26 March 2012

From Shuffle to Dead

In 1995, Robert De Niro was kidnapped and replaced by an old man with grey hair and a turd taste in films. I hoped that we’d get the original back before it's too late but unfortunately it's not looking good. In fact, I heard rumours that the police aren't even looking for him! Would Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin appear in New Years Eve? Of course they wouldn't which is why I know that the real greatest-actor-ever has been replaced by a fraudster. He's probably chained up in the same room Elvis died in, after he was taken and replaced by that fat impersonator who exploded up to Heaven like an angelic rocket of brown.

Every year, this money hungry, shoddy wannabe brings out another crappy film which results in me walking the streets and shooting at pimps to cheer myself up. What makes it worse is people constantly excuse him by claiming “It's not his fault, it's because there's no good roles out there for older men”. What a load of shit! De Niro's the greatest actor ever so even if there is fewer roles he's still guaranteed them. If he tried, he could play an albino cabbage with dildos for legs and a penchant for racism and it would still be the best performance of the year. For some reason though he just doesn't want to…

The truth of it is that there are plenty of good roles out there for old men, they just don't pay the kind of money that this greedy bastard charges. For proof of their existence just take a look at Michael Caine's current output; despite being well into his seventies, Caine has spent the last ten years churning out some of his best work. Certainly better than he managed in the Eighties, with the house funding Jaws: The Revenge being a particular low point.

Over the last decade, Children of Men, The Prestige and his role as Alfred in Nolan's Batman, movies have kept Caine off the streets and in our affections. Although memorable, these roles are all supporting characters- even if they offer a good chance to act, they won't satisfy a raging cash addiction quite as easily as being the lead in quality films such as Hide and Seek or Righteous Kill. Maybe De Niro is the best actor in the world but I can't deny I have a huge soft-spot for Michael Caine. I just watch him and wish I'd had him as a Granddad instead of the ones I actually got. They won't object to me suggesting he'd have been better than them because firstly it might be true and secondly they're both already dead.

Supporting roles aside, Caine has even managed to blag a lead part in a couple of quality films. My personal favourite of these has got to be 2009's coffin-dodger shoot-'em-up Harry Brown which tells the story of an old man at his wit’s end. Whereas most geriatrics get angry over the little things such as the price of stamps and being ignored by their family, poor Harry Brown has bigger things to worry about. He's an elderly gent living alone in a shitty flat, right in the centre of Cuntsville, London surrounded by gangs of violent yobs, drug dealers and other such cockney slags.

The film opens with the murder of a young mum as she pushes a pram through the park. That's not what's shocking however; what takes me by surprise is the first shot of Sir Michael as a lonely old bloke eating burnt toast whilst staring pointlessly into space. To say that the man is an institution is an understatement. Britain is a predominately shit country which is represented throughout the world by an outdated monarchy, which is depicting us as an undemocratic, anachronistic, fantasy convention. Thank God for Caine then, who has been doing his best to hold us all up as the Kingdom of Cool.

As the times move on, so too has he- travelling from the cheeky Charlie Crocker of the Sixties to the grim nihilistic Jack Carter of the Seventies. Regarding British Culture he is as much a part of our defining make up as The Beatles, James Bond and Jack the Ripper. Seeing him wash the dishes in his stripey pyjamas on a run-down council estate is the equivalent to finding footage of The Queen pole dancing to Rammstein whilst shooting blue milk from her tits and swearing like a bitch. It's unsurprisingly kind of jarring.

The youths around poor Harry are running wild with more guns per person than brain cells. With their psychotic and violent nature, it's not long until they kill Harry's one and only friend, Argus Filch. The police can't help and Harry's no longer got anybody to play chess with. But rather than doing the dignified thing of sitting in to watch countdown and await death with a giggle fit of excitement, he instead decides to be the one person who'll stand up for himself. Like a doddering Frank Castle or a rusty Rockatansky, he goes out and he tools up.

What follows is not only the execution of today’s out–of-control youth by an angry septuagenarian, but also the evolution of Michael Caine. As Harry progresses with his plan of hardcore-pensioner-punishment we see him transform from the vulnerable fogey to an older Jack Carter. It is within this arc that a similarity can be drawn to A History of Violence, with both films depicting the journey of a once innocent, kindly man as he begins to trickle out a murderous wrath that has been locked up inside. Although to be fair there is thankfully a lot less sixty-nine-ing in Harry Brown by comparison. That position at that age could cause a lot of confusion, particularly for people with loose false teeth and an inevitably baggy vagina.

