Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five Films I Dislike and How I Think They Should Be Remade 26/06/2012

So how did you make me funnier in Taxi Driver?

The Muse: Appalling attempted comedy from Albert Brooks in which a Hollywood screenwriter hires a professional muse (Sharon Stone) to cure his writer's block. Could be funny but falls flat at every gag, largely because the humour depends on your acceptance of Brooks's smugness. I just found him superior minded and hostile. He's really good in other people's movies, though, like Taxi Driver and Drive.

Remake in Japan as a magical realist psychefest with Sion Sonno directing.

There must be more more loveable Cockney filth we can spout.
Sexy Beast: Interesting confrontation between ex-gangster and toughnut from the old underworld tryig to lure him back outstays its welcome before the showdown arrives and then gets routine and duller by the second as the third act comes calling like a party guest the next morning. Waste of good performances from Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley.

Remake in Hong Kong more or less the same but with added supernatural horror angle. Get the Pang brothers in for the job.

Oh for fuck's sake eat it, I've got a directorial gig after this.
Splice: A good idea that loses strength and steadily collapses under its increasing conventionality. By the writer/director of the wonderful Cube it seems to show that the only development in his skills are how to get Hollywood money to make a film and blank his mind to the million compromises he has to make just to get the thing made and released.

Remake in Hungary in a black and white village on the plains. Get Bela Tarr out of retirement and make him shoot on video so he can extend his ten minute takes by hours, if necessary. That would blow my mind.

I'm getting dizzy. Is that why they call them rushes?
The Rum Diary: Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson again with Withnail and I's Bruce Robinson in the chair. But it tries too hard to make the pre-gonzo Thompson into the later Duke and the W and I craziness also feels too studied. When it gets serious it gets dull, rather than hard.

Render all footage into black and white and remove all audio. Leave at drop off point in undisclosed location somewhere in the southwestern U.S. and get Craig Baldwin to edit and narrate it. I'd watch that. I'd burn the copy afterwards but I'd watch it.

You SAID I'd get a SONG in the third ACT!
The Descent: Competitive women virtually dare each other to some serious spellunking in them back hills. Oh, it's a Deliverence survival tale with a teamwork message. That would have been great. There are monsters. You see too much of them too early, giving you far too much control as a viewer when you should be terrified of the dark and any self-revealing sound. Interesting tie-in about motherhood not strong enough to suggest alternate reality.

Get Bong Joon-Ho to remake this in Korea as a found footage horror. Tired genre but he could put the zap back into it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Five films I dislike and how I think they should be remade: 24/06/2012

One the one hand it's just too easy thinking of quips about movies that I don't like. On the other it's hard to come up with these lists as I seldom really hate movies, always being able to see something worthwhile in them (even something like Rushmore which should never have been made ever). So I've given myself the extra responsibility to suggest how these might be mended. This lightens the burden by the opportunity to perform a selfless act for the improvement of others and still crap on movies I don't like. So...

"Ooooohhhh, John wants it SUBT-TLE'
The Breakfast Club: While I liked Risky Business and some of the other John Hughes titles o' the eighties that dealt with adolesence I always winced at this one with its cringing stereotypes and sausage meat dialogue. The pot smoking scene with the explosive Wiggles rock montage makes me cringe. My teen years were both much more fun and worse than anything here.

Remake this in Sweden as a severe black comedy and it'll get there.

Abbie Cornish wonders about Swedish catering
Candy: Simply beautiful and powerful opening sequence gives way to a couple of hours of addicts getting desperate and doing bad things. Narration by Abbie Cornish forms descant of blundering aphorisms about getting desperate and doing bad things. Then it ends.

Remake in Sweden as a severe black comedy.

I'm Susan Hill. Stop fucking up my book!

The Woman in Black: The Harry Potter one. Series of boo style scares and a lot of gaffer taped CGI cannot save this attempt from some idiotic integrity-killing plot changes that bring it up to cliche standards and throw away all the subtlety of the original story.

Already made well in the 80s for a fraction of
the budget. No remake necessary.

C'mon, guys, it'll be funny.
Very Bad Things: Intended as a black comedy but keeps shifting the line whenever it can't get out of a situation too clever for its makers. Moments cannot save the hours wasted.

Remake in Hong Kong as a thriller.

