Monday, 5 October 2015
Patrick Stewart becomes Saulnier's first big name, kindly bestowing a small portion of his big bag of gravitas upon the role of Darcy, a horrible racist shitbag who runs a thrash metal bar for boots 'n' braces types in the backwards backwoods of middle America. Into this venue step naive punks The Ain't Rights, a fledgling band of teens who obviously haven't seen enough horror movies to know when not to enter a cabin in the woods full of white supremacist mentalists. Needless to say, something unpleasant happens, which causes a lot more unpleasant things to happen, and very few people live happily ever after.
Saulnier is slowly ploughing a furrow of mildly amusing thrillers full of unspeakable acts, and Green Room, like Blue Ruin, rarely lets up in its shark-like race to the end credits with as much carnage inflicted as possible. But it's let down by a handful of improbably convenient plot developments and a dearth of likeable characters, and as the film reaches its obvious conclusion it runs out of steam and tosses off a climax that needed more satisfying emotional heft. Stewart never gets the chance to be as bastardly as he should, and the imperilled protagonists are too under-developed to care about which of them might be next for the chop.
There's a great genre film in Jeremy Saulnier somewhere, and it's worth sticking with him to watch as he works it out. But until he does, Green Room is destined to be little more than a lesser version of the masterpiece to come.
Thursday, 1 October 2015
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
Hard to believe this wouldn't quite work
The Phantom Menace's flaws are legion, so where to begin? At the beginning, I suppose. The opening crawl, with its coma-inducing talk of trade routes and the unwelcome news that, in the old days, Jedi knights were in the business of solving tax disputes like some kind of intergalactic ombudsman, sets the sludgy tone perfectly. Before long Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are delivering George Lucas' undeliverable dialogue as if they're playing a joke on him, never dreaming for a moment that these would be the actual takes he'd end up using.
Within minutes we literally run into Jar Jar Binks, and immediately wonder if he will do anything useful or, indeed, watchable in the next couple of hours. The answer is no. His sole impact on the plot is to take the Jedi to the Gungans, who will later do a spectacularly shit job at helping fight off the invading droid army. They don't even beat the bad guys: on the point of defeat and the verge of sweet, blessed execution, an 8-year-old who can barely see through his fringe does that for them from hundreds of miles away. So Binks' contribution is purely to bumble around as the least successful comic relief character in history, tagging along like the kid nobody likes and getting bits of himself stuck in things with disappointingly non-fatal results.
Please just fuck absolutely and utterly off
Then there's the shoehorning in of C-3P0 and R2-D2, who were such well-conceived and executed guides through the adventure of A New Hope but who don't seem entirely sure why they've been invited to appear in The Phantom Menace. R2, for one, keeps looking around nervously like that poor bugger who turned up at the BBC for a job interview and inadvertently found himself on air talking about Apple Corps vs Apple Computer. And those midichlorians, ugh, what even? It's almost as if Qui-Gon knew he was talking into a lady's razor so just said something appropriately absurd. Also, while we're talking about that scene, how did Anakin get that massive and convenient gash on his arm that allows Qui-Gon an excuse to steal his blood? IT DOESN'T MATTER LOOK AT THE PRETTY CG BACKGROUND
As if all this wasn't enough, and on top of howling honkers like "Are you an angel?" and "Always remember... your focus determines your reality" (LITERALLY WHAT THE FUCK), what we're dealing with here is a film populated entirely by supporting characters. NOBODY wants to step forward and have this film be about them, and who can blame them? Where's this film's Han Solo? Its Princess Leia? Hell, even its Luke Skywalker? Top billing goes to Neeson and McGregor, who play two of the lowest-key heroes in science fiction, taking the Jedi code of never showing emotion to its entertainment-unfriendly extreme; the villain is vague and intangible, like some kind of phantom menace, and the one character we're actually meant to be interested in is manifested as a mop-headed brat too annoying to care about and too cute to hate. Well, almost.
Wait, don't go! We're just getting to the good bit! Oh there it was.
