Saturday, 28 March 2015

It's the Spectre teasre trailre!

I'm probably not allowed to say this, and there's no way I'm revealing my source, but there is DEFINITELY a new James Bond film on the way. I've managed to gain access to 97 seconds of footage from it, and I'd like to share it with you now. Remember: "Exclusive" is The Incredible Suit's middle name. Making its full name The Incredexclusiveible Suit. You can see why I had to shorten it.

Let's Spectrelate!

Oh dear, MI6 looks like Javier Bardem's face when he took that thing out of his mouth in Skyfall. Evidence found at the scene reveals the true cause of the explosion: Ben Whishaw left the gas on and Judi Dench lit a fart.

It's James Bond's flat, probably! Our hero lives at number 007 Spy Street, and the last time we saw it was in Live And Let Die, when it was decorated like a Swedish porn film and Bond impressed M with his new-fangled orange juicer. Rumour has it that in Spectre he will make Ralph Fiennes a toastie in his Breville sandwich maker. Also, in Things You Might Not Have Noticed But Probably Did: Judi Dench's M's bulldog on the table.

This is where things start to get a bit Flemingy. This document shows that Bond's legal guardian was - as Fleming describes - his aunt, Charmian Bond, after his parents died in a climbing accident. But it also reveals that temporary guardianship was transferred to one Hannes Oberhauser: more on that guy later. Also revealed here: Bond's age. Apparently twelve years old in 1983, that makes him 44 this year. It also means Daniel Craig's Bond is almost certainly the last to be older than me. Sad times.

Is that a young Christoph Waltz with a young Daniel Craig, plus a conveniently-obscured third party? Who could that be? Mr White? Blofeld? Roger Moore? We can only hope.

Is that a tear? Don't worry James, I cry too sometimes, usually during the Beach Boys scene in A View To A Kill. Note Moneypenny gently chiding Bond for not trusting anyone here. He trusted you not to shoot him in the chest at the beginning of Skyfall and look where that got him, you cack-handed twit!

I absolutely adore this bit. It's a beautifully-shot evocation of Fleming's short story Octopussy, in which Bond hunts down an old soldier, seeking revenge for the murder of childhood mentor Hannes Oberhauser (remember him? I mentioned him, like, three paragraphs ago. Keep up). Christoph Waltz, incidentally, plays a character called Franz Oberhauser. INTERESTING. (To me. I'm sure you couldn't care less)

That hat looks silly please cut this shot from the finished film.

Here's Monica Bellucci as the deliciously Flemingy-named Lucia Sciarra. Hopefully she's at the funeral of everyone who keeps banging on about how ancient she is for a Bond girl.

Lovely stuff. The SPECTRE ring, a ridiculous giveaway that anyone who wears it is a total shitbag, is a definite improvement on the ridiculous Connery-era version. Considering divorcing my wife so I can remarry her and have this as my wedding ring. Chicks dig that kind of romantic gesture, right?

And here's a beardy Mr White, apparent boss of Quantum, looking like he could do with a cuddle. I don't know what you heard in this bit, but I definitely heard Mr White call James Bond a cunt. In all fairness it's the only way to top Judi Dench saying "fuck" in Skyfall. I can't wait to see what happens in the next film. "Morning Moneypenny, you bloody buggering shitting cunty twatbastard motherfucker. Is M in?"

Bond is massively unimpressed with Mr White's "kite dancing in a hurricane" metaphor. Quite right too. I hope his response is "You are, more like".

Someone at this table better get 50,000 volts up the wazoo or I'm asking for my money back.

They are really pushing their luck with all this "Christoph Waltz isn't Blofeld" stuff. He couldn't be more Blofeldy here if the lights came on and he pulled off his wig and had a big ugly scar down his face and a fluffy white cat on his lap and a t-shirt saying "Hi I'm Blofeld nice to meet you" and then he said "Yes my name is Blofeld can't you read my t-shirt?"

Just so we're clear, this is some of the best movie logo branding-type stuff you'll ever see. It really is genius.

