Oct 10

London Film Festival: Two Gates of Sleep

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There’s precious little dialogue in this film; a couple of mumbled lines, and some yelling of names about sums it up. But the two main actors have a wide range of non-verbal noises at their disposal; they grunt, yelp, pant and sniff, splutter, shout, smoke and cough their way through making their mother’s coffin, and carrying it downriver. Mostly, they grunt.

Sep 10

World’s Highest Expectations

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I had to constantly remind myself before I went to see World’s Greatest Dad that when I saw Sleeping Dogs (nee Stay / Sleeping Dogs Lie) I had no expectations. Bobcat Goldthwait’s scabrously sweet dog sex satire turned out to be one of my favourite films of 2007 and when I heard of the premise of World’s Greatest Dad I was sold. Even with Robin Williams in the lead. But I had no expectations for Sleeping Dogs, and do remember that tonally it could easily shift, shimmy and sometimes undermine its nicely black content. The good news is that World’s Greatest Dad is still at its heart a pretty dark comedy with plenty of laughs and a world view like Sleeping Dogs that can still have heart in a misanthropic world view. But, and its a big but, its not as good as I wanted it to be.

Jul 10

Comedy Is Still Not The New Rock And Roll

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In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Russell Brand had it easy playing Aldous Snow. His was a bit part, ripe for scene stealing and he played a stereotypical British rock star, all excess and showboating. All he had to be was more exciting, interesting and funnier than Jason Segal, which isn’t all that hard. He performs one song in the film, Inside Of You, which is just a trojan horse for crude innuendo, pleasant enough but easily written off as a slapdash track written for his girlfriend watch it below. But the song is played straight. This will be important.

Aldous Snow returns in Get Him From The Greek, as a lead character, and the film does not quite know what to do with his music.

Jan 10

The FT Top 100 Tracks Of All Time #19: Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

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There really isn’t much to add about Billie Jean that wasn’t mentioned in Tom’s excellent piece for Popular, or indeed in this Freaky Trigger & The Lollards Of Pop episode where we heard Jackson’s slightly ramshackle unformed demos of the song. So I will give you the one thing that always made me wary of Billie Jean, bar it being on an album that my family had already dismissed for being “silly”. The name. Who is called “Billie Jean”?

So in lieu of saying anything about Billie Jean, here are some other prominent Billie Jeans, or Billies Jeans.

Billie Jean King: Probably the most famous Billie Jean, and almost certainly the most important female tennis player of all time. But was Michael Jackson a big tennis fan. It would certainly make sense when Mike says she is not his girl though, by 1983 she had been outed. Certainly if Mike chose the name to honour her, he would have been way ahead of the US: she did finally receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama last year. But apparently Quincy Jones (who never liked Billie Jean anyway) wanted to change the name of the song because he though people would think it would be about Billie Jean King.

Jan 10

This Is No Place Like Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes does give the reviewer plenty of options on the Holmes based puns. In probing the homoerotic subtext we even get the Guardian crying about Holmesophobia (nice work – cheers). And all of this is hung on some sort of idea that the film either is, or isn’t, faithful to the source and that this is important. My take on this is as follows:
a) It is not important
b) It is not that faithful
c) It is as faithful as other versions
d) It is very entertaining.

And d) is what matters right? So what has surprised me in reading reviews, particularly British reviews, that fiathfulness to the book be damned. FAITHFULNESS TO LONDON is to be demanded. And whilst much has been said about them capturing a certain kind of grimy historical Victoriana, they lose every humanities brownie point for all of its assaults on geography.

Jan 10

Finding Emo

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Boo fucking hoo Emo Wild ThingI vaguely remember Where The Wild Things Are as a kid. I don’t think it was a sanctioned kids book in my house, and there was a very small window for picture books to flourish before I went for the word only hard stuff. But I so remember leafing through it at a friends (clearly being disapproving*) and wondering why there was a boy dressed as a wolf with a crown on playing with these giant creatures. And why didn’t they eat him.