As Harry casually wanders around offing all the nasty looking kids, the anger in the area begins to escalate. This culminates in a night time raid from the police who intend to arrest anybody on the estate sporting a shaven head and a track suit... so, basically everyone.

Admittedly the kick off in the ensuing fight-back is little more cowboys-and-indians than Mike Leigh but not in an unbelievable way. This chav-Braveheart is no more over the top than anything witnessed in reality, such as the Toxteth Riots or Avatar. Just because it's not going to happen until the future, doesn't mean it can’t be real, you pricks!

Don't get me wrong though, as much as I love this film, it isn't perfect. It's just an English Gran Torino or Death Wish-with-a-zimmer-frame and comes dangerously close to simply being both a fascist porno and viagra for readers of the Daily Mail. A sign of this films strength therefore is that it manages to rise above this to be an enjoyable slow burner that, for a change, places drama and emotion a lot higher than special effects. The closest thing to a stunt in this revenge fantasy is watching a seventy year old try to move at a speed so fast it reaches heights somewhere between shuffle and dead.

This is director Daniel Barber's first feature film and based on this I'm looking forward to witnessing his career unfold. Thank God he got a chance to make this movie before David Cumeron decided, in his wisdom, to shut down the UK Film Council. In 2011 Cumeron spent £680,000 of tax payer’s money on renovating Downing Street. In one year alone he used £21,293 of our cash to pay for his own personal mortgage. It's good that these twats are wisely using our money this way. I would hate for Cumeron to have shitty wallpaper or lumpy cushions as he decides that despite its importance and huge success, our Film Council can't be justified. I'd much prefer the cunt to be living in luxury than running a country that respects its film industry and takes pride in its cinematic output. Prick.

Every so often, a film will come out with a title character that couldn't be played by anybody else. Lost in Translation wouldn't work without Bill Murray, The Wrestler wouldn't work without Mickey Rourke and this wouldn't work without Michael Caine. Both Caine and Harry have spent significant time in the military and too much time living in grotty parts of London. Like giving lubed up ping-pong balls to a dutch whore, this film is a gift for his talent. Let's just hope someone gets the same for De Niro before it's too late. As a tip, he also likes his gifts with a side-order of $20 million. Anything less and he vomits his way back to Ben Stiller's Meet the Sellouts franchise. So God bless Michael Caine! When I take over the world, I'm replacing the Queen’s face on our cash with his. Then I'll use it all to pay for a detective to find the real De Niro…

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20 March 2012

Kids With Guns

Tarantino claimed that the reason he made Kill Bill was to see how good a director he is as according to him, action is one of the hardest genres to do well. At least I think it was him that said that, it was either him or one of his characters; they all the sound the same to me.

Thanks to a lot of our movies, Americans have been led to think of England as being a country stuck in history and in love with our monarchy. Well, guess what Yanks? Our dildos aren't powered by steam and as far as most of us are concerned, the monarchy is just a scrounging, inbred, tourist attraction. I know that things like Sense and Sensibility might make you think we're all jolly nice people but take it from me, most of us are in fact hardcore pricks who hate strangers and love porn. 

In 2005, Joe Wright made Pride and Prejudice which, regardless of its quality, is a little bit of a clichéd Brit-movie thing to make. He then followed this with the equally la-di-da, toff-ish Atonement which continued the stiff-upper-lip bullshit. Although as a consolation, at least here he snuck in the word ‘cunt’ and depicted us all as the selfish lying bastards that we are.

I guess that after spending the first few films of his career trying to maintain the rumour that we Brits aren't all the apathetic, cynical cunts that I know I am Wright felt it was about time for a change. He therefore took Tarantino's action movie advice and got to work on the oddball, baby Bourne, fairytale that is Hanna.