So what's the official The Incredible Suit verdict, I don't hear you ask because you didn't? Honestly, I was lukewarm on first viewing. But the more I think about it the more I like it: it's VERY Flemingy, which is great, and it's quite dark, which is also good. I've been assured, however, that the tone of the teaser is not representative of the tone of the film, which presumably will return to double-taking pigeons and Tarzan impressions as dictated by the Law Of Cyclical Bond Silliness. At the end of the day it's a new James Bond film, and as you probably know by now, that's enough to cause a commotion in my trousers until release date and quite possibly beyond. I'm ready. Bring it on. After another trailer and a few more posters obviously.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Voices

Films like The Voices make me glad I don't work in marketing. I mean where do you even start? Here's a film which swerves between awkward comedy and savage horror with wild abandon, whose cast screams "Average Romcom!" at the top of its voice, but whose script dares to address issues surrounding mental illness in a way that would send most mainstream directors running for the hills. How you sell that to a general moviegoing public, most of whom come out in hives if a film can't be described with fewer than two words and a generic poster, is quite beyond me. So spare a thought for the poor souls at distributors Arrow Films, whose job I shall attempt to make easier by suggesting you forget about genre conventions and just watch The Voices with an open mind and a chum to pop your jaw shut during the end credits.
Ryan Rodney Reynolds, far more convincing here as a factory packing monkey than he ever was as an action hero, plays Jerry, a simple guy who - heh - has conversations with his pets and - lol - is a bit awkward around girls. Then, at the insistence of his - haha - cute ginger cat, who - pffft - has a Scottish accent, he REPEATEDLY AND BRUTALLY STABS SOMEONE IN THE CHEST UNTIL THEY ARE DEAD. To suggest that the film's tone has shifted somewhat is an intergalactic understatement. Yet back and forth it goes, playing off Jerry's fumbling relationships with Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick against his reluctant descent into serial killer territory. It is, frankly, fascinating to be tossed around in your seat like this by Michael R Perry's mad script and Marjane Satrapi's direction: she steers the film with the assured nature of a captain taking her ship through a superstorm against the advice of everyone around her.

Through all the guiltily chucklesome mayhem (beautifully shot by Maxime Alexandre), we're asked to examine Jerry's mental health via a series of conversations with his psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver), his dog Bosco and his cat Mr Whiskers. Jerry's on medication to "smooth everything off", but this leads to an only-too-real world intruding on the idyllic existence he's built from his own state of mind. Before long you might actually find yourself questioning the very concept of reality, and whether one person's is any less valid than another's just because the chemicals in their brain are out of whack. Of course, when you're talking about serial killers, questions of mental illness rub up against the notion of pure evil, the old nature vs nurture debate is rolled out and hang on are we still talking about a Ryan Reynolds film?
What's notable about The Voices is that none of this is rammed down your throat, but nor is it treated remotely frivolously despite repeated comedic interludes. Satrapi, director of the remarkable Persepolis, is no stranger to Movies With Issues, and though her latest may be tonally all over the place it's a controlled experiment. Both she and writer Perry know they can't hope to address all the complexities of mental illness, so they use serial killing as a metaphor for just about any level of internalised struggle or moment of self-doubt and comedy to sweeten the pill, delivering a film as schizophrenic and likeable as its lead character.

Reynolds employs every ounce of his not inconsiderable charm to keep you on Jerry's side, Gemma Arterton has fun with her posh British totty role and Anna Kendrick is predictably and effortlessly great, but Satrapi is the star here, crafting refreshingly intelligent and original cinema. The Voices is an unexpectedly gleeful delight: bold and independent, with a wilful disregard for mass appeal. It might freak a few people out - and I'll be honest, I've no idea how anyone who suffers from depression or worse might receive it - but it's got rhino-sized balls, and these days that's rarer than a decent Ryan Reynolds film.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

That's Rogertainment! Rogisode 8:
Escape To Athena

"The patriot, the professor, the comic and the stripper," boasts Greece-based WWII romp Escape To Athena's poster of its lead characters. But which of those is played by our top-billed hero, Saint Roger of the Moore? Well, it is my sad duty to report that Rog plays none of the above, despite the fact that he would probably be a great stripper. No, Moore does in fact play Otto Hecht, a Nazi Commandant with an Austrian accent straight out of Buckinghamshire, in what I can only hope he referred to on set as Führ Eyes Only.

So unconvincing are the sounds emanating from the Rogermouth that I naturally assumed his role as a top brass in the Third Reich was a disguise, and that he would at some point throw off his SS uniform to reveal an ivory tuxedo. Alas it was not to be: in his continued quest to be miscast wherever he appeared, Rog - admittedly playing a charming, gentleman genocidal villain rather than the bad kind - fails to convince as one of Hitler's goons from word one of his performance.

Placing Roger Moore gently aside for a moment though, just have a boggle at the rest of Escape To Athena's cast. Savalas! Niven! Powers! Cardinale! Roundtree! Bono (the other one)! And, with perhaps one of the greatest credits ever seen on screen...
If the appearance of a fictional character's signature on the opening titles suggests to you that that character might be something of an annoying narcissist, then well done! You are correctly reading Escape To Athena.

