30 April 2012

That Loki Fucker Will Rue The Day!

 This is a big film and thus a big blog- read on only if you have seen the film or don’t mind some minor spoilers.

Like an arrogant David Blaine, God was pretty smug about bringing Jesus back from the dead. It was a brilliant trick to be fair, but not overly impressive when compared to the miracle Joss Whedon performed in resurrecting Firefly. Serenity was a genuinely brilliant film that featured great humour, action and characters. Unfortunately though, any chances for a sequel were destroyed when the movie was only seen by about nine and a half people. Considering it made approximately £14.20 back I can't help but think Whedon would have made more money by sticking his hand down the sofa and digging around for loose change.

A Calm Jason Statham
Thankfully though, Marvel are smart people and have been matching their movies with the perfect directors. Thor required someone who could handle the camp sub-Shakespearean themes and so they hired Kenneth Branagh. For The Incredible Hulk they got Louis Leterrier, a man most famous for directing the shaven headed, rage monkey that is Jason Statham and thus a larger, greener version would surely come naturally. With The Avengers they needed someone who could not only spin a lot of plates at once but would also be able to keep all the fans happy. Short of hiring a geeky whore with a mechanized wank-hand, Joss Whedon was probably the only name that could step up to the plate and provide the nerds with so much pleasure – he did not disappoint.

Loki's Darker Days
The film starts with Loki stealing the Transformers’ Allspark and pissing off somewhere with it to cause some troublesome shit. Nick 'Motherfucking' Fury is therefore tasked with formulating a plan to defend earth from Asgard's cunning- and better looking- version of Withnail. 
Shaft Fury - Best Porno Title Ever
The one-eyed Shaft (not an innuendo) therefore spends the first half of the movie rounding up any stray heroes from previous films creating the comic-book equivalent of Super Smash Bros Melee. Basically, this is all your favourite characters in one place kicking the living fuck out of each other, but with the added bonus of a typically witty Whedon-esque script.

Helping Fury to recruit his gang is Scarlett Johansson who, for some reason, bothers travelling the world to find her target. All she'd have to do is text those leaked pictures of her arse to Bruce Banner with an address and I can guarantee it, him and his big green dick would be there in seconds. Admittedly, if he's aroused, the phrase 'Hulk smash!' would seem somewhat more intimidating, but fuck it- the world's in danger- she should take one for the team.

It's nice to be outside, sometimes.
By the time the group has formed, Loki Withnail is chilling out in a fish tank and they're all bickering like a super-gang of comic-book fannies. Whedon is on record for saying that he wanted them to behave like a dysfunctional family, however the banter is a little more like The Simpsons than the Fritzl's- I don't know what fuel is used to power the invisible plane’s furnace but I'm going to assume it's probably not German babies... apart from anything, Chinese ones are much less complicated to get hold of.

... Wind your neck in, Liz.
Like an office day-out, this film is all about the heroes learning to work together as a team but that's not to say they don't have an army to fight against, too. Like a (probably) gay passenger of the Titanic, Loki Withnail's basic plan is to become king of the world which is fine by me. If we have to have a monarch, I'd rather one that had fought for the position rather than just having been born into it. By just asking, we could have put him in a jousting tournament with the Queen. As is well documented, old Lizzie can still snap a pheasant’s neck so I'm sure she could deal with a mischievous demi-God. If Princess Diana's car crash proved anything it's that she's still shit-hot with a sniper rifle and blatantly doesn't give a fuck. 
With this in mind, the Asgardian coward wisely decided against it and so instead gathered himself a bitch-army of Aliens from the rocky planet of Uber-Bland.

The second half of this film is therefore balls-to-the-wall action. Thor hammers, Hulk smashes and Black Widow lunges vagina first like a sexy, neck snapping, face hugger. The action here is exactly the opposite of Transformers 3, with The Avengers being more character driven than cog-smashingly shite. With Michael Bay's CGI turd-fest, it's hard to care about anything that's going on because all of the characters are just like him... under-developed, clichéd and soulless.

With The Avengers however, each action ‘beat’ shows the team and how they have begun to mesh. The fighting develops their personalities and progresses the story justifying every second of screen time. There's a tracking shot near the end that zooms from hero to hero, showing each performing their individual role. Not only is it exhilaratingly brilliant, it's also basically the moment that the last few years have been building towards. This is quality, as opposed to just being an overpriced video-game cut scene from the mind of a talentless, rent-o-cunt who just wants to ‘cluster fuck’ himself onto the Sunday Times’ Richest Prick list.
Case in point...
The main reason for this costumed quality is of course that Whedon is simply not a hack director. Although his success on the big screen has been limited, this latest work contains traits that are recognisably his. For a start, the movie is truly an ensemble piece with no one character taking the lead. Obviously with Tony Stark bleeding charisma from his ex-junkie veins, there was a risk that this could unintentionally slip into becoming Iron Man and His Shadow of Forgettable Bitches. However Whedon avoids this by simply allowing the other characters to be just as interesting. Nick Fury is inevitably cooler than a polar bear’s bell-end and Jeremy Renner is as watchable here as when playing “fuck my life” with a huge cunt of a bomb in The Hurt Locker.

You see my point...
In fact, for me the new characters were the most interesting people simply because I wanted to get to know them as well as I do the others. Many people have been saying that Hulk steals the show and although for me that wasn't quite the case, he was still brilliant. Third time ‘round and they've finally got the menstrual snot-beast spot on with the simple key being to hire Mark Ruffalo. By having him physically portray and facially resemble the monster, there is a connection there that has in the past been noticeably missing. In previous cases, it was as though Chopper would fuck off for a twenty-minute cup of tea whilst some mouldy man-frog smashed shit up. Now finally we believe that Bruce Banner can steroid himself green and go on a stomping fuck-off rampage.

