25 March 2013

Standing Out In A Crowd

In order for a franchise to work it has to stand apart from other similar films within the same genre. That's why romantic movies such as Bridget Jones and Dirty Sluts 3 can survive in the same market together without treading on each other’s toes. They both deal with the subject of romance but with one focusing on the desperation of an unlikable frump and the other seeming more interested in the sensual issue of anal fisting and strap-ons. The same thing happens in the action genre too with several spy franchises all tackling their similar subject in various different ways. James Bond for example is pure escapist fantasy with a heavy dollop of British patriotism enjoyed by all ages around the world. Spy Kids however is more interested in silliness and tends to be watched by bratty little children to shut them up before their frantic single mother drowns them in the bath.

Definitely SHIT.
Mission: Impossible was released in 1996 and was obviously based on the mid-60's television spy show of the same name. Here, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt who’s an agent with pretty much the exact same personality as Top Gun’s Maverick despite being significantly less gay. Both characters are clearly from the cocky but loveable phase of Cruise's career- it's just that for some reason Hunt does seem less likely than Maverick to have a drawer full of poppers and butt plugs. Oh, and I should probably point out that the organisation that Hunt works for is the IMF which stands for Impossible Mission Force. I mean, considering how dumb that name is I think they should have gone one further and just named it the Specialised Hostile Incident Team or SHIT for short. Having seen Cruise in films like Knight and Day there's certainly no doubting that he's not a stranger to occasionally doing a SHIT job, so why not?

So I'll say right away that I loved Mission: Impossible which I feel has its own style in the overcrowded market of espionage films. Whereas now Bond is brilliantly weighted down by a sense legacy, this by contrast is just pure, albeit silly, fun. Obviously I prefer the Bond films to these but that's only because I'm British and I think to say otherwise should constitute as treason. But like I was saying- at the start, Cruise's films are luckily different enough that the two can easily co-exist. Imagine it as a relationship with the Bond's being the wife you dearly love and the Mission Impossible's being the tart you fuck for fun when pretending to be on a business trip.

Future Bond Villain?
Where Bond has its winning formula of genius, this instead seems to compare more closely to something as light and tricksy as Oceans Eleven. For a start, the plot flies by so quickly that I assume it must be like how a schizophrenic sees the world. One minute Hunt is surrounded by friends and the next his team is all dead and people are tearing their faces off. Whereas most spy films are all about killing or catching the villain this is more like a con movie with nobody knowing who the fuck anyone else is. With Bond it's obvious who the baddy is because they tend to by angry retards with bleeding eyes, metal hands and more nipples than common sense. Here however it could literally be anybody with various people coming back from the dead as though this is a more believable retelling of The Passion Of Christ.

Aside from con movies, the other thing that this film clearly takes its influence from is obviously Hitchcock. I mean I know most things take influence from him because he was clearly a fat, bald genius but I mean specifically North by NorthWest. Both that and Mission: Impossible tell the story of a wronged man on the run from a shadowy organisation and both rely heavily on the use of suspense. In Hitchcock’s case, this involved scenes such as a crop duster chase and clinging desperately to the edge of Mount Rushmore. With Mission: Impossible however it means dangling Tom Cruise from the ceiling like he's in some sort of high-tech sex dungeon and then making him sweat. I don't know how they managed to make him sweat on command but if I was directing then I'd probably just string him up and then start detailing exactly why Scientology is a cult of bullshit. If that didn't work then I guess I could just give him a swift kick to the nuts.

Nice Merkin
Luckily for him though, I unsurprisingly wasn't the director with that damn Brian De Palma beating me to it yet again. As anyone who heard the Psycho music clunkily play during the knife scene in De Palma's Carrie, I think we can safely blame him for the Hitchcockian influence. Having said that, I actually think De Palma is underrated as a director with people forgetting quite how many classics he's made. Sure his films might seem dark and violent but at the same time there's always an undercurrent of humour and silliness. Take for example Carlito's Way which is, for the most part, reasonably serious but at the same time happens to have Sean Penn sporting a hairstyle that looks like an explosion in an 80's pube factory. It's this sense of fun however that I think also helps Mission: Impossible stand out and on its own.