Opening with the first of several absolutely phenomenal helicopter shots which swoop and dive around the film's island setting, Escape To Athena sets out its stall early: gorgeous locations, a galaxy of stars introduced one by one (David Niven in a false beard calling a Nazi an "ignorant bastard" in his first scene is a delicious moment) and more rambunctious wartime carryings-on than an 'Allo 'Allo Christmas special. Telly Savalas wearing a chunky knit sweater and more bling than Mr T, despite the temperature presumably nudging the high forties, is just one of its many treasures; another sees him dancing like a confused bear in a later scene, choreographed by Strictly's Arlene Phillips.

The film concerns an attempt by Savalas to break into a PoW camp, an attempt by Niven to break out of the same PoW camp, an attempt by Elliott Gould to break into a monastery to loot it and an attempt by Roger Moore to break into Stephanie Powers. It ambles along pleasantly enough, and there's a lot of fun to be had if you can bear Elliott Gould's wisecracking smartarse, but what we're dealing with here is a futile attempt to cover up a threadbare plot by plastering as many big names as possible over the cracks. Towards the end, Escape To Athena actually exhibits symptoms of mental illness, suddenly introducing an underground rocket base and Nazis dressed like Daft Punk for reasons never fully explored.
Random Anschluss Memories

As a hilariously misjudged present-day (i.e. 1979) epilogue ushers the film out, accompanied by third-rate disco act Heatwave funking off with Keep Tomorrow For Me, you wonder if director George P Cosmatos didn't just wander off in the middle of the edit, leaving Escape To Athena to be completed by a couple of kids high on Sherbert Dip Dabs and Top Of The Pops. But then you remember the scene in which Michael Sheard, who would one day play Hitler in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, almost ejaculates himself silly as a lower-level Nazi watching Stephanie Powers taking her jumper off in a comically unsexy strip show, and somehow you forgive it its problems.

And what of the mighty Moore? Well, as mentioned, he couldn't sound less German if he told a joke about how inefficient he was, and coming slap in the middle of his tenure as 007, it's almost impossible to see his performance as anything other than James Bond in jackboots. He is, of course, charming and sleazy, but because he's Roger Moore his character does get the chance to redeem himself; I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that Major Otto Hecht is Rog's Oskar Schindler.

Not for the first time, one suspects Moore took the part because it was being filmed somewhere sunny, and the chance to hang out in the casinos of Rhodes with his pal David Niven was too good to pass up. In many ways it's a classic Rogerformance: laid back to the point of lazy, unchallenging in any way but never remotely unwatchable. So three Rogers are awarded: I added one for Rog not doing anything massively racist this time (kind of ironic when you consider his role), but immediately deducted it again because at no point did he unbutton his shirt to the waist.
Belated apologies for the lack of recent Rogertainment; I shall endeavour to try harder in my efforts to assess the works of The Greatest Living Englishman, even though that means watching A Christmas Princess at some point. Probably Christmas. If this entire exercise has flummoxed you, there may be some kind of an explanation in here, but it won't be a very good one.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Latest Spielberg/Hanks collaboration is final film to be inspired by T'Pau album

The next Steven Spielberg film to hit cinema screens will be the Tom Hanks-starring Cold War espionage thriller Bridge Of Spies, according to reports. Due for release in October, the film marks the fourth collaboration between the two Hollywood titans, but more importantly it's also the fifth and final film to be inspired by the discography of '80s power balladeers T'Pau, who famously had that song that time.

The movies' obsession with Flame-Haired Carol Decker and her band of generic bemulleted nobodies has been a defining feature of 21st century cinema, so in the absence of anyone else wasting their time writing about it, I decided to put my - heh - heart and soul into investigating further.

Bridge Of Spies
T'Pau's first and best album (i.e. it's the only one anyone remembers) is, ironically, the last to give its title to a movie. Released in 1987 and immediately launching Flame-Haired Carol Decker into everyone's faces, it contained such era-defining classic tracks as Heart And Soul and China In Your Hand. "I am walking / over the bridge of spies today / freedom is only one more step away / you only have to hold me," warbled Decker on the title track: words which composer John Williams looks forward to setting against his lush strings as Tom Hanks clambers over the bodies of deceased secret agents in order to cross a river while clutching a teacup. Made of china. In his hand.