Why Lucas felt his prequel trilogy needed to be entirely Anakin-based is a mystery. The whole father-son / Anakin-Luke thing is fine, but the parallels are too thin on the ground to justify six hours. The storyline concerning Palpatine's machinations and the long-game overthrowing of the Republic are far more interesting, and I'd happily have had Baby Vader's journey to the dark side told as a subplot rather than the other way round. But then where would the hilarious Jar Jar Binks fit in?
John Williams' score
John Williams' score is great.
That's literally it
What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)
Header pic by dark lord of the Sith Olly Moss
Monday, 7 September 2015
"a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated"Because a warts-and-all documentary about London's best-known villains this is not, and nor does it claim to be. Glossy as a magazine cover and as sharply-suited as a Bond film, Legend is entertaining enough but is so concerned with evoking a picture-postcard East End populated by gangsters, geezers and good-time girls that the cold, ruthless evil at its heart is buried under a thick veneer of slick camerawork and gorgeous lighting.
Reg, on the other hand, is less successful. Written and played as a lovable rogue with the flawless good looks of a 21st century movie star, the character's resemblance to the Reggie Kray you've read about or seen in documentaries is barely there. Here, he's a cheeky chappie with an occasional violent streak you'd forgive him for every time he flashes you a smile. It's a morally questionable direction for the film to take, but there's a reason for it: Legend is told mostly from the point of view of Frances Shea, Reg's short-term wife, as he woos her by shinning up her drainpipe (not a euphemism) and looking like Tom Hardy. If we're to believe that she'd fall in love with Reg, we have to fall in love with him too, and there are few better ways to ensure that than to have him played by someone whose place near the top of various 'Sexiest Men Alive' lists is virtually assured for the rest of his life.
Spot the difference
The Krays were, let's not forget, bad guys. I don't doubt they loved each other and their dear old mum, but to romanticise their story to such extremes is a disservice to anyone who suffered at their hands. In a crucial scene, Reg snaps and viciously murders an associate; the camera lingers on the act as if forcing us to face the horror, but by this point we're immune to it. The scene is as stylised as everything else we've seen so far and is rendered toothless by its own technical proficiency. Tellingly, the most unpleasant scene in the film - which involves Reg and Frances in a particularly rough patch of their marriage - occurs offscreen, and is all the more necessarily repulsive for it.
Still, if you don't mind your legends painted in broad but undeniably entertaining strokes, there's a lot to enjoy here. The costumes, production design and score - which all contribute to the romanticism - are as shimmeringly glamorous as the cinematography. Helgeland and Pope pull off indisputable magic with Hardy's double role, and toss off shots like the lengthy, Goodfellas-esque swagger through a pub that pointedly takes in casual violence and tender courting with apparently effortless style. But much of the nuts and bolts of the Krays' story is hurried along to make way for more improbable dialogue: the twins' escape from conviction in the Lord Boothby case is a crucial ingredient in their rise to power, but it's treated brusquely by Helgeland's script - a script which, nevertheless, finds enough time for Frances to spout fantasy guff like "Love is a witness... Reggie sees me, and I see him", as if anyone in the history of the universe ever spoke like that.