All the way through the film of Where The Wild Things Are I kept wondering, why don’t they eat him. Seriously, he is fucking annoying. Of course the reason they don’t eat him (or indeed eat anything through the film) is they are a bunch of BIG EMO WILD THINGS, too worried about being sad and lonely rather than noshing down on some fine kiddie snack. Max, who is the little bundle of ten year old rage, may not have much good eating in it, but even so the decision to make him their king, rather than dinner, seems perverse. Why only the other day I decided not to eat a bit of fish that looked a bit off. I did not however bow down to it, and make a giant camp cum World War 1 trench system at its behest. Admittedly it wasn’t asking.

Jan 10

To Squid Or Not To Squid: The Unreviewed 4

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So here’s the last batch, from March onwards where ones new Years Resolutions start drifting away. And rather than great, or bad movies, these are all a bit of both, rather reliable and stolid rather than stuff worth writing about. All films i would recomend people saw without out trying to tell them that they are the best film ever. You know, the bread and butter of the film industry, even if they all potentially offered a lot more.

Watchmen: One of my favourite movie going experiences of 2009, merely because it made good one of my other New Years Resolutions. Namely I saw it with a lot of people. I think about eight of use sat in a prime location in a packed Vue Islington, and enjoyed watching a comic we had all read being turned into a film which was nearly exactly like the comic we had all read. And in retrospect, what more did we want? We all came out with very few complaints, we all agreed that the one significant change (SQUID) made lots of sense and then also agreed that Watchmen is Ok but not the best thing ever anyway. In a year that I would characterise for its excellent credit sequences, Watchmen had one of the best, a masterclass is effortless world building.

Dec 09

The Most Irritating Title Of The Year: The Unreviewed 3

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Three more unreviewed. Two good one TERRIBLE. From which I think you are starting to get the view that I really like writing about mediocre films, or films that almost made it. Find me an interesting flaw and I will be all over you like a badger with binbag (full). Make a film I really liked, I want to keep that to myself. Which, as noted regarding Frozen River below, I really shouldn’t do.

District 9:
Sometimes there is no point to writing about a film. Usually there is something interesting to say, or at least some sort of critical dialogue, but with a film like District 9 all the interesting angles are really obvious. So Blah blah – apartheid analogy, blah blah alien invasion, blah blah low budget Peter Jackson. Even the interesting stuff I though I was the only one to notice was quickly battered to death by the media.

Dec 09

I Didn’t Want To Talk About Them: The Unreviewed pt 1

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My new years resolution in 2009 was to review every film I saw in the cinema that year. That came to 114 films (so far) of which I managed to say at least something about 97 of them. So over the next few year ending days I will run down the films I did not review, with a general thought, and perhaps an explanation why they ended up being unwritten about. It soon turns out that it wasn’t necessarily due to them being unloved.

So working in reverse order, based on the theory that the most recent films I have had less time to write about…

Dec 09

Me And Orson Welles Is A Perfectly Fine Grammatical Construction

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Indeed it is a perfectly fine movie, telling a terrific backstage story with a central capture of a young Welles which tells you a hell of a lot more about the man than any trad biopic would. The film comes on like a Woody Allen period piece, with an eye (and ear) for period detail but filmed on a pretty closed set for budget and story reasons. This is a backstage story you can imagine taking place down the street from Bullets Over Broadway, and shares a generous sense of humour with that film, whilst managing to do Orson Welles the kind of justice that a grand biopic couldn’t do. Indeed Citizen Kane contains within it the best reason not to make such a film about Welles, and not just his own talent for self deceits and fakery. And what better way to discover who Welles really was, but with a fake story starring Zac Efron.

Efron does his job well here, he is pretty, he is a proper male lead which allows Christian McKay to do his extremely impressive Welles. Clearly there is some impersonation here, but there is more of a sense of quicksilver wit, of capricity of a very clever man before the world had battered him into submission. Showing that even at his high point what an egomaniac he was, whilst showing why everyone wanted to work with him and even a sense of the man whose last film would be Transformers The Movie.