Released just a year after Bridge Of Spies, T'Pau's second album Rage somehow reached number four in the UK album charts despite nobody actually buying it. The LP is now the scourge of charity shops everywhere, which, with a pleasing symmetry, is almost certainly the destiny of the movie adaptation starring Nicolas Cage. Cage plays a furious Flame-Haired Carol Decker, whose anger at being beaten by Shakin' Stevens (Channing Tatum) in the final of ITV's pop dinosaur party Hit Me Baby One More Time results in the live, on-air disembowelling of host Vernon Kay (Eric Roberts).

The Promise
Following a three-year silence which nobody noticed, T'Pau stormed back in 1991 with their third album, The Promise. The record's performance ensured that Decker and her pals would go their separate ways once it dropped out of the Top 40's arse, and the tragedy of the band's situation was so moving that respected Chinese director Chen Kaige took it upon himself to tell their story in a 2005 film. Cecilia Chung plays Qingcheng (Chinese for "Flame-Haired Carol Decker") and Jang Dong-gun essays the role of rhythm guitarist Ronnie Rogers, with whom Decker enjoyed an alarmingly hirsute relationship.

Seven years passed before, contrary to popular demand, Flame-Haired Carol Decker reformed T'Pau and released Red, the cover of which featured Decker pointing at her vagina and looking unimpressed. When it came time for the movie version, the obvious choice to play Decker was Bruce Willis, who reformed his own band of past-it has-beens in order to take on an apparently corrupt US administration (a thinly-veiled metaphor for the British music industry). Nobody expected that either the album or the film would get a follow-up, but fate had other plans.

Pleasure And/Or Pain
In a futile attempt to drag this feature out beyond its blatantly limited capacity, T'Pau re-returned early this year with their eagerly unawaited comeback album Pleasure & Pain, which is so brilliant it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page. The cunning twist in the tale is that the album is a musical version of erotica-peddling director Zalman King's 2013 smutsplosion Pleasure Or Pain, in which - according to IMDb - a young woman (portrayed in song by Flame-Haired Carol Decker) is shown "a world of decadence and debauchery that pushes her sexual limits to the brink". As literally no human ears have heard the album, its faithfulness to the film cannot be verified. When asked about the discrepancy between the two titles, which somewhat defeats the object of this feature, the author feigned a heart attack before running away cackling like a loon.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Corruption, betrayal, racism, gang violence, drug smuggling, dismemberment, murder, gargantuan amounts of cocaine and occasional film reviewing: it's a tough life at The Incredible Suit, which is why I took myself off to see Hyena to get away from it all. Having enjoyed writer/director Gerard Johnson's debut Tony, in which his cousin Peter Ferdinando plays an unassuming serial killer, I looked forward to seeing what the pair would do with a bit more cash and a meatier story. Hyena is a satisfying second step for Johnson, but its deliberately lo-fi, weirdly unambitious nature prevents it from lingering in the memory for long.

Peter Ferdinando is great as Michael Logan, a cop with his dirty fingers in a number of dirty pies. Logan's not all bad though, and it's to Ferdinando's and Johnson's credit that you find yourself sympathising with him even as he's hoovering gak off a coffee table with a pair of Albanian sex traffickers. But this is a film with a wilfully muddy sense of right and wrong: there are no good guys, only bad guys and worse guys. Hyena presents this concept as a matter of fact, and its relentlessly pessimistic view of the police is dramatically admirable, but while we boggle at these lawmen's somewhat unique application of the law we never really get under the skin of any of them.
These guys, on the other hand, are really getting under someone's skin.

As Logan sinks further into the deeply unpleasant world of people trafficking that he's supposed to be investigating and preventing, his loyalties are in constant flux, and as a result it becomes increasingly difficult to know who he can trust. His colleagues? Maybe. His new, suspiciously friendly operation leader? Probably not. The guy from Internal Affairs? Seriously doubtful. His tenuous grip on his own situation is constantly loosening, and watching Ferdinando unravel is half the fun: a late scene on a bus, in which he receives some potentially terrifying news, is a hilariously uncomfortable set-piece in an otherwise unremittingly bleak and ugly story.

But for all its intent on showing a scuzzy underbelly of the police that we rarely see in cinema, Hyena still ends up feeling like a late-night extended episode of The Bill, God rest its soul. It's a small-scale story about much wider, devastating themes, but neither they nor their emotional toll on the characters are examined in the depth they deserve during the film's running time. If Hyena were the pilot of a new TV series I'd be hooked immediately; as a self-contained story it lacks the meat to fully justify a trip to the cinema.