You can't see it but his mini-Mal is out.
Another characteristic of Mr. Whedon is to imply the threat of the film’s villain by killing someone off. Serenity 2 doesn't exist not because of financial issues, but because there's only about two fucking characters left. If he were to make it, the storyline would just be Captain Mal wanking and crying because all of his friends are dead and he's got nothing better to do. Whedon applies the same trick here too by offing an important but disposable character. I won't ruin who it is, but if you don't look like an A-list actor, chances are you’re already on borrowed time. Although the death isn't quite as emotional as when Jean Gray popped Professor X like a fucking party balloon, it is still quite a bit of a moment.

The Star-Spangled Man
The Avengers isn't a perfect film but considering the difficulties of what was required, it is the best we could have hoped for. Thor's appearance is a little sudden with the explanation smacking a little of Asgardian bullshit. I can't remember the muttered reasoning for his appearance but it may as well be that, “one jizzed oneself here by sliding down through the shiny realm of Sphincterlube”. Captain America too has had a slight suit change- in his own film, the costume served the purpose of boosting morale and acting as a kind of armour. Here however it looks a little more like he's broken into a clothes shop and stolen a range of Marvel sponsored Captain America pyjamas. I'm pretty sure it has a buttoned hatch round the back for him to do his military-approved midnight crap.

Whilst we're nitpicking, Loki Withnail's Alien army was probably slightly too devoid of any individual personality. They weren't quite cardboard cut-outs but nor did they reach the memorability of Emperor Pope-a-tines witless Stormtroopers from the good half of Star Wars.

Enough of this silliness.
I also thought the way in which people who have been possessed regain their self-awareness was a little clichéd. Although the revelation came at the end of a fight, it was only slightly more cinematic than having a glass of water chucked in their face. In some defence though, Whedon does avoid most clichés by building them up and then stifling them with his typically smart-arse put downs. Kind of like the classic Serenity quote, “We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then – explode”. His dialogue is typical of the genre but with a knowing and humorous twist.

In the end though, Whedon has managed to make a film that lives up to the hype. It's not retarded like the supposedly light Fantastic Four but nor is it as serious as the gritty Dark Knight. It's fun without being shit and serious without being depressing. I'm sure people who come straight to this film might be a little confused by some things. A gamma ray might sound like something that killed Steve Irwin and the Iron Man could be mistakenly thought to be Dennis Thatcher. However, for the rest of us with an ounce of geek in our DNA, this is the perfect blockbuster. It has thankfully been worth the wait and Whedon has proven that he really is the Pop-Culture God we all thought him to be. Also fuck yourselves, marketing people, it's The Avengers, not Avengers, Assemble! Anyone who goes to this film expecting to see Sean Connery and Uma Thurman is walking proof that Darwin was wrong.

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23 April 2012

Heath's Legend

Two-thousand and twelve is going to be a great year for two reasons; firstly there are so many exciting films coming out that each month looks like it's going to consist of an obligatory trip to the cinema. We've got The Avengers, The Hobbit, Skyfall, The Amazing Spiderman, Prometheus and probably most excitingly of all The Dark Knight Rises. Just thinking about all that makes me want to violently sacrifice something like a small animal or ageing crack whore to the God of geeks as thanks. Secondly however, and much more excitingly, we've been assured by a very reliable source that the world is going to end by next December. I've seen enough apocalypse movies to know how to survive if that does happen and like in The Road, I've concluded that I'm going to become a cannibal. On the one hand I'll get a decent meal and on the other I'll get to punish any cheeky member of the public who dared survive. A lot of people have bought Transformers 3... logically, our species deserves to die.

So like I say, mass killings aside, I am looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises. I genuinely think that Christopher Nolan is a genius, and in terms of his future reputation? Our generation's Hitchcock. Unlike Michael Bay and Bret Ratner, Nolan is a man of intelligence and every one of his films has been an achievement worthy of cinema history. Inception proved that blockbusters don't have to cater to morons to make money and Insomnia proved that Robin Williams can actually act. I never knew why people didn't find Mrs. Doubtfire weird as it's a film in which a man dresses up as a woman to gain entry into his ex-wife's house. That plot suggests to me that Robin Williams has been taking parenting tips from Cape Fear's murdering stalker 'Max Cady'. Williams is, unintentionally, a very creepy man- Nolan's genius was in noticing this and capitalising on it.

When I heard that Nolan had cast Heath Ledger as 'The Joker' I was genuinely excited. Since the day I was spat out at birth, I've been a huge fan of Batman and I think that anyone who likes Batman loves 'The Joker'. In my opinion the Clown Prince of Crime is one of our planet's greatest fictional characters along with James Bond, Tyler Durden and Jesus... Just kidding about Jesus. I'm not doubting that he's fictional, I just find him a little less rounded than somebody like say Die Hard's John McClane. Both Jesus and McClane have been through a lot and both remind me of Christmas, it's just that McClane didn't have an almighty parent to rely on. Without God's help I'd like to see Jesus take on terrorists in the Nakatomi Tower. The day JC throws Alan Rickman out of a window is the day he makes the list of truly great fictional characters. Having said that, I did enjoy him in Mel Gibson's mental gorefest The Passion of Christ. I suppose he should get some bonus points for the beatings he received, saving mankind and starring in his very own Die Hard On A Crucifix. But when you think about it; although McClane hasn't endured half of the torture that Christ was put through, he also wasn't stupid enough to get caught... And he looked better in a vest.

Anywho, so back to The Joker... When it was announced that it would be Ledger tasked with bringing the anarchic uber-villian to life, I decided to research. At the time, I was pretty much a Ledger virgin as I hadn't seen that much that he'd done. There were two things I was aware of; his performance in Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm and that he was just too good looking. The kind of good looking which is just annoying and makes me want to hack off my own face just so I have some sort of weapon to try to damage his own face with.

