10 February 2014

Beans: The Ultimate Disaster Movie

Apparently Americans are relatively unaware of what a pantomime is so let's explain... Every Christmas, theatrical productions of classic fairytales are opened to the public in which shit actors take their careers to die. Primarily, these things are aimed at kids but also often include smutty jokes for the adults that have been dragged along too. Because there's nothing a kid loves more than not understanding a reference to anal sex. The shows are kind of like a cross between one of the Grimm's Fairytales, a Carry On film and a brain haemorrhage. I actually went to one of these at the end of last year starring none other than the famous singer Sonia!!! Well actually- I say famous.. I mean I'd never heard of her but she was definitely in it because I remember her being seriously fucking awful. Not that it is a bad thing by the way. No- well, yeah it's definitely a bad thing but pantomimes are always shit and so if you're going to see one, you want to make sure it's proper dire. The worse the show is, the more embarrassing it is for the people on stage, the funnier it is for me. I'm going back again next year but to make the whole process even more amusing I plan to arrive with plenty of munchies and completely stoned off my tits.

Anyway so I recently watched Jack the Giant Slayer which tells the story of a young boy who swaps his horse for some magic beans. Jack meets a girl, the beans get wet, a giant stalk shoots up and suddenly he's able to travel into a sky-world of giants. So basically just your stereotypical sexual awakening I guess. Sadly though, the girl gets carried up into this world and so requires rescuing... because as any old sexist will tell you, women are useless and rely on men to help them out. Because she also happens to be a Princess, quite a few men go to her rescue including Jack, some soldiers and an untrustworthy Stanley Tucci who intends to bring the giants back down with him to take over our kingdom. That's pretty much all there is to it really as this has already become the odd film out of director Bryan Singer’s filmography. From the director of The Usual Suspects, X-Men and Superman Returns comes a reasonably silly, child-friendly film that's about as unmemorable and hollow as the average persons head. I'm generally not a fan of people so if Tucci wants giants to come down and smash us all to bits then I'm honestly not too fucked about it.

When I hear a film is directed by Singer and written by McQuarrie I tend to expect something special that might redefine a genre as I race to the cinema to spunk away my cash. The first X-Men wasn't perfect but I still loved it and there's no denying that it was an integral element regarding the recent explosion of Superhero blockbusters. On the outside, X-Men was a film about people with special powers but underneath was obviously about prejudice of any kind with its sequel even including a 'coming out' scene. It's quite surprising then to see that Jack the Giant Slayer really is about fuck all more than the title suggests. Do you want to see some ugly tall people get killed in variously comical ways? Then this is probably the film for you!

"Anyway, tonight's speeches are fucking cancelled. Nurse your fucking wounds."
I think Jack the Giant Slayer is roughly just under two hours long and if I'm being honest I was proper titty-bored by the first half hour. I went in expecting a Bryan Singer film but what I got was some bog standard American bullshit with stilted dialogue, a contrived set up and a fairly standard look to the world. However before the disappointment infected too much of my body, Ian McShane turned up as the king and he was dressed like an absolute knob-end. It was at that point that everything suddenly clicked for me. By coincidence, I'm actually re-watching Deadwood right now where his gritty, nuanced and just generally fucking brilliant portrayal of Al Swearengen may be one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. So to see him go from that to wearing tight golden armour, a cloak that looks like a hernia and generally just being as camp as a row of tents was kind of shocking. Only now did I realise that this film is basically just a bigger budget and all star version of one of those shitty old pantomimes that I explained about earlier!    