Hope she got what she paid for...
Adding to the silliness, Hunt also gets the stupidest weapons ever, which in this film’s case happens to include things such as exploding chewing gum. I can't be sure but I'm going to assume that product was made in the anti-terrorist department of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. There's also the whole prosthetic mask thing too which is obviously stupid as they're more realistic than Liza Minnelli could manage after millions of dollars of plastic surgery. In fact the amount of times they actually escape a situation by wearing somebody else’s face you'd think this organisation was trained from a survival book written by Hannibal Lector… in which case, I look forward to a future instalment of the franchise in which Hunt learns how to disguise himself as a lady by tucking his dick and balls between his legs and making a dress out of some fat girl’s tits.

Of course no idiot in the world could think that this is an accurate depiction of real life espionage, but I don't watch films for realism- I watch them for a few moments’ escapism in an otherwise drab, boring world. If I wanted to see what real spies do then I'd be better off finding the nearest office and watching some randomer type numbers into a spread sheet whilst double checking their figures. To liven things up a little bit, I could slit my wrists and decide to only seek help once they've finished their shift. Until the DVD player breaks however, I'll probably just stick to watching something like Mission: Impossible which, despite being unbelievable bullshit, is still hugely entertaining. 

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18 March 2013

The Marmite Of My Dreams

I'm not sure how famous it is worldwide but in Britain we have a product called Marmite – a yeast extract product. For anyone who doesn't know, it's pretty much just a spreadable food that looks a bit like the black goo from Prometheus mixed in with some diarrhoea. It also has a rather bizarre kind of slogan which claims, “You either love it or you hate it”. I'd love to be able to tell you if this was true, but the fact is that I haven't tried the gunk to be able to form an opinion. It might be though, as I was talking to a friend the other day who drunkenly explained to me about how he was “an absolute slag for the stuff”. Sadly however, that slogan alone has pretty much put me off buying any as I'm sure I won't like it. Call me a pessimist but if something openly admits that I might hate it whilst looking like it's been shat out of a goats arse then I'll probably give it a miss. I know there's a chance that I could be denying myself the greatest flavour of my life but luckily I don't know what I'm missing to be able to give a fuck.

Gael Garcia Bernal in the Kermode life story
Cloud Atlas has only recently been released in the UK and is definitely the cinematic equivalent of Marmite. Obviously I mean because of the slogan and not because I think that it looks like shit. Having read several reviews for it, it seriously does seem like it's either loved or hated and in honesty, I can see why. Over in America, Roger Ebert seemed to enjoy the film whereas on the other big flappy hand, the BBC's Mark Kermode apparently considered it a failure. Cloud Atlas is such a strange and ‘out-there’ movie that I really doubt that anybody could just think it was just ‘okay’. It's kind of like fisting, in that there's really nobody undecided on their stance either way. Ironically though the world is treating the film with the same level of apathy that I do towards Marmite and simply ignoring it, which is a huge shame. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you end up falling on, everybody seems to admire the film’s ambitions and for that alone it deserves to be seen. For films with similar aims and a Marmite-esque audience response, you should also check out The Fountain, Inland Empire and stoma porn.

Who could this be?
Cloud Atlas is based on a book of the same name with the film being co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana (previously Larry) Wachowski. I kind of want to make a joke about those three collectively reminding me of the show Two and a Half Men but I won't. Just because Tykwer is German, it doesn't make him half of a man. It also has a cast of roughly seven people playing about four hundred characters each, over the course of six interlocking stories. The irony of this is that according to the film’s credits, this took three separate people to cast the thing. I'd love to have been at the meeting where they got away with telling the directors, “Look we've got Forrest Gump and about twelve different wigs if you don't like it then go fuck yourself”. I'm presuming they used the same people for multiple roles either to help highlight the thematic ties of the film or because they couldn't find enough actors who understood the script.