From watching The Brothers Grimm however, it was clear that his looks were just as annoying to him as they were to me. Ledger was a man who wanted to be taken seriously as an actor and do things that he would be artistically proud of. You don't star in a Gilliam movie to get rich or be seen by a lot of people. By working with the under appreciated and seemingly cursed genius that is Gilliam, Ledger was as good as announcing his desire to obtain credibility. The fact that the film went on to be compromised by the bullish and wrongly opinionated Weinsteins was a huge shame. It's a good film in my opinion, and I think his performance in it is nothing short of hilarious. It is unfortunately most notable though, for the troubles it went through and being the start of a friendship between Ledger and Gilliam, that would thankfully see them work together again in the future.

In my investigations into the newly announced Joker, it seemed there would be one film I would have to see and that was Brokeback Mountain. I say 'have to' not because I was reluctant, but because it simply seemed like it was a vital step in his career and apparently a good film to boot. At the time of purchasing that DVD and with its reputation, I felt like I was buying large-budget gay porn. I'm not homophobic in the slightest, but purchasing the gay cowboy film in public was an awkward experience. In 2007, I was 18 years old and part of an all boys school so being caught in that shop with that film would have been social suicide. As rumours spread, it would be the equivalent of being caught in the bushes taking a clumpy face full of 'Wham' spunk whilst licking my lips and shouting 'I'm your man!'. Thankfully though I got away with it, reputation unscathed, and was rewarded with one of the most misrepresented, beautiful movies that I've ever seen.

It's not a gay cowboy film in the slightest. I mean sure, they might have a bit of bum sex and a quick smooch, but that's about it. In fact they don't even share that much screen time really, and the sphincter-loving is purely PG-rated with not a jizz-shot in sight. Because of the times, the two characters are forced to move apart and so what the film actually is, is a study of two men being forced to live a lie. With its gay focused reputation, you'd think this film was a John Waters movie about Dale Winton fisting Elton John whist wearing a stetson hat. Instead, you get one of the most heart breaking movies as both Ledger and Gyllenhaal's characters react differently to the realisation that they can never be who they are or enjoy the life that would make them happy. To describe the scene at the end as Ledger holds the blue shirt as 'a little emotional' would be an understatement. I can watch all those romantic, sentimental, schmaltzy pieces of shit like The Notebook and feel nothing but hatred for everyone involved. I'm pretty sure that I can't watch Brokeback Mountain without crying. Not that that's gay by the way, to cry during this movie. Anne Hathaway gets her tits out and I loved that, so fuck you.

By this point, I was starting to become a fan and my anticipation to see The Dark Knight was rising (fuck you too, pun!). Currently at the cinema was the weird Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, and so along with a Zimmerman obsessed chum I headed down to watch it. The film has a great cast and in terms of portraying the nasally one's mannerisms and appearance, there's no doubt that Cate Blanchett nails it both perfectly and creepily, however it was Ledger that impressed me the most. There was just something about his downbeat, almost melancholic performance that grabbed me more than the others. Like I say, Blanchett was brilliant, as were Bale, Whishaw and the little black kid. Richard Gere wasn't the best but even he wasn't as irritating as usual. I always think if you're going to cast Richard Gere: stop, think about it, and then cast Jeff Bridges instead. Same kind of guy but Bridges abides more and squints less. Then again I'd probably squint if I had a gerbil up my arse. The fucking pervert!

Anyway, so out of the cinema I walked, talking about how excited I was about Ledger. I told my friend about what I'd seen him do and how The Dark Knight was going to have the definitive Joker performance. I don't dislike Jack Nicholson's version but lets face it, he is just playing Jack Nicholson but with green hair and a grin. This was going to be something different and something special.

A few days later I got up, switched on the morning TV and started to eat my shitty cardboard-y cereal. The words that greeted me were, “and so comes the sad news from Hollywood that the actor...”, I swear to God and I know nobody will believe me, but the words at this point in my head were, 'Please don't say Heath Ledger'. I looked at Fiona Phillips of GMTV in that split second, dreading what name that crooked, messenger of doom was about to deliver. I hoped to God it was going to be Rob Schneider, Steven Seagal or some other useless sack of shit that I wouldn't miss. She finished her sentence, “and so comes the sad news from Hollywood that the actor Heath Ledger has died”. The spiteful bitch had said the one name I'd hoped she wouldn't and I was shocked. I sat there for a minute frozen with the spoon halfway towards my mouth trying to process what I'd just heard. Then I looked for proof that the ugly cow was lying. I checked the internet and other channels but all seemed to be saying the same thing. That was a shit day.

When he died, I felt that we'd been robbed. Obviously I didn't know him but I was starting to learn his work and he was quickly running up the ranks of my favourite actors. From this point on, there would be no more Heath Ledger films and no more performances from someone who for all we know could have been the greatest actor the world has ever seen. Or maybe he would have gone mad and killed a load of rent boys or something, the point is; we'll never know. I read a story in the paper about a family that was broken into and tied up by a group of thieves who then stripped their home of their possessions. The day Heath Ledgers future films were stolen from me I knew exactly how they felt. Maybe even worse, as at least they could claim on the insurance.

My excitement for The Dark Knight was now tainted. Rather than awe, sadness would what fills me when watching his last mainstream role. Sadness that he'd died and sadness that if he was amazing in the role there would be no chance of him replaying it in a sequel that would surely follow. I'm sure the way I felt however in no way compared to that of his friends, family, Christopher Nolan or Terry Gilliam.

Ledger had finished filming with Nolan when he died but that still left the peerless director in an editing studio forced to watch various cuts of his now dead friend. Gilliam, however, was in the middle of filming The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus when he lost his main protagonist. He was forced to deal with the loss whilst at the same time having to decide what he wanted to do with his movie. Luckily for Gilliam however, his team encouraged him to carry on and the remaining Ledger scenes were filmed with new actors. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Farrell all jumped in to help finish what had been started. Their wage was donated to Ledgers daughter with the film becoming a tribute to his work and memory. It's hard to imagine that kind of thing happening if it had been someone like David Hasselhoff that had snuffed it. In his case, I think the most dignified thing we could all do would be to eat a burger off the bathroom floor whilst pissed out of our minds and enduring a minute silence. It would be a fitting tribute to a novelty-human that we don't care about.

