Monthly Archives: October 2013

Parker

In his first live action film Parker from Thunderbirds reveals that far from being the picture of stiff upper lip obedience he is actually a rather over the top master criminal. Lady Penelope is nowhere to be seen as he ditches the pink car for something a little less noticable. Well to be honest he goes through about fifteen cars, but all those years as a chauffeur have taught him a thing or two about getting them started without keys, he has no trouble with any make or model. The plot of Parker hinges on the eponymous characters insistence on ‘order’, his particular brand of ‘order’ involves getting revenge on some bad dudes who cut him out of a heist – even though they offer to pay him back half way through. Whilst this slightly warped sense of ‘order’ almost certainly stems from his position in the strangely hierarchical world of the ‘International Rescue’ operation it is clear from the outset why he is simply the butler/driver rather than master of thunderbird 6. The plan he comes up with is so ridiculously convoluted that it is a small wonder he manages to achieve anything at all. His connections do come in handy though in that he seems to have unlimited access to fire department vehicles. Why they chose Parker as the focus of this film is clear, he was bound to be hiding some dirty little secrets behind that Limo screen, and hanky panky with Lady Penelope was never going to do it for an audience weaned on Marina from Stingray, so rather than waste money on another god awful Thunderbirds film they went with this spin off instead – and good luck to them I say – even though they have ruined their chance at a sequel with the rest of the squad because Parker shoots Jeff Tracy in the face at the end.

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Hammer of the Gods

Some Vikings turn up to fuck shit up for the Saxons, which is why this film is shot mostly in Wales. The fog machine is broken out more than frequently throughout, which has the rather unfortunate side effect of making the whole thing look a little bit like Monty Pythons Holy Grail, which isnt an awful thing, its just not quite as atmospheric when you fully expect a killer bunny rabbit to appear. The Vikings mosy around on some quest or another, dont worry about the details, there are not really any which make sense so it is far better to take it all in, and they kill lots of people with axes. They also kill each other a bit too, and sometimes they kill people for absolutely no reason at all. But that is all part of the fun. There is some attempt at vaguely intelligent film making here with the hero having some sort of sense of … well just sense really, but it is largely just a big old romp through fog infested Wales with a lot of good old fightin for good measure. The end is a sort of crap re-imagining of Colonel Kurtz’s lair in Apocalypse Now, right down to some guy who calls himself ‘the Chronicler’ or somesuch thing. Our hero went through a lot to get here, namely loads of fightin, and a drinking/arm wrestling competition, but Heart of Darkness this is not. Clocking in at about and a half there isnt time to get bored, but just in case I have worked out the percentages for you: 44% Long shots of people walking over hills. 10% Long shots of people walking over hills with lightening in background – even when no storm is present. 36% Fightin. 5%Talking in tents. 5% Talking nonsense in caves. 5% Talking outside. 5% Creeping fog.

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Mud

Mud is something of an unconventional detective film. It seems that almost every character could be lying to its young heroes, and all of them are set up to let them down somehow. That some will seems inevitable, but trying to work out who will or wont before the fact is irresistable. Why would we want to? Well the stakes are high. The stakes are everything you learned about love in fairy stories. The film revolves around a young boy who believes that above the law, convenience, personal safety and the life you want to lead comes love. He is heroic in his naivety, but it is an impractical world view, and not one which everyone shares. It is something like mentioning the force in the Star Wars universe only to find that half the people in the room are looking at you blankly, as if to say “you believed that little green freak who says his sentences backwards?”, then when you try to levitate a peanut (I am assuming a bar setting here) to prove its existence someone casually picks it out of the air and eats it – their ‘thank you’ carrying with it an air of “we have seen this trick, and nobody cares anymore”. The thing is, this film is so well made, so well acted, so poised to make you feel something without branding it across the screen that you too want the world to just work because love exists in it. This film is about a boy realising that love isnt a fairytale, it doesn’t magic away problems and it doesnt stop people from hurting one another, but he does learn what love is, and this is why you’ll listen to every word, because the film could end with the whole bar laughing at your lame attempt to levitate a peanut, or it could end with you riding into the sunset with Princess Leia. 

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The Valtari Film Experiment

So what happens when a band gives some film makers some cash to make them some music videos and calls it an experiment? Well you get a really mixed bag of music videos thats what. I could just put the word on the end of anything I felt like working on, then when it was really crap I could blame it on that eponymous “experiment”. Sigur Ros dont chiken out though. Thankfully, the issue here is that some of those films are genuinely beautiful, and others are genuinely moving, but once we get beyond this, some are just crap. If we take out the music, which is both beautiful and moving in its own right, then we are left with some films which really make you feel glad that there was the money here to make them, and others that made me feel that it was really wasted. I guess it is in some way a testament to the whole thing that I am not going to list them all with a ‘watch’ ‘dont watch’ tag. I suppose I am not going to do that because it is not my place, and I have to respect the people who put up the cash for this for doing the same. Even if it does argue myself into a corner. Its a nice corner to be in though, I would far rather someone was funding film, and taking the good with the bad, than no one was funding it at all.

