Thursday, 19 June 2014

Fuzzy photo of Bond 24 placeholder title treatment marks beginning of sixteen months of Bond 24 blog posts

Every river has a source, and one day film blog historians will be able to look back on this post as the source of a torrent of ramblings on The Incredible Suit about the as-yet-untitled 24th film in the James Bond franchise. It's not out until October 23rd 2015, but you can bet your sweet right buttock that I'll be filling the intervening year-and-a-third with all the pointless bunk I can think of in order to alleviate some of the boundless excitement of another Bond film.

Let's begin.
This photo was taken by the eager beavers at, who are currently at "Licensing Expo 2014" in Las Vegas, which describes itself as "a meeting place for the global licensing industry, whether you are looking to spot trends, build strategic partnerships or secure promotional tie-ins," which frankly sounds absolutely appalling. Still, things are definitely happening there: a Terminator Genesis logo has been revealed, some kind of half-assed Jurassic World standee went up and Hasbro revealed their line of toys based on the movie Transformers: Age Of Extinction, based on the line of toys by Hasbro.

But fuck all that shit, because tucked away in the top of a screen of apparently official logos is this bad boy:
Yes chef, Bond 24 is happening and is flaunting its licence to sell right now in the City Of Sin. In all honesty there's not a right lot else to say about it (although check out the mental approach to baselines and descenders, typography fans), but as a blogger one should never let the absence of information get in the way of traffic.

With this inaugural post done and dusted, I'm off to Vegas to buy the licences for my range of Bond 24 tie-ins: MI6 mugs which bear the legend "you don't have to be a sociopathic psychological wreck to work here but it helps"; a line of suits guaranteed to be one size too small and a "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster altered to read "Keep Calm and Carry Bond", which makes no sense but is still funnier than 99% of other posters based on the phrase.

Meaningless blog posts about Bond 24 will return

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

That's Rogertainment!
Rogisode 5: Crossplot

There comes a time in a man's life when he looks back at some of his decisions and contemplates their wisdom. Did I choose the right career path? Did I marry the right person? Should I have chosen to watch and analyse Roger Moore's entire back catalogue? While I'm reasonably certain that the answers to the first two of these is a resounding Yes, I am seriously beginning to question the third.
Episode five in an apparently never-ending series of posts aimed at boggling at the filmography of The Greatest Living Englishman brings us to 1969's Crossplot, which has little in the way of Plot but plenty in the way of making me Cross. It's a cheap, slapdash attempt to shoehorn North By Northwest into an episode of The Saint, but without any of the fun that such a mash-up suggests. Everything about it screams unambition, from the staggeringly awful rear-projection to the tediously half-arsed set-pieces. This is a film in which even the characters can't be bothered: one assassination attempt involves the sabotage of the chain of a swing, which at worst would result not in the death of the intended victim but most likely in the bruising of one of their buttocks.

It begins well, with an eerie pre-title sequence, cheerfully cheesy Bondesque titles (odd how so many of Rodge's pre-Bond films do that), and a pleasing introduction to playboy ad man Gary Fenn (Moore): yes, he's with a lady, and his frilled dress shirt is unbuttoned to his waist. Realising he'll be late for work because of his nocturnal activities, he unceremoniously ditches the lady and races to work in his sports car, shaving while driving and stealing a pint of milk from a float he overtakes, all to the beat of a hip and swinging score. It's exactly how I like to believe Roger Moore kicked off every single day of the 1960s.
Purchase the complete set of redhead, brunette
and blonde, get a free garden fence and clown's car

From there on things get steadily worse, as Rodge is inexplicably lured into a half-baked plot to kill a buxom Hungarian beauty because she knows too much about a plan to bump off a visiting African statesman. Limp villains abound, fancy dress is worn because the costumes were presumably about to be binned and towels are amusingly dropped revealing the apparently unmagnificent Roger Todger: "so much fuss over nothing", remarks Hungary Bosoms, leading to an awkwardly unsexy shower seduction during which Rodge refers to his companion's breasts as "Latin plurals" for reasons not entirely clear.