Slowly, July rolled through the calendar and with apprehensive and subdued eagerness, the world finally got a chance to watch The Dark Knight. For two and a half hours, everybody that saw it sat there in awe at the complex, crime masterpiece that Nolan had cooked up for us. There are so many things perfect about that movie that you could sit and discuss them for hours (if you were a geek, who talked to himself and had too much spare time... and wrote blogs about it). One of the elements that was revolutionary however was, predictably, Heath Ledger as 'The Joker'.

From the opening shot of 'The Joker' standing by the roadside as the camera slowly tracks into his mask we knew that this is an important role in an important film played by an important actor. Ledgers death certainly adds an inevitable sadness to the film but it also brings a certain weight to the character. Rimming Donnie Darko aside, this would be the performance that Ledger is now going to be remembered for and defined by. Ironically, having seen the film, the same can now be said of 'The Joker'.

Ledger was so good as the character that his portrayal will become the bench mark for anybody else in the future who attempts it. He glides about the film revelling in joyous anarchy, no motive beyond causing trouble and seemingly having slipped into this 12a from an 18 certificate movie. In 1989 we had Jack Nicholson in a purple coat. In 2008 we had a shambolic Alex DeLarge, a grungy clown with a war painted face and a knife stained in blood. The character was first created in 1940 and a mere 68 years later Nolan and Ledger brought his most faithful depiction to the big screen. Gone were the more cartoonish, zany elements that we had previously seen, instead being replaced by a deranged sociopath with believably high intelligence, a taste for chaos and a pleasure for killing people in creatively gory but simple ways. The moment he rams somebody’s eye into the point of a pencil is the moment you know we're into unpredictable, “shit just got real!” territory.

The fact that Ledger was posthumously nominated for an Oscar and then won was a great tribute to the work he'd done. Cynical people could claim he only won because he'd died but then those cynical people can go fuck themselves with a chainsaw. The Oscars is a sham as it is. Biased voting, the simple bullshit of one film being definitively better than another and the possibility of a different best film and best director winner. What, the best film directed itself, did it? The Oscars are a pretentious, self important marketing tool aimed at making more money for films which win but often don't deserve to. In 1976, Rocky beat Taxi Driver to the best film of the year. Beyond “stupidly cunting wrong”, I can't think of a swear word harsh enough to sum up that decision. However, Ledgers Oscar was genuine, well deserved and simply a nice tribute to what he'd done. It is all shit, but if someone has to win that stupid golden dildo then it deserved to be him. Regardless of anything else, such as his acting or death, he earned it simply for being more impressive than the hype surrounding his performance as a character that is older and more well known than most humans.

This, however, was not the end to the story. We still had The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to look forward to and thankfully, it too was great. Without going too much into that film, it was clear that Ledger by now had found his voice. Throughout his whole early career, he had been battling to have his integrity respected more than his face; finally at this point he was taken seriously. It's a huge shame that he wasn't able to complete the role, but ironically the random cameos from the three other A-listers work really well. So well, in fact, that you can't help but wonder if the film actually benefited from him being suddenly unavailable. Although there are less permanent ways of this being the case than simply dying. Maybe he could have just gotten temporarily lost in some woods or something. I think I'd have preferred it if that had been the reason, to be honest. He was an Aussie, they're used to living with nature and killing animals and shit. Just look at 'Mick Dundee' or Steve Irwin. Born survivors, both of them.

I feel at this point that I'm well caught up with the films of Mr. Heath Ledger. Since hearing he was to be 'The Joker', I've become a huge fan and I genuinely still mourn for the talent that was snatched from our world. At this point, there is only one film of his that I haven't seen and genuinely do want to, and that's Candy. I doubt I will ever see it though, simply because I don't like knowing that there's no more of his films out there to be excited about. If I can avoid it, there will always be that one more to catch up with.

During the writing of this I've been trying to come up with a fitting last statement. I wanted it to be something sincere, heartwarming and something that genuinely summed up how I felt about him. What I came up with was:

The talent might be gone, but evidence of his genius remains in his work. 
I wish he hadn't died- it should have been Michael Bay.

...And you can quote me on that.

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20 April 2012

Love At First Bite

Contains spoilers...

In retrospect, maybe watching The Matrix for the first time at the age of 11 was a little too young. I don't have any moral reason for this except for the fact that the movie was just too good for my child-brain to comprehend. At that age, The Matrix was basically heroin to me, in that it provided a huge high, numbness, a skewed vision of reality and of course, addiction. Eager to see a bunch of leather clad super-gimps shoot the shit out of each other, I would race home from school each day and put the video on. For those who don't remember- videos are basically DVDs for grand-dad and are these days used for building houses, heavy doorstops, and silencing prostitutes. For about a month I watched that film every-single-day without fail and completely, from start to finish. For a child who had just discovered masturbation, finding two hours a day for a film really did show a huge level of dedication.

Again, however, like a drug addiction, the more I watched The Matrix, the further away I got from feeling the original high that it had brought me. Through almost over-dosing on its kung-fu goodness, my bullet-time tolerance was increasing daily and by the end of the month I knew something had to be done. In order to wean myself off the addiction, before I found myself performing with a double ended dildo in front of a group of fat men, I decided to go cold turkey. Because I'd over-watched it, my greedy 11 year old self had ruined it for me and so in the end I had to avoid that film for the next five years.

This taught me not to watch my favourite movies too often as, like repeatedly killing the same breed of tramp, it would eventually just get a little bit boring. When choosing a film to watch I therefore regularly go for things I just really like, with the residents of my top ten list being relegated to just once every year or so. One of these films that I must have seen eight or nine times since its release in 2007 is David Slades 30 Days of Night. In fact the last time I watched that movie was only yesterday and weirdly I noticed something is starting to happen- for some reason, I started to love that movie too.