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21 And Over

I contacted the makers of this film by telegraph and asked them a few questions, the questions and responses are below –

Is your fim racist?                Yes
Is your film homophobic?   Yes
Is your film sexist?               erm…yes…
Wow thats the big three, I would say congrations but… I have a few more questions to ask…
Does your film accurately represent the college experience in contemporary U.S.A?    No
Does your film glorify alcohol consumption?      well yeah I guess….but one of the drinking games was just drinking milk
Does your film actually say that drinking milk is a drinking game, I.E could you not even think of eight drinking games?     er…yes…I mean no…

Is your film funny?        I guess? I dont know? Some kids found it funny
Was it the racist sexist homophobic kids who dont drink who found it funny? ….Yeah I dont know, I just got paid to answer these questions man….

To be clear, no one involved in the making of 21 and Over was involved in the writing of this post.

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The Impossible

How soon after an event which has a profound negative effect on thousands of peoples lives is it appropriate to make a film about it? I have always felt that, having been fortunate enough to have been born in a part of the world which is largely free from natural dangers, without war on my doorstep I am not in any position to make a call on what that length of time should be. The reaction of people for whom that event was a reality will always be, in my opinion, the best barometer for such things, both in terms of time and content. The reactions to The Impossible from those who were there vary. There are those who lauded the films accurate depiction of the disaster, to those who felt that the main characters experience was too unlike their own. Some didnt want to see the film for fear it may awaken memories they would rather leave behind whilst others felt like it was giving people a chance to better understand what they went through. What they almost universally do it praise the detail of the film, what far fewer do is praise the story. It is as easy to argue that no film should be made which could profit from depicting events where many people lost their lives as it is to argue that film is unique in its ability to give context to events – to in some way make sense of them. Herein lies the problem with The Impossible. By following one family who against all odds survive, the film tells a heartwarming tale against a backdrop of disaster, but no disaster is heart warming, and because this isnt an imaginary event it does a disservice to those people for whom there was no happy ending. Because the title tells us the family will be re-united the end of the film it becomes simply a matter of waiting until their paths cross – some time is invested in the people around them, who ultimately we know will be less fortunate than them only for these characters to be discarded in favour of the search plot. It is telling that a reunion between a young boy and his father who share perhaps less than five minutes of screen time half way through the film caught me far more emotionally off guard than any moment shared by the main characters. There are other issues with the film, its skewed heavily towards depictions of white families, and I did find some of the acting slightly wooden. Ultimately the film does tell a true story, a heart warming and beautiful story, but I am not sure it was a story which would help us make sense of what happened to thousands of people on Christmas Day 2004 because its barely representative, in its own words it is ‘The Impossible’. Whilst searching for reactions to the film I came across many descriptions of peoples experiences on that and subsequent days, and far more than watching the film reading these very personal stories made me have far more respect for the people who wrote them, and a far better understanding of what they went through.

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Evil Dead

Note the lack of ‘the’ in the title of this post. I did plan to watch the original again, then watch this 2013 reboot, but rental gods conspired against me and I have come at it all wonky. No matter though, it worked out well because I dont have a great memory and I was not in a ‘lets compare’ mood. I remember enough though, and the original certainly didnt see a band of teenagers head into the woods for a DIY drug rehab session. The main consequence of this is that the whole thing can be read as allegorical of the trials which face anyone who decides to go cold turkey. For those less inclined towards slightly dubious filmic readings its also a great excuse for some ‘it must be because of the drugs’ dialogue – everyone knows you turn into a killer when you are coming off drugs right? There are enough nods to the original here that I didnt feel like someone had just made a horror film and cashed in on a good name, it was never going to be ‘The’ Evil Dead, but its ‘an’ Evil Dead film. The gore is outstanding, spectacularly over the top and very well done. It really made me lament the rise of CGI gore, this old school spatter stuff is so much more entertaining. I can look past the fact that you can kind of tell when people have their arms hidden behind their backs, so their ‘hand’ can be cut off. The only issue here was that it just isnt scary. The film is pretty short, and could really have done with a little more at the beginning to build the tension, but because we are straight in with the cutting off limbs and puke/blood/piss (yes that happens) everywhere I didnt jump once. This was always going to be a difficult film to get right, die hard fans of the original were never going to like it, and if you’d managed to somehow miss the first one you’d probably think this was overkill (literally), I liked it though, and for all its lack of real scares it had an awful lot of great horror moments. Now, next time I decide to stop taking crystal meth I will be sure to head down to the woods….