There's some nice contemporary photography of 1969 London, and small parts for The Prisoner weirdo Alexis Kanner (disappointingly underused) and Bernard Lee as a behind-the-scenes baddie, in fun contrast to his concurrent role as M in the Bond films. Pleasingly, Rodge uses the sentence "Bernie Lee was a delight" in his autobiography, before going on to describe an afternoon's filming in which Lee was high on surgical spirit and ruined take after take by repeatedly and inexplicably saying "What a stupid fucking hat you're wearing, madam" to one of the actresses. If only he'd made that M's catchphrase, the world would be such a better place.
An actual cross-plot. Arguably more fun than the film.

Crossplot was the first in a planned series of three films United Artists agreed to make with Moore and The Saint producer Bob Baker, but it was so dreadful that the contract was cancelled and the other two films abandoned. Unsurprising, seeing as it's the kind of cabbage that seems to populate much of Roger Moore's non-Bond filmography and leaves me wondering what else I might have achieved in the 92 minutes I spent watching it and the six I spent writing about it. On reflection, probably very little. Still, only about 34 more films to go! *re-evaluates life, again*

Unbelievably, there's more of this. Click here if you must.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Rover

Although The Rover isn't released in the UK until August 15th, those lucky Belgianians have already had it for a couple of weeks. While this state of affairs would normally be enough for me to declare war, a fortuitous turn of events led to me finding myself working in Brussels earlier this week, so I made every effort to avoid eating fucking mussels with my colleagues and instead legged it to the UGC Toison d'Or (Golden Fleece, translation fans) to catch my most anticipated film of 2014. The benefits of this are twofold: firstly and most obviously, I got to see the follow-up to David Michôd's bruisingly terrific Animal Kingdom two months early; secondly, you, the reader (hi Mum) are spared weeks of further foul whining about how much I'm looking forward to The Rover.
Proof that I'm not making up this wild and crazy story

A brief synopsis, then, for the tragically uninitiated: it's Australia, ten years since an economic and social meltdown in the Western world, and one man's (Guy Pearce) only possession - his car - is nicked by a gang of low-rent crims. Taking the youngest crook (Robert Pattinson) hostage, he sets off to retrieve his motor. His plan does not unfold without incident.

First things first: The Rover is no Animal Kingdom. But in all fairness you can't really compare the two: one's a knotty crime family drama while the other is a slow-burning, warped road-slash-buddy movie with bad shit to say about the state of humanity. Scripted by Michôd from a story he co-wrote with long-time chum and Blue-Tongue Films co-alumnus Joel Edgerton, The Rover is a measured, almost languorous piece that simmers under the South Australian sun, a crushing air of pessimism stifling proceedings with little mercy. As tales of slightly insane men searching for stolen, beloved vehicles go, this is about as far from Pee-wee's Big Adventure as you're likely to get.
Alternative title: Cobber, Where's My Car?

Guy Pearce's nameless anti-hero is a blank canvas for much of the film, albeit a canvas that's been screwed up more times than he can probably remember. We know little about him until late in the story (in a steely monologue that's the evil twin of a similar scene in Animal Kingdom), but his appearance suggests a great deal, none of it good. As tatty and battered as the widescreen desolation that surrounds him, Pearce's look here is extreme shabby chic: scarred, his hair cut by a madman (most likely himself) and very possibly held together only by his raggy beard. His character's past is painfully teased out ("I was a farmer, now I'm here" is one of his most revealing speeches), but he's less a person than an elemental force; an avatar for the audience. Michôd wants us inside Pearce's head, and the two men do a chillingly fine job of getting us there.