The film starts off with Ben Foster wandering through the snow whilst looking like an even more paedo version of 'Worzel Gummidge'. Although we can't be sure, we're given the impression that Ben is a bad guy through certain subtle clues such as his scrawny hair, bad teeth and the scene in which he stabs the living fuck out of a couple of dogs. Because people tend to prefer strangers not to put knives into their pets, it's at this point that the local Policeman steps in to help sort this naughtiness out.

There are lots of reasons why this Policeman looks a lot like Josh Hartnett, but the main one has to be because that's exactly who it is. I'd therefore like to think that a lot of people came to 30 Days of Night mistakingly believing it to be a sequel to that classic rape-y comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights. For anyone who missed out on that crappy movie, it basically ends with Hartnett being tied up and forced to sleep with a girl who is ignoring his pleas for her to stop and get off. It's essentially the same joke that was used in Straw Dogs except because the gender roles are reversed the blatant sexual assault becomes much more acceptable to laugh at.

Anyway, so Josh Hartnett arrests Scrawny Worzel for dog stabbing and throws his probably shitty arse in prison. Considering that this film is set in Alaska, the day before the sun is about to set for the next month, you'd think that the residents would relish any visitors to help boost their tourism. Apparently though, beggars can be choosers as they express less than joy to the sudden arrival of Danny Huston and his gang of blood-thirsty, sightseeing, psychopaths.

30 Days of Night isn't the best vampire film since Twishite reignited interest in the fanged honkeys, as that honour clearly belongs to Let the Right One In. It is however one of the better ones simply because it's the exact opposite of the sparkly cocks that we're currently having waggled in our face all of the time. These days, when we think of vampires, we think of handsome men, romanticism and love. The market is, at the minute, flooded with pale faced, pretty boys who would rather go all glittery in the sun than savagely tear the shit out of somebodies throat. With films like Interview with the Vampire and Christopher Lee's Dracula, presenting the monsters as either being suave gentlemen or having faces like Brad Pitt, the finger of blame can't just be pointed at Twishite. However it is clearly the current popularity of that latter film which has helped reinforce this image of the average vampire being a dickless, punchable twonk.

It is therefore nice to see a film such as 30 Days of Night which features some fucking weird looking vampires. When looking at cinema's earliest blood-suckers, if 'Edward Cullen' has evolved from the dapper Bela Lugosi then the Vampires here are clearly much closer to the twisted, shadowy freak from Nosferatu. Unless you're a fan of large gaps between eyes and the soothing sound of a harsh clicking voice then chances are you aren't going to be seduced by these pale, bloodstained bastards.

Danny Huston and his gang have only one reason for visiting the darkened town and that's to murder and eat everyone in it. He's not interested in chatting or dating and so for the remaining running time we simply see him hunting for a meal whilst the humans quietly hold up in various buildings. The film is fundamentally a large game of hide and seek playing by the same rules as the 1942-1945 match between Anne Frank versus the Nazis. Josh Hartnett's team have to do their best to lie low for a month whilst the vampires have to keep slaughtering people until they can locate and kill them too.

Beyond its depiction of vampires, 30 Days of Night does have a lot to offer; it is suitably suspenseful; gory; intelligent; and thanks to director David Slade, it's also impressively stylish with a look that really does bring to life the comic book from which it's based. With the obvious dumbing down of Hollywood in the name of mass appeal, you know you're watching a horror movie with balls when you graphically see a young child get repeatedly axed until her head reluctantly and stubbornly detaches. It's not often that you see the brutal and gory murder of a child in a film and so it was a relief for me to discover that I'm not the kind of person who will watch this and then get an erection. Personalities aside, the cause of boners really are a reliable way to judge a persons moral leanings.

The film isn't perfect, with Hartnett and his estranged wife’s relationship being a little uninteresting. The duration of the story is also a bit dodgy, with days being randomly skipped and no reference to what happened during them. In fact it might almost have been better if it had just been set over a couple of days rather than thirty. Although considering how integral that aspect is, that's a bit like saying Titanic would have been better set on a plane or that The Queen would have been better if it wasn't about an irrelevant, outdated, scrounger.

So like I said, this film seems to have promoted itself from being one that I really like to one that I love. I think that this is because every time I've watched it I've found something new to like about it and slowly but surely I've invested more and more into the characters. The deaths are all satisfyingly creative with huge blenders, a fuck-off chainsaw on a tractor and Danny Huston literally getting punched through the face. The conclusion to Hartnett's character is supposed to be emotional, but until recently I considered it a fault of the film that his death left me feeling a little unarsed. On last viewing though, I did finally care when unlucky Slevin's skin turned into black confetti and peeled off him like a mouldy onion.

To go back to the drug analogy- if The Matrix is heroin, then a film like 30 Days of Night is the equivalent of smoking normal boring, not illegal cigarettes. You try one and don't really feel the difference, but keep on trying because it takes less balls than a proper suicide. A few months down the line you've gone from the occasional fag to stabbing yourself in the chest with a screwdriver just so that you can put the death-sticks in holes even closer to your lungs. One day you're coughing and spluttering because of the taste, the next you're craving one just to take your mind off the cancer. Like smoking, frequently watching a film you simply 'like', such as 30 Days of Night, will result in the kind of appreciation that, over time, just sneaks up on you.

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16 April 2012

Even Frogs Have Rainy Days

At the time of writing, I am depressingly well into my third decade of existing. Although twenty-three is quite young to some people, if you work it out in dog-years I should have died a long time ago. However despite being so close to the end of my natural life, I had never really been exposed to The Muppets. Other than Return of the Jedi which was one glove puppet away from being the original Muppets in Space, the only thing I had seen- and only recently- was The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Although I did quite enjoy the film, my main issue was that it was a Christmas movie. To me, Shitmas is just an excuse for people with similar blood to pretend that they dont hate each other whilst celebrating the alleged birthday of some magical Chuck Norris. I dont like being reminded of it. Having said that, Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol is amazingly realistic - he looked so much like the real thing that I am in awe of the puppeteer who presumably controlled him via the traditional method of hand-up-the-arse-hole.