Hanna starts off with Saoirse Ronan living in snowy isolation without any eyebrows and only her jolly green dad Eric Bana for company. Like most healthy father daughter relationships, the two of them read each other books, hunt for food and kick the living shit out of each other. As it turns out, Bana is on the run and protecting his daughter from the American secret service and in specific, the evil special agent Galadriel. Therefore the fights between father and daughter aren't just 'Mary Poppin's' worst unruly child nightmare but training for the young girl to be able to deal with the upcoming wrath of the blindingly ginger topped, bitch played by Cate Blanchett.

From its opening scenes, it’s kind of obvious that this film is a fairytale to the point that it may as well start with text saying: “Once upon a time, there was a young girl who could bare-handedly kill some cunts. Hanna as herself is basically a paedophiles nightmare; a good-looking, young girl who could-and-would snap your neck before you can say puppies, sweets or Russian sex-trade. Due to her living arrangements however, although she knows how to fight, she has never experienced either friendship or music.

Not knowing the beauty of classics such as Pulp or Bowie might sound like she's missed out, but really it's swings and roundabouts. It also means that she's never had her head infected with the talentless warbling's of that shitty 90's girl group consisting of Baby, Sporty, Scary, Posh and The Ginger Tranny Spice. Hanna gets all her knowledge from an Encyclopaedia, if the music she'd heard first was the Spice Girls, she'd assume its definition was meaningless sound emanating from the lips of five hideous, unintelligent, untalented, sub-human tarts. If I'm being honest, I'm not a fan of the Spice Girls.

Obviously with Hanna being an action movie, we need some shit to hit the fan. Hanna therefore alerts Blanchett's wicked witch to her presence so the two can spend the next hour and a half running around the country playing silly buggers with each other. Before I watched this film, I expected it to be an action film which hints at being a fairytale, but in all honesty it's the other way ‘round. There's one action scene with Bana in a subway which is brief but brilliant and reminiscent of Wright’s horse shooting, beach tracking shot from Atonement. The rest of the bitch-slapping however is simply un-memorably enjoyable. It's a bit like the 17th time you have sex in that it's enjoyable at the time, but by morning you've already forgotten about it and beyond craftily trying to sneak it up the bum, nobody tried anything new.

In fact it's the Brothers Grimm feel to this film that makes it stand out and linger in the mind. Hanna is an oddity in the same way Liza Minnelli is; in that when you say oddity you really mean fucking strange. The most memorable part of an action film like Die Hard is when Bruce shoots Snape out of a window and utters his motherfucking catchphrase. The most memorable part of Hanna is watching Cate Blanchett go arse-over-tit down a log flume having just shot at a child whilst standing in the jaws of a giant plastic wolf.

Like all good wicked witches however, Blanchett has her evil minions to do her bidding. In The Wizard of Oz she had a freaky species of flying monkey. In Hanna, the witch’s oddity of choice is the equally unlikable race of humans known as the Germans. In the same way that Dorothy has to avoid the clutches of the winged apes, Hanna too has to avoid the grasp of a gang of bleached blonde, camp neo-Nazis. Basically, whoever wrote this script had the genius idea of including the nihilists from The Big Lebowski.

At this point in cinema, the horror and action genres are being treated like Malaysian children- forced to slave away in brothels and sweatshops. Those two genres are being churned out as quickly and efficiently as possible with their only purpose being to swap any integrity or soul for cold, dead cash. Horror is particularely being massively exploited by the evil overlord and all round silver-screen twat Michael Bay who has seemingly made it his goal to remake and commercialise everything that scare fans hold dear to them. Action movies have, for the most part, survived the remake treatment but only to be instead massively dumbed down and driven to formula-obsessed mundane-ness. When John McClane's motherfucking catchphrase was stifled in Die Hard 4.0 I think a bit of civilisation died. The massively respected and potential action genre king that was Die Hard had now too been reduced to the level of an old pauper on his hands and knees begging for money. It was like seeing a loved one get chomped on by a zombie and then slowly transform into one of the blithering masses of morons.

This holocaust of creativity is therefore the reason why the world should watch Hanna. It's original, creative and tries something a little more imaginative than simply casting Vin Diesel instead of The Rock. There's a line repeated in this movie in which Ronan's jailbait-killer proclaims, “I just missed your heart”. Ironically this phrase can also apply to the film itself which was great but just not quite great enough on first viewing to become a favourite. Having said that, I can see this being like shagging a particularly warty whore, the more I revisit it, the more something will start to grow on me. Either way, check it out! 