As the hunt for his car - not an actual Rover, sadly - becomes more intense, the people Pearce encounters become exponentially less pleasant. Everyone has something to sell and everyone is in it purely for themselves, save for one altruistic character. Michôd's concern soon becomes clear: selfish actions have consequences, and those consequences are on stark display in The Rover as a warning. Whatever led to "The Collapse", our greed and predilection for self-preservation played a big part in it. Like all good road movies, The Rover is a film whose roads are literal and metaphorical; the roads we take, and are taken down, don't always lead to warm and fuzzy places.

While Pearce is intensely magnetic, Robert Pattinson is only slightly less successful as Rey, the childlike, mentally underdeveloped gang member Pearce uses to reclaim his car. Pattinson deploys a series of twitches and jitters that occasionally panic you into thinking he could, in the words of Tropic Thunder's Kirk Lazarus, "go full retard" at any moment. It's a tricky performance to pull off, and there's a lot of good work here, but while R-Pattz generally does a grand job of continuing to shed his fangirl-fodder rep he's often in danger of defusing carefully-wrought tension. And while the two men's relationship drives the story's emotional core, Michôd's (perfectly admirable) desire to avoid cliché means it develops begrudgingly and obliquely, which may prove unsatisfying to some.
Technically, The Rover is stunning. The very last film to be processed in Australia on 35mm, it paints the Outback as harsh and unforgiving; a savage purgatory populated by blackened souls in forgotten holes. Michôd's camera moves, too, are deliberate and dripping with purpose, and he loves nothing more than to hold on Guy Pearce's face for as long as possible. Meanwhile the first act's sparse, industrial score of atonal, metallic scrapes and clonks gives way to more melodic fare as Pearce's character begins to rediscover some kind of humanity, and the jarring inclusion of an upbeat R&B track later in the film raises one of its few smiles.

The Rover is thoughtful and bleak, but crucially never dull. It's hard to see it going down well with the Robsessed who retweet every mention I make of the film, and its pace might be too languid for even the most discerning moviegoer. But David Michôd's cinema is intelligent, heavyweight and beautifully played out, and I for one am 100% down with it. This is a fascinating second step in the journey of a director with enormous talent and potential, and whichever road he takes next, I will absolutely be along for the ride.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

22 Jump Street: Maximum Broverdrive

Remember 21 Jump Street? No? What's wrong with you? Jesus, it was only two years ago. You make me sick, you and your puny memory. This is why you never remember my birthday. Anyway, it's lucky for you that remembering 21 Jump Street is not high on the list of essential requirements for enjoying the sequel, because 91% of 22 Jump Street happens exactly like last time. EXACTLY LIKE LAST TIME. And while that's a problem for comedies like, say, Home Alone 2, it doesn't matter a jot here because it never, ever lets you forget it. Although you probably will because you forget everything.
I bet you don't even remember who these guys are. Ugh I hate you.

22 Jump Street kicks off with immediate nods to Bad Boys and Beverly Hills Cop, so it should be absolutely no surprise whatsoever that originality is not the order of the day. That said, being funny as fuck is very much the order of the day, and at this 22 Jump Street succeeds enormously. The idea of an entire first act spent pointing out its own deficiency sounds excruciating, but screenwriter Michael Bacall and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller squeeze the joke so hard that it's impossible not to go with the flow.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as Jenko and Schmidt, obviously, and one of them is very funny and likeable while the other is Jonah Hill. Tatum's comedy chops are coming along nicely and, while his bromance with Hill is undeniably chuckleable, he's impressively capable of carrying his own scenes. He pitches Jenko's stupidity with the laser precision of a far more seasoned comic and handles the action triumphantly; check out the mid-air slo-mo pouting or the Cate Blanchett gag for proof. Hill, meanwhile, does a lot of unfunny improvisation and spends an entire scene shouting because the louder you are the funnier you are, AM I RIGHT?!?! Actually that's not very fair, Jonah Hill is quite funny sometimes but it's hard to like him because as a person he appears to be an unpleasant homophone.

