Thursday, 21 August 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

Lucy

For a few minutes towards the beginning of Lucy, you might start asking some questions. Like, as Scarlett Johansson's helpless heroine is drawn into a trap that will result in her unwillingly smuggling a pouch of drugs inside her guts, why does director Luc Besson keep cutting away to shots of gazelles being stalked by leopards? I mean, the parallels are obvious, but really, why? What motivates a director to do something like that? What's the point?

Ninety minutes later you'll piss yourself at the thought that you ever questioned something so insignificant, because as Lucy barrels towards its brain-liquifying climax, the last thing you should be doing is asking questions. Besson requires you to let go of the armrests of your comfy cinema seat and allow yourself to be sucked into the maddest final act in mainstream cinema this summer, and if it doesn't make a jot of sense then you're not really entering into the spirit of things.
Don't worry about it. It's all fine.

As the unfortunate student who finds herself miraculously accessing the previously dormant 90% of her brainpower after the aforementioned narcotics leak into her system, Johansson gets her money's worth out of her Under The Skin performance. She becomes a stone cold killer, blowing away gangsters and trashing cars in Paris streets with the same emotionless demeanour with which she cruised Glasgow in Jonathan Glazer's equally crackers (but for different reasons) sci-fi horror. It's actually a bit of a shame she couldn't have been allowed to have more fun with the role, because it really is completely fucking ludicrous.

As her powers increase exponentially, she goes from ex-drug mule to X-Man, then all of the X-Men in one, then she's Neo from The Matrix, no hang on Bradley Cooper in Limitless, erm Arnold Rimmer in that episode of Red Dwarf where he downloads a genius into his mind and operates two computers at once wait a minute now she's Akira's Tetsuo no I mean Dave Bowman at the end of 2001 no now she's God and even Morgan Freeman can't get his head round it. And to think you actually gave a shit about those wildlife cutaways.
"Sorry, can you... can you start again? I lost you
when you grew an extra hand for some reason."

Considering all the madness on display, Lucy is occasionally a little po-faced, and it suffers from the invincibility of its heroine; where's the threat against someone who can manipulate space and time without getting a hair out of place? And considering her powers are apparently limitless, Lucy often fails to do the bleeding obvious simply because it's not convenient for the plot at that point. Still, by the time you get to the space-spunk and the dinosaurs it's absolutely futile to argue with what you're seeing. You're better off just devoting what's left of your mental capacity to soaking up the bonkers and praying they never make Lucy Reloaded.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams
1951-2014

"You're a good man. I know that. Even if you've forgotten it."
- Walter Finch, Insomnia

Monday, 11 August 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy

I finally caught up with Guardians Of The Galaxy, the fourth and penultimate film in what I alarmingly find myself referring to as Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as if I'm some kind of comic book movie geek hahaha. Remember when Guardians was announced and we were all like, "a Marvel film set in space with a talking raccoon and a sentient tree, how's THAT gonna work?" as if Phase One, with its Norse gods and interdimensional aliens, was somehow the height of social realism? Well now it feels to me like the real question we should have been asking is "what if it's just not very good?", because then I could have prepared myself better for the fact that, well, it's just not very good.

To be fair, it's nowhere near as catastrophic as Iron Man 2 or The Incredible Hulk. It motors along with impressive momentum, kicked off by a Raiders Of The Lost Ark-y opening and fuelled by the spirit of Star Wars, with its likeable heroes thrown together and pitted against the forces of darkness through no desire of their own. That's about all it takes from the original Star Wars trilogy though; Guardians appears, ill-advisedly, to more thoroughly plunder the prequel trilogy for its roster of unconvincing CG environments and convoluted plotting.

An episodic jaunt through a series of interchangeable fights and confusing aerial battles, Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't afraid to bust out the old stop-the Macguffin-falling-into-the-hands-of-the-enemy plot, and it attempts to cover the fact that you've seen this story dozens of times by introducing an over-abundance of secondary characters. If you can keep up with all the players mentioned in the first act then you're doing well, especially when many of them are either suspiciously similar to each other, almost entirely without motivation or just plain extraneous.

Two minutes of screen time is still enough to warrant your own character poster.

Even some of the leads struggle to make their mark: Drax The Destroyer is just a strong man, whose habit of taking everything anyone says literally is a wasted opportunity for potential shenanigans, while Zoe Saldana's Gamora feels like she should be far more untrustworthy, duplicitous and therefore interesting than she ends up being. Only Bradley Cooper's permanently-enraged Rocket, the talking raccoon, comes close to any kind of existential introspection; it's not that the film requires Bergmanesque levels of navel gazing, it's just that we barely get under the skin, fur or bark of anyone. Chris Pratt's rogueish Peter Quill is merely Han Solo-lite, and Groot, the sentient tree, is literally a wooden Chewbacca.

Its tongue is planted squarely in its cheek, and it's comfortably aware of its own ridiculousness, but Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't nearly as funny or clever as it thinks it is. The one-liners are weak, the gags half-hearted, and the one joke aimed high above the heads of the younger audience - i.e. it's about semen - is in incongruously dubious taste. And when it reaches its inevitably overblown finale, Guardians commits the cardinal sin of making up its own rules to explain away the ending, and it's hard not to feel a little cheated. It's not even as if you can take any especially memorable scenes or moments away with you, because there aren't any.