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14 March 2012

A Gun, A Whore, A Coven, A Bet

Like most people, I too have occasionally pondered humanity’s most important question; “what did people do before the invention of films and video games?”
Until recently I'd just assumed that the answer was ‘take children to feed the Elephant Man’, ‘start World Wars’ and ‘wank off to pictures of ladies’ ankles’.

Although that is all true, according to some post-porn internet research, I've discovered that another thing we partook in was ‘murdering the living fuck out of each other’.

In 1888, the American serial killer H. H. Holmes got so bored with waiting for the first film to be released that he decided to build himself a huge hotel of death… it contained rooms fitted with gas lines, sound proofed vaults and a chute that went straight down to the basement where he could relax and strip the flesh from his clients’ bones. He was basically a victorian 'Basil Fawlty' but instead of doing impressions of Germans, he claimed to be possessed by Satan.

Even if it came with free Wi-Fi and an en-suite drug dealer, H. H. Holmes’ hotel must have been less than relaxing for some of the guests. However, I can't imagine that the pain from having him carve you up would be anymore awful than the 1995 film Four Rooms. To call that film a mess would be an understatement along the same lines as referring to the holocaust as being a little bit of a tits-up. Four Rooms is like a drunk fat man trying to photocopy his arse, going through the glass, getting the scanner up his hole and slicing his balls off. It's a fuck-up so bad that, as you watch it unfold, you just wonder how something so simple can go so horribly wrong.

The movie itself is split into four segments with each quarter focusing on the antics of the same bellhop and the situations he finds himself in. The individual stories are all helmed by different directors, two of which I'd never heard of and two of which are Rodriguez and Tarantino. Apparently it was originally going to be called Five Rooms until Richard Linklater saw the festering iceberg of shit approaching, came to his senses and quickly jumped ship. Considering the two unknowns haven't directed anything noteworthy since, I can only assume it's because their careers were infected and killed by the high levels of cancerous awfulness present in this movie.

The first story tells of a coven of witches led by Madonna who are intent on casting a spell that will bring their God back to life. Like your average Madonna concert, the spell involves stupid chanting, a mouthful of spunk and a group of slappers dancing like piss-heads trying desperately to hold in a shit. Characteristically, our ‘Madge’ decides that there just isn't enough jizz for her liking and so the ropey tart demands that one of the witches should shag Tim Roth.

This section looks like a cross between the T.V. show Bewitched and a pornographic film that's been directed by a lobotomised Teletubby just before he slips into a six month coma. The acting is generally awful, the story is just confusingly crude and the jokes simply aren't funny. The feeling you get whilst watching this pile of crap is the same as when you temporarily sober up with the noose around your neck and your cock in your hands. You just wonder exactly what the fuck is going on.

There's no denying that the first quarter of Four Rooms is piss awful but it is however just a warm up to ease you into the overflowing pool of shit and manky, floating sweetcorn that is part two. The story this time round is that Tim Roth has walked into the wrong hotel room and finds himself roped into some weird role playing sex game between its two occupants. It's a story so dumb that watching it, you can only assume that it was written by the banjo-playing boy from Deliverance. There are plenty of shitty twists throughout, but they make so little sense that eventually you start to suspect that you're misunderstanding them. You're not, they actually are as stupid as fuck. The story here is just so baggy and dull that I can only assume someone let a toddler waffle on about a plot-heavy porno he'd seen, wrote down what he garbled and then filmed it with no intervention for style/class/direction/sanity.

About half way through, Roth realises he's in the middle of a sex game but for some reason continues to play along. If he just left the fucking room like any other human would, then this section wouldn't be quite so long and tedious. This is the short film equivalent of the British Royal Family in that it's completely remedial, unnecessary and shouldn't have lasted half the time that was allowed.

At the start of the third section we hear some Mexican music play, which basically means this must be Rodriquez's effort. In case you weren't sure if that was the case then the arrival of Antonio Banderas pretty much confirms it. With the exception of Sin City, I've never been a huge fan of his. A guess there are a few reasons for this but the main one has to be, well, you know... Spy Kids.