So beyond who Kermit was, my knowledge of The Muppets was moderately lacking. Other than that, I also knew that Miss Piggy was the one who looked like a slimmed down Vanessa Felts and that like AIDs, The Muppet Show was a phenomenon that had peaked during the eighties. I was therefore a little bit of a newcomer to this furry cult when I recently sat down to watch their new film The Muppets.

The movie starts by introducing us to Jason Segel and his muppet brother Oscar. At this point, the Muppets have become old news. Like the Nazi's, they've split up and all gone their separate ways scattered around the world. Kermit has become a recluse who, presumably, collects his piss and wears shoeboxes on his feet and the old theatre is now being used for tours. Their anniversary is coming up and to celebrate a year of fucking Amy Adams, Jason Segel has decided to take her there as a holiday. Oscar ends up going with them too because he's the Muppets biggest fan and the gooseberry is presumably hoping for an incestuous, cross species threesome with the other two. Personally I'd never shag a Muppet, if they're going to enjoy being fisted there's just no point in doing it.

So anyway, they go on the tour and Oscar finds out that Chris Cooper wants to destroy the building in order to reach some oil underneath. Because he’s a Muppet, Oscar would much rather help his own species than aid our worsening fossil fuel crises and so decides to try and save the theatre. This involves recruiting Kermit and all the other Muppets, putting on one last show and raising enough money to be able to retain ownership of the place. If they'd have said they were doing it for charity too they would have made their money a lot quicker. Although I guess the filmmakers didn't want the Muppets to go down the ‘exploitation’ and ‘fraud’ route for some reason. Whatever…

Just to put it out there, I loved this film. It was brilliant. It was kind of like going to a gig for a band you don’t know and slowly realising that you really like them. You end up wishing you’d been into them to start with, just to enjoy the show even more. Kind of like losing your virginity to a model: there’s no denying you had fun but it would have been even better if you had previous experience to draw on.

Like a band’s live show, this film is a celebration of all that is great about the Muppets. Although it’s made for anyone, those who are already fans will be particularly overjoyed with all the references to the Muppets’ history. In the end, even I felt nostalgic for things that I had no knowledge of- a bit like whenever I hear an old person go on about ‘the good old days’. I wasn’t alive then, but I start to think that, yeah, despite two world wars, the holocaust, mandatory racism and Russia’s nuclear threat, the past was a better place. To me The Muppets was an effective advert for the television show. I’ve fallen in love with the characters and now I want to catch up with everything that they’ve done.

One of the things that I genuinely loved about this new film was how sad it was. I was once told by an ex-girlfriend that I didn’t have a heart and that I, instead, had a swinging brick on some rope. If that was true I would have used it to make her shut the fuck up. Contrary to what the sow thought, my heart is made up of meat and cholesterol just like everybody else’s. To me, the film was all about regret and loss. The Muppets who were once loved by each other and the world are now all down in the dumps, forgotten and alone. The plot is less about saving the theatre and more about reuniting a group of friends and restoring their happiness. If I had been a kid I think I’d have cried all the way through this. Kind of like when I was six and my parents thought it would be a good idea to let me watch things like E.T., Bambi and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At the risk of contradicting myself here, the other thing that was so good about the movie was just how cheerful it was. There was a very definite vein of sadness running through it, but like in Drive, all the characters were just so nice. The songs by Bret Mckenzie were ridiculously catchy, upbeat and everything was just unusually but refreshingly un-cynical. In the real world, cynicism is a weapon that we need to be able to survive. In the world of The Muppets, everybody can be taken literally at face value. You get the feeling that in this world if Kermit had spent the night with a whore, he’d be more at risk of falling in love with her than having his wallet stolen. I guess the film made me feel sad for the characters but happy about life which is an achievement. It usually takes a lot of marijuana, four hours of cartoons and a big bag of quavers to give me a shot of optimism like that.

The plot is kind of simple, but who cares? That just gives us more chance to get to know the characters and watch the weird things that they do. If I have one criticism of The Muppets however, it is the celebrity cameos which are just a little poor. They spend the whole movie building up to an A-List celebrity who will host their show, only to reveal it as Jack Black. Firstly Black had already been in the film, and secondly, is he still famous? I know he had a stint about 6 years ago with King Kong and School of Rock but he’s done fuck all since. I heard he’d spent the last few years touring around a few music festivals but in all honesty, I’d assumed that was as a roadie. In fact the most famous person in this movie was probably Whoopi Goldberg and even she hasn’t done anything decent since starring as the title character opposite Arnie in 1987’s Predator.

But then maybe that was the point. Maybe they didn’t want to bring in someone that would take the attention away from our band of misfit heroes. Or maybe the point is that the Muppets were now so un-famous that Jack Black was the best they could get? I guess the fact is, I like this film so much that I’m not only willing to forgive the appearance of Whoopie Goldberg, but also that bearded retard from The Hangover. He crops up at one point as a tramp in a role I can only assume is preparation for the day the world realises he’s as unfunny as that smug, morning after franchise. I’ve never had a hangover but that franchise still managed to give me more than a headache.

By the time the film reaches its conclusion, the only way to not feel good about life would be if you had been raped mid way through watching it. It may be a kid’s film but I still loved it. Pixar aside, this has got to be my favourite Disney movie since Pulp Fiction. Like Batman and James Bond, the Muppets have now also been rebooted for a modern audience and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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10 April 2012

Silence Is Golden

The fact that The Artist won so many oscars is not an indication of it's quality. According to that tasteless golden bell-end, Dances With Wolves was better than Goodfellas which, like the power of psychics, 9/11 conspiracies, and the existence of gravity is quite clearly bullshit. Anything Kevin Costner does instantly becomes almost unbearably dull due to the vortex of boredom that is his soul. Costner is a bit like a cross between Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks and a lobotomised ventriloquist's dummy. 
Sean Connery spent the entire running time of The Untouchables cheekily confusing us all by playing an Irish man with a Scottish accent. However, against Costner's string operated performance as Elliot Ness, the academy lost all perspective and awarded the ageing James Bond an Oscar of his own.