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The Gingerdead Man

This film spawned (always spawned when talking about horror or sci-fi) two sequels, which frankly amazes me because it was obviously a real struggle to find material to fill the barely over an hour run time of this first outing. If we are going to put genre labels on it the comedy should come before the horror, because you’d really have to have some sort of irrational fear of baked goods to find this remotely scary. To say it stars Gary Busey is an overstatement as well, because he is relegated to voice actor in the first five minutes. But these are non-issues really, its a shlock take up of the horror genre and you get what you pay for, which is preferably as little as possible. You can tell it was fun to make, and a couple of the actors manage that feat of being very convincingly unconvincing, just hinting that maybe it is only because they are great actors that their acting is so awful, I particularly liked the bad boy love interest, his sensitive side was buried under literally one layer of aggression and indifference. This isnt Scary Movie, it doesnt mash as much genre reference into its short run time as possible, content to just let the protagonists run around what must be the largest bakery in America whilst a little asshole of a gingerbread man torments them, the film makers are not trying to be clever, they are just having a good time. The best thing about the film is what is apparently required to make a gingerdead man. I have listed below:

To make – One Gingerdead man, and aprox 5 Normal Men

Make up one dough mix as normal
Add in gingerbread mix – must be delivered by mysterious hooded figure
Add the blood of your best friend – this friend must be of the opposite gender but your relationship cannot be sexual
You’ll need the soul of the evil man who killed your brother you’ll need to make sure you use an electric oven, because somehow his soul has to travel through the electrical grid, one presumes it got in there as the was electric chaired to death.

If you can get all these things together, and I know that is a big ask, you’ll also need a massive gingerbread man cookie cutter. I mean huge, like literally, if people eat gingerbread men this size regularly we cant ask why we are becoming increasingly obese. In fact, if every cookie tried to kill you it might be a great way to lose weight, not only would you be put off eating it in the first place, but as you ran away from its sugary death threats you’d get a little excersise.

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Mimic

So I was watching the newer bluray version of this film. Apparently this matters because Guillermo del Toro put a heap of stuff that was cut from the theatrical release back in. Im a big fan of Guillermo, he is a director which consistently interests me and consistently entertains me, and absolutely none of his films is a duffer. I reserve judgement on large robot based godzilla movies recently released because I have not yet seen them. With Mimic the themes are broadly similar to a bunch of other 90s creature films in that something someone created thinking it would be a good idea actually turns out to be a shit scary monster that wants to eat your face, but that is a good storyline and who doesnt need to be told that its bad to mess with nature. Remember, nature will always find a way. – especially if you have messed with its DNA to make it sterile. Except in the case of donkys. There is some pretty bad psuedo-science in here about the evolution of insects but aside from this its all sound. Eh hem. This is pretty mainstream stuff compared to a lot of Guillermos other work though, I mean a heap of it takes place under ground in sprawling labyrinthine landscapes but there certainly isnt anthing which would immediately identify this as his work to you. There are also some pretty in your face horror cliches here too, but they are cliches because they are scary, so I didnt mind as a character fumbled behind a locker to retreive his torch, hands inches away from the horror below. From what others have said this cut is much more about the character development than the scares though, I have never seen the original cut so I cant comment, but I cant say I really felt like anything exceptional was happening. Its not a bad creature flick, with some better than average storytelling to get us to the showdown ending, but lets be honest, Jurassic Park had done it all five years earlier.

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The Watch

I didn’t hate The Watch, and in that I think I may be alone, it was panned by basically everyone, and given how quickly it disappeared this summer I am not sure even the studio thought that much of it. I cant see what the issue was, I almost feel like saying “you went to see a picture with these actors in, and you expected something more?”. What the writers on this film have done is succesfully crafted a story (which vaguely works) around a group of actors who have been playing the same characters for literally years. Stiller even shows up in some spandex he stole off the set of Dodgeball. It was never going to win original comedy of the year, but its funny in an immature way, and I like dick jokes. Who doesn’t secretly like dick jokes? Just come out and say it, dick jokes are funny. A lot of the critics were throwing around the phrases “breath of fresh air” and “funny” and “king dong” about Richard Ayoade. Ok the last one isnt a proper quote, its a dick joke. But really, he was still playing the same guy he plays in most other things, he just has been doing it for eight years rather than ten like the rest of them. His gun weilding was slightly less hilarious than in Darkplace though. The point is, it doesnt matter, I didnt want him, or any of those other guys to be anything other than what they always are. I didnt want a deep pondering storyline based on what it is to be a neighbour under attack. I wanted dick jokes.

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