, tenacity and the value of common human decency. If ever a film needed to be on the National Curriculum of every education system in the world, it's this one. Review

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Four Armies And A Handful Of BASTARDING EAGLES

Image not necessarily representative of film

Even a Star Wars Prequel Trilogy apologist like me is well aware of George Lucas' shortcomings in his handling of Episodes I, II and III, but you know what he didn't do over the course of six films? He didn't have characters facing certain doom, only for them to be rescued at the last moment by a bunch of giant birds who didn't feature anywhere else in the story. And what's more, he didn't do that THREE FUCKING TIMES. For this reason, and many more, Lucas can breathe a massive sigh of relief: he is no longer the director of the most disappointing prequel trilogy of all time.

Nope, that honour now belongs to Peter Jackson, who claimed he knew exactly what he was doing when he inflated JRR Tolkien's slim children's book, The Hobbit, into what currently stands at over eight and a half hours of mediocre, mope-ridden melodrama spread over three movies, with more to come when the final instalment's extended edition arrives on DVD and Blu-ray next year. In comparison, the eleven and a half hour running time of the extended versions of Jackson's majestic The Lord Of The Rings trilogy feel like they pass by in the flap of a dragon's wing.
You're not the only one checking your watch, pal

The Hobbit's first two parts, An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug, were just about acceptable for returning us to Jackson's gorgeous vision of Middle-earth and for featuring a handful of bravura sequences, but they both felt like what they essentially were: pale imitations of The Lord Of The Rings films. Now that The Battle Of The Five Armies is upon us, it's hard not to take Jackson's Middle-earth for granted and hope that we might at last get some rollicking action and characters to care about.

But no. Of his two lead characters, Jackson is never quite sure in whom his film is less interested; both Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield are one-dimensional pieces on a game board. Other characters fare just as badly: the heroic Bard The Bowman is sub-Aragorn blandness personified; Legolas exists only to pull off some obviously CG-enhanced elfrobatics; Gandalf has none of the self-doubt that made him a flawed superhero in The Lord Of The Rings, and after three films of watching thirteen short, hairy dudes grunting at each other, I STILL found myself looking at a couple of the dwarfs with the distinct certainty that I'd never clapped eyes on them before.

As for the tedious, tacked-on threesome between Kili the dwarf, Tauriel the Jackson-invented elf and Legolas, was there ever a more obvious, less successful attempt to widen a film's appeal? It's all very well shoving in a kick-ass action heroine to balance the testosterone, but to then a) make her the fulcrum of one of cinema's most insipid love triangles ("You make me feel alive," Kili actually whimpers out loud at one point) and b) require her to be rescued by BOTH of her potential suitors within five minutes is a colossal foot-shot.
It does, however, make for some exquisite fan art.

The Battle Of The Five Armies isn't a total disaster. It boasts a couple of sequences almost worth the price of a ticket: the opening assault on Laketown by a vengeful Smaug is fiery fun, and a scrap in which Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond smack down against the spectral Nazgûl is reminiscent of the excited spirit of Jackson's The Frighteners. But both scenes fail to really set the screen on fire, even the one in which everything else goes up in smoke.

And there's so much rubbish here that it's easy to forget anything that threatens to tip the scales beyond average. Billy Connolly voices a dwarf - atrociously realised with CG for no obvious reason - who has a Scottish accent, ginger hair and who dispatches foes with a crunching headbutt, firmly placing him in the Jar Jar Binks school of unfortunate stereotypes. Meanwhile, in a less successful retread of the ill effects on Frodo's personality caused by the One Ring, Thorin turns greedy, selfish and miserable because he can't find the lost Sankara Stone, but becomes all happy and cuddly again after going for a stroll and having a little think about it. And then there are the Giant Worm Things. Mentioned ominously by the orcs as terrifying, earth-eating beasts, we await their arrival with the hope of something thrilling, and when they do appear - in one spectacular, seat-shaking, presumably phenomenally expensive shot, they are terrific. No doubt the orcs will use them to tunnel under and into the mountain fortress guarded by our plucky heroes? Well, no actually. That's the last we'll see of them, and their existence is never referred to again.

As for the titular battle, well, you can't help but think you've seen it all done better before. Hordes of indistinct pixels, scrappily and bloodlessly going for each other with no clear sense of who's fighting who - except perhaps Beorn the skin-changer, whose lengthy and pointless scene in The Desolation Of Smaug suggested a fuller role in this film, rather than the six or so seconds he's afforded in the 45-minute climax. And when the fifth army show up out of nowhere, unapologetically and inexplicably late in the day, you just know that nobody was willing to turn to Peter Jackson and say "Hey Pete, you think maybe we should NOT have the fucking eagles save the day for once?"
Look at these smug, winged cunts.

Crucially, of all the extraneous crap Jackson has stuffed into this trilogy, the one thing he's left out - which Tolkien's book had in abundance - is fun. The Battle Of The Five Armies is so painfully, po-facedly glum and gloomy that for all the joy you'll experience you may as well buy your ticket then stand out by the cinema bins in the rain for 144 minutes. Even then you'll care just as much as anyone who sits through the movie about why Azog the Orc-bastard wants Thorin dead or why Bilbo ever went on this baffling mission in the first place. In fact, why not use the time to watch something else instead, like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? At least that's got Jar Jar Binks in it.