Regardless of it's awards however, The Artist was receiving glowing reviews and so peaked my interest. It's interesting in that by being a silent film The Artist will be one of the most original films out this year. As 3D sails closer to the iceberg of public apathy where it will die a slow and inevitable death, it seems that one of the most attention grabbing things that cinema can do is borrow techniques from about 80 years ago. It's kind of like getting sex tips off your granny. Just because we live in a shallow, loveless time of fisting and death by deep-throat, doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the simplicity of lights-off missionary followed by shame and pregnancy.

As soon as I walked into the screening of The Artist, it was obvious that it was a silent film. There was about 40 other people already seated with the average age ranging from between 90 and dead. Despite the nostalgic waft of piss and the retirement home feel of the room, I was originally relieved by the coffin dodgers around me. I hate the public in general but at least these ancient doderers wouldn't ruin the film for me by loudly phoning their drug dealer or wanking each other off through the pop corn box.

Unfortunately though, this was a silent film and old people aren't healthy. There was so much coughing and spluttering throughout the movie that I'm genuinely going to get myself checked out for tuberculosis. Like going to a foreign country, I would advise anybody thinking of seeing this film to go for their jabs before hand. It's only been a couple of days since I saw it but I know already I'm one of the few survivors of that screening. There was one guy a few seat down from me who seemed to be trying his absolute hardest to cough out a lung. I would have made sure he was okay but fuck it, I'm British- helping strangers just isn't our 'style'.

The plot of the film is fairly simple, although with no dialogue for exposition it was never going to be The Usual Suspects. The Artist begins with a silent actor named George Valentin at the top of his game and enjoying his fame. After a chance encounter with a wannabe actress, George uses his power and influence to kick start her career with an odd lack of exploitation and not a single dick sucked in sight.

Unfortunately for George though, the talkies are on their way and John Goodman's 1920's Harvey Weinstein wants a new group of meat puppets to whore out on screen. With George being closer to 40 than birth he swiftly finds himself out on his arse and battling depression.

For someone who is not that experienced with this style of film, this was a massively enjoyable experience. So far the only examples of silent film that I've seen are The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Metropolis and porn when there are other people in the house. Regardless though, this is not a style that takes long to get used to. Just watch the flashing images and read the occasional card of dialogue that pops up on screen. In a way it's not too dissimilar to reading a comic book. It was odd too how that when deprived of a sense, the imagination really takes hold. A bit like a Flintstones obsessed schizophrenic when John Goodman speaks you read his lips and you hear his voice just as loud in your head.

It's a credit to both the actors and director that without any words to guide us, the film is just as emotional as any other. It's visual comedy is funny and it's moments of depravity are just as frustrating or heartbreaking. Perhaps the film has been slightly over-hyped but for being bravely un-ironic, genuinely creative and confidently relatable it deserves its galaxy of five star reviews. With it's self-reflective, post-modern storyline it's basically the silent film version of Scream that the 20's never got.

Although the cast are all great, many people were recently lobbying for George's dog to be awarded an Oscar nomination. Not only was this Korean appetiser deserving of the praise, so too was the music with both being just as much a character as John Goodman's shrunken cleavage. Near the end of the film, the music sneakily sneaks into the love theme from Vertigo. For me though it wasn't Hitchcock that this film was most reminiscent of, but rather the Coen Brothers.

The Artist has the 'screwball' feel of The Hudsucker Proxy and the hippy hating colour scheme of The Man Who Wasn't There. It had the old school Hollywood feel of Barton Fink and, like the opening to A Serious Man, was presented in a ratio that under no scientific circumstances could result in square eyes. Even the cast had a distinctly Coen feel with the obvious example being their lovable sun-blocker John Goodman. Jean Dujardin too had that charming presence of someone like George Clooney. Like the Burn After Reading star, his smug levels were luckily always one raised eyebrow below the slime levels oozed off by the likes of the talentlessy hard-titted Alex Pettyfer.

Despite the success of The Artist I don't think we need to prepare ourselves for a shipment of silent films any time soon. The style was used here because it conveniently suited the story as opposed to 3D which is being forced onto us by piracy-injured studio executives. Avatar was a decent film despite the hype of being poked in the eye. This too is a great film that rises above the novelty of it's format to deliver a story, and characters that are worth braving the grim-reaper feel of a cinema full of the grey-haired living dead. If I have any criticism of the film, it would simply be the vocal twist at the end. If I'd known that the main character was French all along, there's no way I'd have sympathised with the garlic-reeking surrender-cunt. Patriotic xenophobia aside though, it's a good film and worth checking out. Although if it had any sense of humour, it would have ended with James Cromwell looking into the camera and uttering, “That'll do, pig”. Not having him do that line is bit like George Lucas hiring Samuel L. Jackson and not having him say 'motherfucker'. 

Missed opportunities...

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2 April 2012

The Hunger Factor

I don't hate Twishite the way some people do. I've seen the first one and considered it pretty poor, but whilst Michael Bay's still alive there are worse things out there to get worked up about. As a 23 year old male doing my best to stick it into who I can, I don't appreciate a franchise that aims to teach girls to practice abstinence. However, where those prudish, cock-blocking movies are concerned, I just don't dwell on them. I ignore their marketing, books, news and films. It's the movie equivalent of an unloved grandparent: if I just don't pay it any attention, then it may as well be dead.

The recent marketing campaign for The Hunger Games has been insisting it's the next franchise for the still virginal fans of Twishite. Having therefore shown no interest in it, I was surprised on release to see the influx of good reviews it was receiving. For a refreshing change I knew very little about a film. I'm sure to some a Hunger Games movie is knicker-pissingly exciting. However for all I knew it could simply have been a cheerful recreation of some of the pre-death funsies enjoyed by Bobby Sands.