Fit as fuck!
In terms of what the movie is about- well, really, who the fuck knows? I can't be bothered going through the plot of each of the six stories because lets face it none of us are getting any younger. In regards to the overall themes of Cloud Atlas, then I guess it would be that of freedom, the soul, repeating the same mistakes and the burden of having a giant spud face. I'm not even joking about the last point as the cast are often so layered in prosthetics that they start to resemble a mouldy potato that's been dropped into a tray of pubes. As each actor shows up in the various segments, you find yourself playing spot the celebrity which might sound distracting but is actually just part of the film’s fun. As a clue to help you recognise them, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant tend to be the villains and Tom Hanks is usually the one whose massive nose looks like a dick that's been punched in on itself. Again though, even if the make-up isn't always entirely convincing you've got to admire the level of transformation that they've aimed for; the cast not only change characters but also skin colour, age and even gender. Exposing oneself in a cinema screening is always a risky venture and so you can imagine my annoyance when the gorgeous fat woman that I tossed one off too turned out to be Agent Smith in a pair of fake tits.

You had me at "How much?"
Interestingly though, of all the actors cast in this film, perhaps the most bizarre is Hugh Grant. Before embarking on his epic television drama series The Leveson Inquiry Grant had pretty much made a career by starring in shite films enjoyed solely by lonely women. However despite him being the mascot for movies that make me pray for a nuclear apocalypse, I'd always kind of liked him. Ever since he was caught face-fucking a whore, it's been obvious that there's a real darkness to him that has so far gone untapped. It was therefore nice to see him stretch himself in this film by playing a variety of characters ranging from an old man to a psychotic futuristic cannibal. The real shame is that he's genuinely really good in each story proving that he's actually been squandering his talent over the course of a remarkably bland career. Not that I'm sure he cares, considering how rich his boring films have made him. To his credit, if interviews are anything to go by then you'll never find a bigger critic of Hugh Grant’s crap filmography than Hugh Grant himself. So it's not that he doesn't have any taste but rather, in comparison to building a legacy, his taste for buying sluts is apparently much greater.

So assuming you don't mind the prosthetics making everybodies face look as weird as Mickey Rourke's then the next question would be how well does the film hold together? Well, again, this is going to be a Marmite kind of situation but personally I thought it worked very well, and helping this is that each individual story is luckily enjoyable enough in its own right. My personal favourite would probably be Jim Broadbent's daring escape from the piss stained corridors of an old folk’s home. But then at the other end of the spectrum is a futuristic tale set in Neo Seoul which follows the adventure of a Korean clone on the run… at least I hope she's a clone and I've not just said something massively racist. Of course, cutting from the various periods and settings does jar occasionally but the film works because each segment mirrors the plot and themes of the next. Despite three diverse directors, the look of the film is also impressively consistent as though they've worked as one presumably freaky-looking hive-mind. Do you remember just how well Four Rooms worked together with its separate directors? Well thankfully, this is the complete opposite of that arrogant slab of indulgent shite.

Although it's probably obvious by now, I am clearly very much on the side of love where Cloud Atlas is concerned. Yes it's easy to make fun of and yes there is a section where Hugo Weaving seems to play The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh, however I think that overall there's a sincerity and heart to the film which allows me to overlook whatever aspects of it that the haters presumably hate. It's exciting, sad, funny and as mentioned, undeniably ambitious. I know this hasn't been the most analytical of blogs and I've only really briefly mentioned the themes rather than actually explored them, but fuck it. I could go into depth with all the linking metaphors and reflections of each segment but there'd be so much to say that this would be less of a blog and more an extended descent into my own rambling insanity. My only suggestion would therefore be that you just see the film for yourself and then comment what you notice in the section below. Firstly because I'm moderately curious as to what you thought and secondly because it'll make up for the lack of insight in the rest of this essay of drivel. Having said that I'm pretty sure that by now you people only read this for the shit and fart jokes and not for the insightful comments on the semiology of cinema. So if that's the case then get commenting below and I seriously hope you're proud of yourself. 