It's a little too long and there's another pointless oops-we've-accidentally-taken-mind-bending-drugs-time-for-a-wacky-trip sequence, but by and large 22 Jump Street is a ruddy good laugh providing you're in a packed cinema. Its crowning glory, however, is avoiding the easy option of sticking outtakes at the end to make you go home thinking you had more fun than you did, instead deploying something way more appropriate, ingenious and frankly amazing for the credits sequence. I'll be honest: I wasn't looking forward to this film, but it pleasantly surprised my black, mirthless soul, and now I find myself in the odd position of awaiting the twenty-threequel with something approaching anticipation. I must be getting soft in my old age.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

If there's one thing I hate, it's films which include that universally familiar helicopter shot of the Thames with the Houses Of Parliament and the London Eye, then stick the utterly redundant caption "LONDON" over it for the benefit of people too dumb to dress themselves. It happened in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and immediately told me the film was aimed at total fucking idiots. So when it turned up in Edge Of Tomorrow, I punched the person next to me out of rage and settled in for a completely average sci-fi videogame shoot-em-up. And that's exactly what I got. But not for about an hour. The rest was ace.
When you gotta go, you gotta go

There's so much to love in the first act. Tom Cruise plays deliciously against type as Major William Cage, an oily PR gonk who'd do anything to weasel out of a fight, and it's as refreshing as a jug of iced water down the front of your undies. No sooner is he railroaded into joining the battle for humanity against an army of alien bastards, for which he is hilariously under-equipped, than he falls into an inconvenient time-loop which is masterfully handled by director Doug Liman. It's easy to bore the audience to tears by repeating stuff over and over (see also Vantage Point, my BlogalongaBond reviews), but Chris McQuarrie's zippy script doesn't fuck about. McQuarrie and Liman ruthlessly shove the plot towards the all-important exposition while playing the scenes for LOLs, of which there are many - mostly gleefully derived from Cruise dying horribly. Watching him struggle to get the safety off on his ludicrous battle suit for fifteen minutes is almost as much fun as seeing Bill Paxton playing exactly the soldier that Aliens' Private Hudson would have become.

When the action moves to the beaches of northern France and a full-on barney with the bad guys, the cracks in the story start to show. There are obvious parallels with the second world war - much of this section plays out like a PG Saving Private Ryan - but for no clear subtextual reason. Edge Of Tomorrow is a knockabout sci-fi extravaganza, and it makes no claims to rival the existential crisis of Groundhog Day, which is fine but also a shame; the opportunity to have it actually say something is right there, but instead it's happy to be a film about Tom Cruise learning to be Tom Cruise.
How To Be Tom Cruise, Step 1: Run funny while pulling a daft face

At this point though, all is still well: Emily Blunt is fiery and caustic as the Full Metal Bitch who's the only one with the knowledge to help Cage through his predicament; Noah Taylor does the Basil Exposition thing well enough and everything is trucking along so nicely that when Cage understandably takes a day off from dying horribly to go to the pub, we're happy for the chance to see him take it easy. But at around the half way mark, the gags dry up, it all gets a bit serious and when the final act rolls around Edge Of Tomorrow reverts into exactly the completely average sci-fi videogame shoot-em-up I was dreading. At one point I thought Liman had stitched in scenes from Pacific Rim, so generic was the climax. It's an argument for another day, but why is Hollywood so scared of doing an original finale? It's like a comfort blanket filmmakers think we need so we don't go stumbling out into the night, confused and terrified by the slightest alteration to a tired formula.

Anyway, Edge Of Tomorrow does what it does very well, it's just that what it does is only partially interesting. Having turned out an hour of first class blockbuster entertainment, it chickens out, puts the safety back on and delivers a denouement that's merely fine. Then, as if to ensure the erasure of any leftover goodwill, it parps out a catastrophically confusing coda that makes literally no sense whatsoever. Still, you've seen Tom Cruise be a hero, you've seen him die countless times and you've seen a sweaty Emily Blunt get up off the floor in a sexier way than anyone's ever got up off the floor before, and you've seen it about half a dozen times. Something for everyone there.