Sunday, February 21, 2010

January/February Films

DDDDDD – Exceptional and unparalleled
DDDDD – Excellent, a special film
DDDD – High Enjoyable, recommended
DDD – Worth watching, but unexceptional or flawed
DD – Bland, dull and average
D – Will give you cancer

Sherlock Holmes (2009) Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong. Dir Guy Ritchie.

A more dynamic Holmes and Watson take on a sinister criminal who has come back from the dead. Turning Holmes into a comic book style character has worked before, and Ritchie’s film is undeniably fast moving smart and entertaining. The only thing missing is a decent mystery to solve.


A Very Long Engagement (2004) Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Dominique Pinon. Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

A girl refuses to believe her betrothed died in WW 1 and investigates what happened the day he disappeared. Handsome, romantic mystery thriller if a little too garishly shot. Funny and very charming, but is hard to follow and a little slow moving. Not quite a classic.


Woman of the Year (1942) Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, William Bendix. Dir: George Stevens.

A down to earth sports’ writer begins a relationship with a head strong diplomat’s daughter. The first Tracy/Hepburn film quickly establishes their trademark chemistry. Smart and funny, the adult romantic comedy is a dead art.


Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2009) Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams. Dir: Mat Whitecross.

Flawed attempt to hammer the strands of Ian Dury’s life into a narrative. Focuses on his family life, but uses not entirely successful plot devices to bring his past and music career in. Doesn’t help that the Rock star rise and fall story is too familiar. Serkis is the highlight.


Tokyo Story (1953) Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara. Dir: Yasujiro Ozu.

An eldery couple visit their children in Tokyo, but they’re too busy to spend time with them. A gentle but deeply tragic film about the way the old replaces the new and how easily the past is devalued. Slow moving but leaves a lingering impression.


Exotica (1994) Bruce Greenwood, Mia Kirshner, Elias Koteas, Sarah Polley. Dir: Atom Egoyan.

Damaged characters are linked by a strip club and a patron obsessed with a school girl dancer. Slow reveals cleverly disguise the true nature of this human drama, which is touching in places, but frustrating also. Some stories add little to the overall plot and some performances aren’t so impressive.


The Silence of the Lambs (1990) Jody Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine. Dir: Jonathan Demme.

An FBI recruit is sent to question an imprisoned psychopath who knows the identity of a serial killer. Slick and stylish thriller; it’s exciting, but implies more depth than is there. Scenes between Foster and Hopkins are few and don’t demonstrate the psychological impact on Clarice that Lector apparently has.


The Men Who Stare At Goats
(2009) George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey. Dir: Grant Heslov.

A jilted journalist goes to Iraq and meets an ex-soldier who claims to have psychic powers. A very funny film, but one without a point to it. It’s too aimless to be the satire it ought to be, and ends up just being a very pleasant distraction.


Christmas in July (1940)Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest. Dir: Preston Sturges.

A man is tricked into thinking he’s won a competition and spends the prize money before discovering the truth. Brief, but smart comedy with top notch performances from a solid cast. As you’d except from Sturges, some of the lines are golden.


Monday, February 15, 2010

For the love of The Room

A few weeks ago I went to see a film called The Room. Haven’t heard of it? Well it’s the big sleeper hit of the last decade. It’s taken years for it to gather momentum after its initial short theatre run. Gradually, its reputation has grown and the film is being shown across America and now it has begun to get a reaction in the UK as well.

What’s so special about The Room? Well.....It’s rubbish. It’s generally regarded to be the worst film of the 21st century so far.

The Room is a throwback to old school days of bad filmmaking. It’s not one of those professional disasters where a filmmaker goes off the rails and creates a bomb that inspires hatred and/or boredom. The Room is that rare beast of a film where amateurs with almost no filmmaking skills and no talent somehow managed to put something together that looks at far glance like something that could’ve been a proper production, but isn’t.

The film is written, produced and stars (never a good start) by Tommy Wiseau, a strange accented lumpy man who first marketed the move as “A film with the passion of Tenessee Williams” overlooking the fact that it’s spelt Tennessee. When people fell about laughing at the premiere, he tried to sell it as a comedy. People laughed, but no one was buying it.

The film revolves around Tommy and his apparently beautiful future wife (not fiancĂ© - this word is unknown to them), who have been together for 5 or 7 years depending which scene you watch. Tommy is a wonderful man (so we’re told over and over) but Lisa has become bored of him and seduces his best friend (so we’re told over and over again) Mark. The film charts the disintegration of their relationship and the revelation of Lisa’s betrayal.

But that’s not all. Denny, who is like a son to Tommy, buys some drugs and is threaten by a dealer. Lisa’s mum has cancer, is fighting with her brother over a house and has relationship troubles. Lisa’s best friend is having sex with some guy. It’s a rich tapestry of different related stories which are irrelevantly introduced and then quickly forgotten about.

It’s a stupid and bizarre film, an innocent effort that the creators really wanted to work, and as result, has gained the sort of following that Ed Wood films now enjoy. And as the legend of The Room has spread, people have begun to gather. They gather at late night screenings, they bring their friends, and they arrive fully versed in all things The Room.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the experience. I knew the film’s reputation had spread and in America it was becoming big, but I didn’t know that already people over in the UK had taken it to heart. I should’ve seen the indicators, 4th screening at the Prince Charles Cinema, 4th sell out in a row – it’s not a small place. As I walked in, a small lady on a stool handed a sheet of ‘rituals’ that you could follow throughout the movie. I also noticed lots of people holding plastic spoons.