Here however, Rodriquez is the cherry-like glittered turd mounted proudly on top of this festering cake of shite. In any other situation, this story would be a bit crap, but here it is thing of comic perfection. Without going into the plot, it's a bit like a Looney Tunes cartoon but not quite that good. If there's one thing of note in this entire film, it's Banderas who temporarily reminds us that he was once much more than just a man with the voice of 'Puss In Boots'.

Unfortunately though, this section was simply the calm before the storm. To throw in a torture analogy, Part 3 was the teasing gasp of air before they plunge you head first back into the freezing barrel of piss and diarrhea. At the point you assume things are getting better, the piercing and familiar sound of a motor-mouthed narcissist returns us to the mess that is Four Rooms...

To call Tarantino's section a ‘twenty-five minute presentation of self-indulgence’, ‘a one-way ego-trip to the moon’ and ‘the worst example of someone believing their own hype’ would be massively unfair of me. It's actually only twenty-minutes long.

Not only does he cast himself as the hotel’s most important client but he's also the main actor in his section. For every word Tim Roth speaks, Tarantino just has to say five hundred. In fact, there's even a single shot in this film which stays on Tarantino's face for what feels like five whole minutes. He doesn't cut away from himself once. Throughout, you can't help but wonder what's bigger, his enormous chin or his massive, arrogant, egotistically inflated head?

Rodriquez's section was noticeably his own because of its mildly Spanish feel. Tarantino's is obviously his because it contains every single cliché that makes his films what they are. He's cast himself, it's overloaded with pop-culture references, everyone talks like a nerd on speed and it's wrapped in a blanket of misplaced confidence. If Jackie Brown is a stone-cold-classic then this is at the bottom of the very deep well of crap along with Death Proof and the 'Austin Powers' scene in Inglorious Basterds.

Beyond the setting, there is one thing running through the movie that connects it all together and that is Tim Roth's character. I don't want to be mean about Roth because generally I really like him. However, with his retarded 'Mr Bean' impression of a performance, it's hard to find something nice to say. For a start he's not playing a character, he's playing about nine different schizophrenic characters. His personality changes with each story with the only similarity being the post-buggery 'Jack Sparrow' swagger. I don't blame Roth though as clearly this is a man being directed by too many people without any focus or singular idea. Four Rooms is a perfect example of too many chefs spoiling the broth. It just so happens that from tasting the broth you'd assume it wasn't made by chefs but three untrained, arrogant brats and an unusually lucky Mexican.

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4 March 2012

Need For Speed!

Once upon a time, the Wachowskis told us to imagine that there is no spoon. Easy enough to do with a piece of cutlery I suppose but a lot harder to apply to the Matrix Sequels. I know that there are great scenes in Reloaded and Revolutions, but let's face it, they do slightly ruin the original a bit. In the first one, we hear all about the mysterious Zion. In the second, we're shown it to be a plastic looking disco cave complete with a bunch of semi naked gimps dancing like tits to bloody Barbie Girl or whatever.

The whole fucking rave is cheesier than a tramps foreskin and if that's what we're fighting for, then fuck it, plug me back in. I'd rather be a happy fucking battery than part of that jigging crowd of twonks. By expanding on the world of the original and making it look shit, you're basically giving wrong answers to questions that made the first film great. It's like getting to finger Angelina Jolie and finding a huge pair of hairy testicles down her knickers. On face value she still looks great but secretly you can't help but be thinking about what bollocks is under the surface.

Following The Matrix franchise however, the siblings have so far only done one other movie. Speed Racer is their 2008 follow up and tells the story of a young racing driver who must choose to either join a corrupt sponsorship or remain independent and come under attack from them. Filmed almost completely on green screen, the film looks like a living cartoon and uses more colours than actually exist in the world. After just a few minutes, you start to wonder if the bright red is the colour on screen or simply evidence that your eyes have started to bleed. I think that watching this whilst high could genuinely cause brain-bubbles followed by schizophrenia and a lifetime of gormless dribbling.