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11 March 2013

A Load Of Crop

This blog does contain extensive spoiler of Signs, but considering it's a shit film you've really got nothing to lose…

There are so many things in this world that we cannot currently explain, for instance; what was the real identity of Jack the Ripper? What exactly did happen to the missing crew of the Mary Celeste? And why whenever I'm about to have sex do I suddenly become desperate for a piss? I'm not saying that these things will never be solved, but simply that we just don't currently have the answers. One thing that can be explained pretty easily however is the formation of ‘crop circles’. For years, people wondered how these phenomenal patterns would appear over night with many suspecting the work of something paranormal. Sadly there is a much more obvious answer that doesn't require the involvement of mischievous little spacemen dicking about on the sly. Basically, the truth is that some farmers are full of shit. If ever some tractor-owning Worzel tries to tell you that aliens vandalised his field, then just punch the lying little fucktard in the face and walk off. If publicity is what they're after then there's no need to lie as those patterns are easily impressive enough to get reported on in newspapers and art columns. Also, if you're going to make stuff up then why limit yourself to something as boring as aliens? Untrustworthy farmers should be more creative and say that the crops were blown down by a flatulent rainbow farting whimsy and colour-spunk into the world!

Signs was released in 2002 and depicted this 'phenomenon' of crop circles as they re-occur in the back garden of Mel 'Sugar Tits' Gibson. I say 'phenomenon' as here the film obviously ups the dramatic tension by having them created by actual aliens. Not that that's the most unbelievable thing about this film, I should point out. Despite everything in his past, Mad Mel plays an ex-priest which would just never happen in reality. It's not that I don't think that the church wouldn't allow the bigoted, alcoholic to represent them but rather, for all his faults, I don't suspect him to be a paedophile. Joining Gibson for the ride is a pre-mental-break-down Joaquin Phoenix, the foetus of Abigail Breslin and also Rory Culkin. I don't know what it is about the Culkin cult but for some reason every single one of them has the detached look of a depressed smack addict and Rory is no exception. Together however, this cast make up a happy family of gloomy dullards all mourning the death of Gibbo's wife and the mother of his annoying children. In fact, it's her death that's made the angry Jew-hater come to his senses by hanging up his dog collar and denouncing the existence of the magical, imaginary sky-wizard known as ‘God’.

I had no idea the circus was in town...
Now things start off fairly well here, I guess. It's clearly sub-Spielbergian guff but it's got a fairly tense atmosphere and there are a few creepy moments. In fact, the scene featuring home video footage of the alien is one of the creepiest things I've seen reported on the news since Liza Minnelli married David Guest. There have been plenty of alien invasion movies, however I can't think of many that don't deal with the incident on a larger scale. Signs however decides to show everything from the point of view of a clueless family learning everything from rumour, guess work and society's collective gossip-whore, the ‘television’. Despite his history as a violent Road Warrior, Mad Mel has no interest in fighting the invaders, instead preferring to hide in the basement and pretend nothing is happening. Sort of like what his real life father does whenever anyone provides evidence of the holocaust. To his credit though, Gibson is actually really good in this film reminding us that when not screaming drunken obscenities he can actually be a pretty good actor. Also his character seems to have formed a close friendship with the local policewoman which adds an extra level of tension as you're never sure whether he's going to offer her a drink or start ranting about the fucking “wetbacks”.

"Is it from a Jewish planet?"
In fact, Gibson aside, virtually the whole cast is very good here. I say virtually as like with so many other films, it's significantly let down by the appearance of its own director M. Night Shyamalan. When I say ‘so many other films’, I am of course referring to anything featuring the pointy chinned wrecking ball that is Tarantino. I think QT must be the worst actor of all time, with his bizarre cameo in Django Unchained possibly being the clagnut cherry on top of a diarrhoea coated cake of shit acting. In comparison, Shyamalan certainly isn't the worst actor of all time but what really grates with him is just how indulgent his role is. He's introduced to us when the rest of the cast spot him walking past and all gasp as though directed to by an arrogant child now given a fat little fistful of power. Unfortunately though he also has a scene later on in the film which is all about himself and goes literally nowhere. Basically Shyamalan has locked an alien in his house and for absolutely no real reason decided to phone Gibson to tell him. I'm not really sure why, as I wouldn't call Mad Mel if I'd had a visitor from another religion let alone another fucking planet.