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
I'm hoping so hard that this is the first in a series of five films whose titles consist almost entirely of repeated vowels. (4th)
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
Looks lovely, like Boursin risotto. (4th)
So Tom Hardy reckons he's as good as BOTH Kemp brothers, does he? Well we'll see about that. (9th)
The story of how a group of brave men experienced such debilitating extremes of cold that they set up a double glazing company to keep it out for good. (18th)
"Michael Shannon magnetises all eyes" says Time Magazine, somewhat improbably. Great news for everyone yearning for the alignment of their positive and negative ocular particles, but I can't help thinking it'll be hard to enjoy the film with bits of metal stuck to your peepers. (25th)
Having repeatedly read that this trailer contains spoilers, I refuse to watch it. Although if the spoiler is just that it's yet another disappointing Ridley Scott film, that doesn't count, I guessed that already. (30th)
Friday, 28 August 2015
A quick Dagobah diversion acts as a weird aside where we're reminded of all the important stuff that needs resolving before the credits roll, and in all honesty much of it is a little baffling. We're told that Luke needs to face Vader to truly become a Jedi, but didn't he just do that at the end of Empire? I mean, fair play for raising the emotional stakes of their final father / son chit-chat, but there's a suspicion that Lucas may have put that dialogue in as a placeholder and forgotten to finish it. Then Yoda struggles to squeeze out the words "There........ is...... a................. nother ........................................... Sky............................................... walk........................................................................................ er" before wheezing his last, apparently unaware that "Leia is your sister" has fewer syllables. He's only being vague so we can get the full story from see-through Obi-wan, who gets the short straw of having to explain why everything he said in Star Wars was bullshit. The sense that Lucas is retroactively rewriting his story as he goes along is palpable, but it's a canny move to give Alec Guinness the role of Basil Exposition here; the character's wisdom and eccentricity just about allow him to carry off the bollocks he's spouting.
The team outing to Endor is where the Star Wars machine finally starts to come unstuck, thanks in no small part to a bunch of short furry twats. The Ewoks represent Lucas' wish to have the gargantuan, technologically advanced Empire defeated by a smaller, underestimated foe, forgetting that he'd already done that at the end of Star Wars, and so the pointy sticks and small rocks lobbed by dwarf children in fluffy onesies pierce the armour of Stormtroopers more used to laser bolts, and it all gets a bit silly. Frankly I began to doubt the integrity of the Ewoks as a viable narrative device the moment they provided a complete fitted outfit for the decidedly non-Ewok-shaped Princess Leia with no notice whatsoever.
Maybe it's from the plus-size range
However. Something's not quite right. Something's changed. The edge has gone. All the interesting character work that continues to set the first two films apart from almost every other sci-fi epic seems to have gone missing; the moment Han and Leia's unresolved sexual tension resolved itself, they stopped being the cool older kids and became your parents. Even Han's belief that everything he says is cool or funny reminds you of your dad. The Ewoks are cute and cuddly with the specific intention of selling toys to small children, and Vader's revealed face is more "favourite uncle" than "evil, twisted warlord". They're all small things, but they add up to a lesser film than their predecessors, which is an undeniable shame.
Still, it's the final Star Wars film, so at least they can't get any worse, right?
Darth Vader is really pointy
The Death Star II
C-3PO is a shit translator
Jabba The Hutt
Leia is a bit mean
What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)
Header pic by dark lord of the Sith Olly Moss
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
But only one of the brands currently peddling their wall-and-ceiling-free movie shows has had the foresight to bung The Incredible Suit a free ticket, burger and two drinks, so they're currently the only ones enjoying the unfathomable reach of a promotional post on this narrowly-read film blog. I suspect they were hoping I wouldn't be writing this quite so far into their season, but I have been quite busy so owt's better than nowt at this stage.
Anyway, Backyard Cinema is at Camden Lock until September 4th, boasting two screens, a load of deckchairs, some bean bags and the very real chance of eating an amazing burger. And despite the fact that I was more or less paid to write this, I can happily confirm that Backyard Cinema is actually one of the better outdoor screening events out there. Their partnership with Honest Burger makes them very special in my eyes, because Honest Burgers are my current burgers du jour, so any opportunity to sink my teeth into one of their juicy cholesterol sandwiches is welcome.
here, including the story of how Backyard Cinema's founder started with screenings in - yes! - his back yard, which is interesting because I showed Top Gun to a bunch of friends in my garden a few years ago yet somehow I do not now have an Honest Burger franchise on my patio. I have a greenhouse, a table and some stupid chickens. Anyway that's not important right now. What is is that you go and investigate Backyard Cinema so they get their money's worth out of the goodies they gave me.
If you have an outdoor screening you'd like to see treated with similar reverence - or indeed any product that I might enjoy and be unashamed to pimp with my pixels - then do get in touch, particularly if you work for Tom Ford menswear.
Labels: backyard cinema