When it came out, for some reason the critics decided to give it a bit of a slating. Just because it's a little bit crap, two star reviews where being hurled at it like an angry retard throwing shit at a mirror. I mean- it's not the best film in the world, but it's not bad. Beyond the look of the film, the cast is also really likeable with Emile Hirsch whose head is two sizes too big for him, John Goodman looking like he's had a stroke, Christina Ricci sporting that season's anorexic look and Roger Allam doing an impression of Tim Curry inside Gilderoy Lockhart's skin.

The plot, for what it is, unfortunately suffers from Matrix Sequel Syndrome in that it's way too fucking complicated. We're watching what looks like a live action version of Mario Kart with a comedy chimp in a hat, but the story is a convoluted mess of sports corruption, the stock market and industrial takeovers. The look and humour of the film is clearly aiming for a young audience but the story is like watching a cross between Wall Street and Days of Thunder whilst on magic mushrooms.

Also, like The Matrix Sequels, it's way too fucking long. Again, if it's a kids film, it really shouldn't go on for much more than 90mins. This however drags itself out for around 2 hours and 15 minutes , the same time it takes a 2 legged dog to find a safe place to shit, without it getting matted into its fur. At that running time, most kids will have hit puberty and grown their first pube before the credits start rolling. Annoyingly, there are just a few too many long, misplaced scenes which play out a bit like watching a pantomime with a serious business meeting. Kind of like going to watch Jack and the Beanstalk and spending half an hour watching Jack haggle for the beans based on the current magical fruit exchange rate. You end up not giving a single shit.

Despite all that however, I do still really like it simply because I find it to be genuinely sweet and good hearted. Financial bullshit aside, it's about a family who love each other and are just doing their best to stick together. You could get rid of all the 'Gordon Gecko' greed-is-good shite, and in all honesty I'd probably like it even more. In fact the bits that get me the most are the stuff involving the death of 'Speeds' older brother 'Rex' and how the family deal with it. Contrary to its bubblegum exterior everyone in the “Racer” family play their parts completely straight with some fairly heavy things going on. Not only is 'Pop' mourning the loss of his son, he also has to deal with the fact that the last time they spoke he told him that if he leaves now then he can never come back. The only thing to slightly spoil this scene is that before 'Rex' steps through the door you half expect Goodman to shout, 'Over the line' and pull a gun on him.

The stuff between 'Speed' and his parents are, in my opinion, genuinely touching with John Goodman and Susan Sarandon doing more than just turning up for the money. If I've got any other niggle regarding these scenes it's simply that I find Sarandon to be a bit of a hypocrite whenever she's giving driving advice. I'm not being funny, but the last time I saw that ginger gilf in charge of a car, she drove it off a fucking cliff. I haven't actually seen Thelma and Louise but I'm assuming it's about the incompetence of woman drivers and so if I was 'Speed' I'd tell her to shut the fuck up and keep her shitty, suicidal advice to herself. Go find your headscarf and wear it in another room, bitch.

The other interesting character here is 'Racer X' who has, in my humble opinion, a genuinely touching backstory. He looks a bit like if X-men's 'Cyclops' decided he was into visiting dungeons and wearing bondage and is, I guess, this films equivalent of 'Morpheus'. He's dependable, honourable, cool, and in all honesty, the spine of the movie. If there is any reason to revisit this film, other than seeing Christina Ricci's general face and body, it's to watch him knowing exactly what you find out at the end. It's not exactly a 'we're the same person, he's a ghost and it was the cripple all along' kind of affair, but it certainly adds a bit of weight to the movie.

The Wachowskis are important film-makers and this forgettable CG acid trip is one example of why. It might be a bit crap, but at least it is original and not stuffed up its own arse with pretentiousness- like The Matrix Sequels were. The directors also deserve credit for making a film that couldn't be any more different to The Matrix if they had tried. It's so different in fact, that it's a bit like Spielberg following War Horse with a pornographic slasher film or if Michael Bay followed up Transformers 3 with- well, just any good film would do. It'll be nobody's favourite movie, but I recommend it simply because of how refreshingly un-cynical it is. Maybe Speed Racer's plot is a bit confusing, but seems as most people can't even work out what gender Larry/Lana Wachowski is, the fact that we understand as much as we do should be appreciated. Regardless of whether Lana's knob is between her legs or in a jam-jar on the mantle, I don't care. As long as they keep making films as individual as Speed Racer and The Matrix, then I'll be happy.

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