The ritual sheets suggested a number of ways to interact with the movie. Such as shouting ‘Who are you?’ when new characters appear and you’re supposed to know/care who they are; ‘Cancer’ when Lisa’s mum arrives on screen, because she forgets about it almost as soon as she says she has it; ‘meanwhile in San Francisco’ because of the many establishing shots of San Francisco, even though almost all the action happens, as the title suggests.

Oh and the spoons... Well there is some artwork in the apartment which features spoons for some reason. So whether the camera passes said artwork, audience members throw plastic spoons at the screen.

The audience is given full license to misbehave as much as they like. People expressed their loud disgust at the awful sex scenes, constantly mocked the rubbish dialogue and applauded loudly at the most pointless scenes in the movie. It was a little like being in classroom where the teacher’s been gone for ages.

It can be annoying; some of the people aren’t funny and naturally won’t shut up. But having a whole group of people there made this film. Watching them erupt into applause at pointless scenes, hearing them point out the ridiculous things you didn’t notice. It was like being in a great audience at a comedy show or at great gig. The sheer momentum of people there determined to have a good time makes it hard not to enjoy the anarchy. Even if you’ve seen the film before, you’ll never know what’s going to come next.

What The Room proves is that just like any great movie, the way to watch a bad movie is on a big screen with an audience. Seeing The Room is like no other experience you can have at the cinema, an excuse to be as badly behaved as you like; and the film is so much funnier than almost any comedy you’ll see on a big screen.

The film is showing monthly at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Try it; you’ll struggle to find something else that much fun for a fiver on a Saturday night.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

5 things I hated in January

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga

While this song may not be as garish and stupid as Pokerface, it still has plenty to hate in it. There’s the bits that don’t make sense, the things she probably heard in other songs and decided she’d she stick in whether it made sense or not: - “walk, walk, fashion baby” what the f@#~s that got to do with anything. But to really hate Gaga, you have to have seen her videos.

As usual she wants to be everything. At various points she’s a victim, a monster, an angel, a whore (mostly this one) and a sort of warped hatchling. It’s not a case of style over substance, it’s no style and no sense. She’s being groomed and sold for sex apparently, but if this is meant to be a harsh sentence, it’s rather undermined by the fact that she’s really enjoying the attention.

If there is one constant in this mess of ridiculous mixed messages is that Gaga is so awesome. She sells for millions, she’s stared at, worshipped, covered in diamonds, and then eventually sets her metal jawed (why?) buyer on fire because she’s so hot. At least witless rappers are blatant about their glorified self indulgent promotion, they don’t pretend that there’s anything remotely artistic or stylish in what they do. Stupid pomegranate faced cow.

Broken Heels by Alexandra Burke

Her first song was about how girls always like bad boys because they’re dangerous* and then her second one is a whole feminism, girls are stronger than boys, thing**. For f%^@s sake, if you’re going to write your songs based on clichĂ©’s at least don’t pick cliche’s that conflict. No wonder everyone say’s X Factor contestants have no personality, no character.

Even Britney Spears, has a character, a persona. Starting off as a purveyor of innocence and idealised teenage romance, and then later as grown up girl gone bad and becoming more edgy – indeed the change in persona has allowed her career to continue to thrive. Where exactly is Alexandra Burke going to go? Exactly how do her managers expect to make a career out of an act that has no weight behind it, no hook? Oh well, a replacement for her is never far away.

Thames Water

I’ve always hated these useless f^~#ers. It was bad enough last year when I complained about their extortionate rates and they failed to mention that I could cut my bills in half by installing a water meter – I had to find that out from a third party. But it takes the p^£s when they can’t even bill you properly.

I moved, gave them my new address and asked them to send me a final bill. I received nothing. I get a call a few weeks later asking about the unpaid bill. I tell the caller I received no bill, he checks my records and sees that I have called in a change of address and says the bill will arrive shortly. Still haven’t received it. Suddenly in January I get bailiff notices asking for unpaid funds, for two different amounts. I write a complaints letters to them asking for a proper bill. Still haven’t received it, just more threats. Eventually I just paid the two separate bills, I know for a fact I owe more, lets see how long it takes them to find that out.

Most annoying people of 2009 on BBC Three.

Ah yes, the BBC channel that spends more on making adverts about their innovative, chance-taking programming than at actually does making them. This depressing annual schedule offal is one of their favourites; a cheapo programme that fills a big gap in the schedule.

Besides being presented by Richard smug-without-justification Bacon, the quality of guest’s declines with each showing, and it was never high. The same mix of reality-show 15 minuters, failed pop starts and little known comedians and presenters, trying to give entertaining and knowledgeable opinions on people they’ve never met*** on a list they almost certainly had no say in putting together. Christ, I’d rather more repeats of Porridge and Only Fools (not Two Pints) than this sad case of depressing digital age filler.

Transport For London & Southern Trains

Well, whichever one of them made it more expensive to buy a return ticket into London from Croydon than it is to buy a travelcard with a young person’s railcard. It’s only 30p cheaper to buy a travelcard without one; it makes no bloody sense!

*I look forward to the follow up song where her bad boy gets her addicted to drugs, steals her money, rapes her and leaves her face down in a ditch.
** To be honest though love, you’d be more impressive if you took the broken heels off and wore some appropriate footwear.
*** Yes, I do appreciate there’s some irony here, but no one is required by law to pay for the witless bile I spit out.