So Ian McShane mincing about whilst dressed as a fucking plum was my original clue and of course the story is an obvious choice for a pantomime but there are a few other signs as well. Firstly the lead character played by Nicholas Hoult is about as much fun as trying to piss a stray pube down the toilet... It's not that he wasn't good, it's just that it's such a copy and paste farmboy-esque character that in terms of memorability, he lingers as briefly as a fart in the wind. I mean I do like Hoult in other things and he did his best here considering what little there was to work with but as a main character, he's just Luke Skywalker without the incest. However.. having a boring main character is kind of the done thing with pantos as usually it's the villain who gets all the 'funny' lines. This is certainly true of this film too with Stanley Tucci continuing his campaign of being one of the funniest actors who isn't actually a comedian. At the show I went to last Christmas, an example of the villains comedic lines which he shouted at the audience was, “I'll come down there and paint all your M&M's the same colour”. Like I said, pantomimes are very shit. Plus if he shouts that again next year when I've got the full blown munchies then there's a good chance that I'll pull a whitey and glass the fucker. To the credit of Jack the Giant Slayer... it might not be the best film of all time but there were moments were Stanley Tucci was certainly much funnier than that.

Another thing that got me to catch on to the panto connection was the use of one of the most clich├ęd lines in cinema history. One of my huge movie pet peeves is when somebody’s looking into the distance before something bad happens and they say “There's a storm coming”. I know that the storm is metaphorical of some upcoming 'trouble' but presumably when they say it they're unaware of their place within the films narrative structure and so are literally just referring to the storm. In which case other than a bedraggled old sea-dog, who the fuck says “There's a storm coming”? If I see a grey cloud then at best I'll just say “This weather's looking a bit shit” and that's if I even bother to comment at all. If somebody paid me to write films.. which they fucking should.. I'd still have a scene where our hero's existentially contemplate their uncertain future whilst staring at the horizon.. that's all fine.. but this time I'd have one turn to the other and both meaningfully and stoically ask “Is it just me or is it going to piss down?”... anything for originality! Anyway- rant aside, that's not actually the line in the movie but you get my point. The line in the film is when Hoult tries to act heroically, thinks its working and then realises there's an army behind him. To which he says “There's something behind me isn't there” and with that, the record was broken for the most times a shit joke has even been said on camera.

The first time he said it I felt a large part of my soul die of cringe-tumours... however when the joke was used again at the end of the film, I got it. I mentioned before that at the panto I attended, the villain shouted out to the crowd because at these shows audience participation is very much a part of it. They have stock phrases that come up time and time again to partly make it more fun and presumably to drag the crappy show out a few extra minutes. One example of a panto phrase is when the character on the stage is about to be knifed in the back of the head by the villain... or something slightly more child-friendly... to which the audience shouts out, “He's behind you”. I'm therefore giving Jack the Giant Slayer a huge benefit of the doubt and hoping to fuck that their use of that ball-achingly awful line was a reference to these shitty stage shows. Using it once would perhaps be a tenuous connection but to use it twice must surely suggest a link because, if not, that's too depressing to actually contemplate. Plus this is the second paragraph I've now dedicated to that phrase and clearly I have an angle on this blog so for the sake of my point let's say we all agree it's definitely a reference to the real pantomimes and just move the fuck on!

"Is that tagline being rude?"
So both the real shows and this film are inspired by fairytales, feature boring main characters, a funnier villain, generally camp acting, catchphrases and... innuendos! To be fair the movie from what I can remember didn't feature too many unsubtly hidden, rude jokes... but the tagline does kind of allude to swearing. “You think you know the story. You don’t know Jack.”...Hurrhurr it's funny coz it made me fink da word 'shit'... although to be fair I did think it was pretty funny and it did make me think of the word shit. The only issue with it as a teaser is that if you think you know this story then to be honest you probably do. It's formulaic to the point of agony but again that's also true of pantos. If the film has one problem... which it doesn't- it has fucking loads... but if it did have only one problem it would be that it is neither great nor shit. Jack the Giant Slayer is a thoroughly average movie which will kill a couple of hours in the most harmless way possible. It's not as fun as sleeping with another real human but nor is it as boring as being stuck in a lift whilst needing a piss. If you've got nothing better to do then I'd happily say it's worth checking out but there are so many more films that are so much better. Is this the best film in the world? All together now, “OH NO IT ISN'T”... No it really fucking isn't but it's still good so whatever, see it, don't see, I don't care. Bye!


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