The film starts with some exposition explaining to us that the world has gone to shit. Apparently we now live in a society that thrives on the death of children with huge games to promote sponsored infanticide. To prove the state is still in charge, they insist on taking two minors from each district and then pit them all against each other in a battle to the death. Sounds fair to me. Why only take two? As far as I'd be concerned, all the little bastards are up for grabs.

During the first few minutes we're introduced to our cool, new, independent heroine, Katniss played by Jennifer Lawrence. She lives with her ex-Deadwood-whore Mum and young dependant sister on a disused Firefly set. By living in an impoverished future where food is scarce and nobody has an Xbox360, Katniss spends her free time secretly hunting for some finger-licking-good deer and playing flirty with Thor's non-Loki brother, Liam Hemsworth.

For those who don't know, Jennifer Lawrence is a great new actress. She brilliantly played Mystique in X-Men: First Class and single handedly proved to me that a strangled prostitute isn't the only blue lady I'll find sexy. Like in that mutant prequel, Miss Lawrence is really good here too. She's moan-y and angry but manages to avoid becoming as irritating as Anakin on his whining road to becoming a bitch-Sith. It's also nice for an action film to have a female as it's main character; the last big franchise like that was probably Tomb Raider. Katniss is written as strong role model for girls to respect, I can't help but feel the purpose of Lara Croft was to have big tits and make boys jizz. If so, they both do their jobs very well.

Eventually the Hunger Games come to Katniss's town and she ends up being that districts female fighter. She's therefore whisked off to training where she meets her mentor who is either Woody Harrelson playing a drunk or simply a drunk Woody Harrelson. It's nice to watch this film when he turns up and pretend we're watching an apocalyptic sequel to Cheers.

The Hunger Games themselves are wrapped up in a fairly obvious pastiche of reality shows such as Britain’s Got Talent. The soon-to-be-dead children appear on an interview with Stanley Tucci in order to win the public's affection, as doing this will gain them more sponsors which will help them to live. Kind of like how on The X-Factor, if the public likes you, then Simon Cowell will rig the votes so that you win.

There is an obvious difference too, between how the poor and the rich people are depicted in this movie. Those who live in the different districts look basically normal but trampy. The rich however, are tarted up to look like luminous cocks from the land of the gay. Tucci for example, is like a cross between Barton Fink and Marge Simpson. Whilst Toby Jones who crops up later as a commentator has a hair style that could only belong to a man who has confused his dildo with a cattle prod, if you can imagine.

This results in a slightly bizarre clash in styles between grounded reality and rainbow camp. Kind of like a film that's half Serenity, half Speed Racer. The subtlety of the clothing is quiet metaphorical of the satire in this film, it's glaringly obvious and not too deep. Still even a little depth in a film like this is commendable. I've thought about it a lot and the only layered message I can find in Harry Potter is that you might be a wizard... but let's face it: you're probably not.

Eventually the games themselves begin and the youngsters from districts 1 to 12 are all taken to some woodlands to stab the living shit out of each other. In all honesty, I wish I'd properly checked everyone out before I gambled serious money on what I assumed would be the two alien contestants from district 9. Not sure why there's only 12 districts but I think we can safely presume that district 13 managed to run away.

The ensuing knife off is violent, lethal and not too dissimilar to a post-happy-hour Liverpool city center. There are plenty of enjoyable scenes in these junior killing fields although my favourite has to be when Katniss's friend accepts he's about to die. Rather than doing anything productive about it he simply paints his face to look like a rock, lies down and fossilises himself. If you can do face-painting as unbelievably well as he can then it seems like a good plan. Just don't give yourself away the first time somebody steps on your face. I'm no geologist but my A-level in the subject taught me that like plants and kittens, rocks probably don't feel pain.

The film as a whole is pretty good and I don't disagree with the positive reviews out there. However I am shocked at how few of them have mentioned the obvious similarity between this and Battle Royale. If remaking a film like this for a western teen market is the new trend then I look forward to their attempts with both Oldboy and Ichi the Killer. 

The main problem with The Hunger Games is that it's probably just a little too long. I could easily lose about half an hour of this movie and end up liking it more. There was a scene in it during the killing in which a young girl dies and Katniss mourns her death for fucking ages. The girl's funeral is longer than the scenes of her being alive. After what felt like ten minutes I just started to think, “for fuck's sake! Either bury or eat her. I don't care which, just move the fuck on”.

This indulgently long running time can be put down to the same problem as most big budget adaptations of a popular book. They stick too closely to the source material and refuse to cut much out in an attempt to not piss off the fans. Unfortunately though, no matter how similar you make it, the knobs are always going to say, “the book was better”. So fuck them- just cut shit out to make it less baggy and therefore a better film. I'll be massively surprised if there is any die hard fan that walks out of this with their eyes opened stating that, “in comparison, I now consider the books unworthy as shit-stained loo role for a tramp's infected arse hole”. It's just not going to happen is it...

The Bourne Franchise, The Shining and Blade Runner are almost nothing like their original sources and are all the better for it. Harry Potter, too, got better as the series progressed, streamlining the meandering sub-plots in favour of a tighter, more Harry focussed narrative. The Hunger Games was still a good film, I just think that being a little harsher with the book (and kinder to the shredder) might not have been a bad thing. I don't remember a section in the bible in which Jesus is whipped with razor blades and flecks of his back get flicked off everywhere. However I did enjoy those scenes when Mad Mel adapted them into his religious-torture porn classic The Passion of The Christ.

To me, a book is just an unnecessarily long script treatment. I'll read subtitles but only because foreigners spitefully decided to evolve their own languages. Beyond occasionally glancing at a child's pop-up book, I generally think, “fuck it I'll wait for the film”.

Now that I've seen The Hunger Games, I'm looking forward to the sequel. As franchise starters go, it's a stronger beginning than Harry Potter managed and I loved what those films became. I have no idea where the series will go and so, like with this, I'll do my best to only find out when I sit down to watch it. Apparently the next one is called Catching Fire. From the love-triangle conclusion to this I can only assume that Fire is some sort of piss-burning, future STD. Sounds like fun!

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