Friday, 5 December 2014

A little bit of SPECTRElation

There's a cheeky titbit of SPECTRE news that didn't hit the front pages this morning, but it's very interesting (if you're me): Jesper Christensen, who played Mr White in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, told Danish website Euroman yesterday that he'll be appearing in the 24th Bond film.
Now it always kind of bothered me that Quantum had been carefully built up over Daniel Craig's first two Bond films as a SPECTRE-esque villainous organisation (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Tolerant Underground Megalomaniacs, perhaps), only to be left out of Skyfall altogether, and the announcement of SPECTRE as a title suggested Quantum would become all but a memory. BUT! Christensen's casting, if true, surely means that Quantum will become SPECTRE, or will at least be bought out by them in some kind of elaborate hostile takeover, hopefully involving massive numbers of fluffy white cats.

I've banged on about this before elsewhere, but the parallels between Sean Connery's and Daniel Craig's tenures as Bond are growing: of Connery's first five Bonds, all but the middle entry (Goldfinger) featured SPECTRE. Craig, meanwhile, has done two films with Quantum pulling the strings, one without, and is reportedly signed on for two more, which look pretty Quantumy-slash-SPECTREy from where I'm standing. All we need now is for some Aussie lunk to do Bond 26 so terribly that Craig comes back for one final, flabby bow, and the circle is complete. At that point I think we can stop making Bond films because I live in perpetual terror at the thought of more being made after I die.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

New James Bond film SPECTRE makes
Daniel Craig happy, chubby

I fully expected a nice quiet day today. Aware that the new James Bond film's title was due to be announced at 11am, I had planned to rise at a leisurely hour, consume a pot of Earl Grey and whip my houseboy for an hour before settling down in front of a YouTube to watch the reveal.

Instead, I was up at 6.30 and two hours later found myself sitting opposite Nicky Campbell at BBC HQ, wittering about what to expect from Bond 24 into the earholes of two and a half million Radio 5 Live listeners. It was the first of nine similar interviews, by the end of which I still hadn't learned to pronounce Dave Bautista's name properly. I had been interviewed by former Big Breakfast newsreader Phil Gayle though, and that was quite exciting.
PROPER LEGENDS MATE

You can listen to my 5 Live cabbage here if you really must (skip forward to 2:48:16 unless you want to hear nearly three hours of old news first); cringe with me as I bang on about Risico being mooted as a title (as it is every time there's a new Bond film), then get cut off before I had chance to put forward my other guess: SPECTRE. Why didn't I say that first? Because I am a tool. I think I might have mentioned SPECTRE to Phil Gayle but he didn't even know why Judi Dench wasn't going to be in the new film so that was a wasted opportunity.

I legged it home from New Broadcasting House with the wind at my back and a substantial amount of waste material in my personal basement, having not had chance to do any of that business since 7am, and made it just in time to evacuate myself before the 11.00 announcement. Please let me know when any of this becomes too much information.

Sadly Alex Zane was at Pinewood announcing the announcement, so we all had to watch the worst James Bond pre-title sequence ever before the meaty stuff happened. But when it happened, it happened RIGHT IN OUR RUDDY FACEHOLES:



OOF. That title treatment puts the 'boss' into 'embossed', right? What remains unclear is if it's SPECTRE or Spectre, and I suspect(re) this is going to haunt and annoy me for the rest of my days. Does it still stand for Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, as it did in the books and the '60s Bond films? Or is it maybe the villain's name, like, Phil Spectre or Hector Spectre? Maybe it stands for Society of Pretty Evil Cads, Tinkers, Rotters and.. uh... Evildoers. I don't know. I do know that I very much appreciate how that bullet hole forms the old SPECTRE logo from days of yore, and conveniently bumps up the value of a pair of cufflinks I was recently gifted with exactly that design on them (thanks Chris).
What is absolutely certain is that Christoph Waltz definitely isn't playing nefarious terrorist and massive slaphead Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in much the same way that Naomie Harris definitely wasn't playing Miss Moneypenny in Skyfall. Waltz's character is known only as Oberhauser, who is mentioned as Bond's friend and skiing instructor in Fleming's Octopussy, so go and read that if you want to bore people with irrelevant trivia like some people do, ugh I can't bear those bores. Meanwhile, Sherlock's Andrew Scott plays Whitehall gonk Denbigh (definitely not a mole or double agent), Monica Bellucci plays dead-by-Act-III-totty Lucia Sciarra, Léa Seydoux is Bondcock-warmer Madeleine Swann and Dave Bautista plays Mr Hinx, a man who tries to look menacing by stroking his own fist while wearing a lovely cuddly cardy.
At least we're finally getting a henchman who's a physical match for Daniel Craig; Bond resembled a rhino sitting on a toad when he beat up Mathieu Amalric in Quantum Of Solace.

I don't know about you but I am, obviously, excited as all chuff about this. I firmly predict a return to some serious (i.e. not very serious) old school Bondage, that Bloferhauser or whatever his name is will shack up in a hollowed out moon orbiting Jupiter and that there will be some absolutely fucking awful one-liners.

I'm off to stick my appalling mug on the telly now and ramble some more Bondballs, but I'm not saying where because you'll tune in, grab a still of me looking like I've got a double chin and stick it on the internet and that would just be mean.