Although the bit where this extra reveals her
true feelings towards Glenn Close is quite good.

How much any of this will impact on next summer's reassembling of the Avengers remains to be seen. Despite a run of below-par entries, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still coasting on enough goodwill from Phase One to ensure the success of Phase Two's grand finale. But while Joss Whedon made surprisingly impressive lemonade from some of the lemons he was handed last time round; one can only hope he's stocked up on sugar over the last few years because, Iron Man Three excepted, this batch of the MCU is beginning to turn a little too sour.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

That's Rogertainment! Rogisode 6:
Shout At The Devil

Roger Moore's first war film came in 1976, courtesy of his director on Gold, Peter Hunt. There are few things that will persuade me to watch a war film short of the threat of physical violence, but the presence of Sir Rodge and the knowledge that Hunt was behind the camera convinced me to have a go on this one. And I'm glad I did, because for at least an hour it's a rip-snortingly entertaining Boys' Own adventure, with Rodge on top form against a permanently shitfaced (both in character and in person) Lee Marvin.

Moore plays English aristocrat (obviously) Sebastian Oldsmith (obviously), who, within minutes of the film's opening, is Shanghaied into helping Lee Marvin's booze-soaked rogue Flynn O'Flynn ("rhymes with gin") poach ivory from German-owned land in pre-WWI East Africa. It's the beginning of a hilarious on-screen partnership and a roaringly fun hour of nonsense as Oldsmith and Flynn try to strike it rich, which includes such ethically sound scenes as Roger Moore blasting elephants to death and dressing as a German tax-collector (in an incredible helmet) while attempting to steal money from an African village tribe. The culmination of all these japes is a truly award-worthy scrap between the leads, with Rodge insisting on Queensbury rules of boxing and Marvin failing to stay on his feet for more than five seconds at a time.
An hour in, World War I inconveniently breaks out, signalling a turn for the surprisingly dark in what has so far been exactly what you'd hope an hour in Moore and Marvin's company would be like. The film loses momentum, becoming a rote revenge flick with one-dimensional German villains, and the only high point is seeing Roger Moore in a ridiculous flying helmet. Conversely, its nadir is reached when he blacks up in order to go undercover to plant a bomb. It's a relief that the scene isn't played for laughs, but it doesn't help a film which already has dozens of black actors without a single line of dialogue between them (unless you count "EUUAAARRGGHH!!" when they get shot). Don't even get me started on Ian Holm, who spends the entire film mute and in brownface as Flynn's dogsbody Mohammed.
Oh Roger. Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger.

Indefensible racism aside, Peter Hunt's direction, and in particular his editing, keep everything moving at a fair lick and with a keen eye on the inherent LOLs of the first half. And in terms of Rogertainment, this is one of Rodge's best. His chemistry with Marvin is palpable, and he skillfully mines the comedy without resorting too much to British stereotypes. Gloriously, it's mere minutes before his shirt is open to the waist, where it stays for most of the film; this is becoming a thing I've noticed from watching a lot of Roger Moore films, so at least I can die knowing I've achieved something in life. I'm also a big fan of the scene in which Lee Marvin is menaced by a ludicrously unconvincing crocodile (complete with gloved fingers and thumbs); I half expected it to open up and Rodge to clamber out of it, but sadly it was not to be.

A film of two halves then: one terrific, one standard (and a bit racist), and a splendid bit of Rogertainment for everyone out there who enjoys watching The Greatest Living Englishman in action. So on behalf of both of you, I hereby award Shout At The Devil a Rogerating of four Rogers.
Join me again next time, when I wonder out loud what kind of circumstances led me to a point in my life where I would write words like "a Rogerating of four Rogers" as a matter of course.

More Rogertainment here, if you're man enough.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A review of a banana

Not this banana. That would be ridiculous.

While pimping my groundbreaking review of a bench on Twitter earlier this week and reflecting on my own pathetic obsession with James Bond, I facetiously tweeted that:
As soon as I clicked "Tweet", I wondered if anyone out there would be mentally deranged enough to actually take the time to draw a picture of James Bond on a banana. Obviously I was desperate for someone to, so I could flog another blog post out of the dead horse of my own ramblings, but deep in my heart of hearts I knew that nobody is that crackers.

Then this happened.

At something of a loss to describe my feelings about this quite extraordinary turn of events, I checked out banana artist (banartist?) Nathaniel Rogers online, and it turns out that he isn't as dangerously ill as is suggested by the fact that he drew a picture of a fictional character on some fruit then photographed it and sent it to me. In fact he runs an excellent film blog called The Film Experience, which I subsequently spent quite some time reading.

So thanks to Nathaniel for introducing me to his site via a frankly baffling drawing, for which I am also grateful, in a way. Here is my review of your picture of James Bond on a banana:



No, sorry, I can't do it. I can't review fruit art. I don't know what's happening with the world but I know I need to pull myself back from the brink before things get out of hand. Please excuse me while I get some fresh air and sunshine.