Shyamalan is known for his twists although these traditionally happen near the end of a film. In Signs however it appears midway through during his extended cameo. Up until now we've been tricked into believing that this is a good movie, however here it's revealed that the whole thing is actually a load of bollocks. Never has something descended so quickly into a load of shit since Tub Girl took a bath and arse-fired a fountain of turd-juice onto her own face. For anyone unsure of who Tub Girl is then you should type it into Google images and see just how grim humanity really is. I don't know about you but I'd rather be probed into Hell by an alien from the planet Dildo than belong to the same species as that fat, shitting bitch.

Scarred for life.
The next big problem with Signs is that it slips into sentimentalism with about as much subtlety as Freddie Kruger at a fingering competition. I mean the syrupy bollocks is kind of sprinkled throughout the film to start with but for the most part it's more like a bearable feeling of nausea. However things get really bad when Gibbo starts reminiscing about his children’s births as though it was a thing of Heavenly beauty. I mean seriously, the way he describes it, you'd think the little fuckers had hatched out of golden eggs having been delivered personally by the angels. Mel bangs on about how his babies curiously looked around the hospital room as though this is something to be in awe of. But what he fails to point out is that all they'd have seen there was Mummy violently bleeding out, having just had her vadge torn apart like a warm jam sandwich. If she'd have been snipped from pussy to arse then at best, the massive hole might have made her look like an expensive but fucked up novelty hat. Either way though, her pain is proof that this wouldn't have been the mawkish scene that he described. Unless, to be fair, he's drunkenly remembering it wrong which isn't unlikely.

"Since when did Earth have water?!"
This gushy tone and schmaltz sadly continues throughout the remainder of the film leading us conveniently to my final huge problem. In the same way that we can be burnt by acid, these aliens apparently suffer the same pain when touched by ordinary water. Just to reiterate that- the flesh of these aliens literally burns off and kills them if touched by a little drop of water. I mean what kind of stupid fucking creatures are these that come to Earth with that kind of allergy? So apparently they're smart enough to master intergalactic space travel but they're still retarded enough to pick the worst possible planet to stop at? Beyond the fact that over two thirds of our surface is covered in water we also have plenty of rain where it randomly falls from the sky. I mean they didn't even wear protective clothing so how did they expect to survive? I don't die when it rains but I'll still pop on a cagoule if I'm nipping to the shop and it's drizzling. However these aliens decided instead to ignore the huge and very real dangers simply so that they could perform their invasion in the nude. The only way I can think attacking whilst naked would be a good idea is if it was to aggressively show the galactic size of your balls. Considering these invaders seem to have travelled all the way from the Eunuch system, their lack of intimidating genitals only adds to the stupidity of their plan. 

In the end, Signs is a film that starts off promisingly enough but sadly ends up as a lump of contrived shite. We all presumed that the title was referencing the crop circles but in reality I think it was a warning that Shyamalan's talent was about to disappear. His career started of well with his first two films but by the time we got to The Happenings’ farting killer plants, I think something had gone very wrong. I'd warn people not to waste their life with this movie but considering it's now kind of old I presume we've all probably seen it. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not as bad as those films that cost a quid to buy and feature ex-porn stars but it's still very crap. I saw Signs when it was first released and then saw it again more recently because I was with some friends who apparently don't care about quality. There's a line in the film in which Joaquin Phoenix says, “This is exactly what the nerds want” but as a twenty-four year old male with Star Wars toys populating my bedroom I can confirm it actually really isn't.

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4 March 2013