Hey, you're doing Memento next year and
going on to stardom. I'm getting ten years of tv movies.

Ravenous: Flagrant waste of an opportunity to mix a hitherto uncinema-ed boogey man from folk mythology and a western. Clunky plotting and overplaying and a waste of a good cast. Rotten.

Ditch the one liners and remake in Japan with Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the helm. No gore, no wisecracks but maximum audience absorption and true dread.

Top 10: 24/06/2012

Dark Water: I lent this to a friend who loved it. When he returned it I put it on as a kind of background music and left the subtitles off so we wouldn't be distracted by it as we talked. We just watched it again.

Eraserhead: Well, if you've read the others you know it's going to be here.

The Woman in Black: No, not the one with Harry Potter. I mean the one made for television in the 80s adapted from the novel by the late great Nigel Kneale. All the CGI in Hollywood was not enough to obscure this earlier, superior version.

Twelve O'Clock High: Loved it when I was a kid because it was a war movie with B-17s but was also because of the psychological squeeze involved in the story as the minimum number missions before leave just rises and rises. One of Gregory Peck's best turns.

The Quiet Earth: Like an extended Twilight Zone Episode. Some annoying plotting bandaids and gaffer taping but has the courage to freak right out for the ending suggesting a potentionally infinite chain of mysteries. Get you're audience thinking. The way I like it. I saw this at the old Valhalla in Richmond. People who didn't know each other were arguing about the ending on the tram afterwards.

The Evil Dead: It's funny. It's scary. It flaunts its low budget without embarrassment.

Irreversible: From inferno to paradise just not in a comforting order.

Audition: Saw it in one of the shoebox sized cinemas at the Lumiere. As the lights came back up people looked around them as though to make sure they'd all witnessed the same thing.

Prince of Darkness: Great mix of ideas and grue with a strong early use of video to alienating effect. God vs Anti-God and, guess what, they don't give a toss about us. Also, one of Carpenter's best scores.

 Myra Breckinridge: Usually on people's worst of all time lists and with good reason but I like its self awareness and proto-mashup abandon. A sadness at the core is often missed because of the camp and flair but it is there and holds up what might otherwise be a series of failed jokes. Also missed is quite a lot of the genuine satire buried underneath the sledgehammer variety. This is lack of discipline rather than lack of quality. No worse, in fact, than anything Ken Russell was celebrated for.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: IRON SKY: Tales from the Argy Bargy Bunker

Present day. A lunar module is gliding into land on the dusty sattelite's surface. Something about activity on the dark side of the moon. But all is not as it seems. Once landed the astronauts emerge from the module but not before two huge banners shuck out of their furls either side of the craft. YES WE CAN! yells each one.

Before the senior of the pair of moon explorers can get a few slow bounces in he ... explodes. Reverse shot. A world war two soldier in a coal scuttle helmet is aiming his space mauser at the remaining crewer. A slow crane shot lifts us over the ridge to reveal the biggest swastika in creation, Moon Base Nazi. That's where we're going.

Inside Swastika City it's all Metropolis and metal. Moon Fuerher, Udo Kier steps out of a 40s era car to inspect the prisoner who is obviously the vanguard of Earth's impending invasion. The coal-scuttled goons wrest the captive's helmet off and GASP, he's black. Some funny banter later, he escapes their clutches with a neato low G freefall.

Meanwhile we're in school and the little heiling kids tell us by Q&A how they all got there to their teacher, the honeystunner Renate Richter. Soon they are speaking English because and are briefly interrupted by Adler, young buck officer with designs on the big job and Renate's herz. Anyway, she's wanted for her English skills.

The Astronaut is captured, insisting that he knows nothing about any invasion, that he's just a model and got caught up in the President's election campaign. Ah .... Some technology jokes later and they're all on their way to Earth to meet the President of the United States of the Americas. The Astronaut is yet to find out but they have made some changes to his appearence. This is going to be fun.

And it is, consistently. A few sharp lines about US foreign policy from members of the Security Council aimed at a Pres who is basically Sarah Palin with a different name and a little (and really only a little) satire is thrown into the mix. The rest is the kind of action comedy in the trad of Ghostbusters or ... well Ghostbusters will do, if this flicker reminds me of anything it's that one.

Iron Sky is the low-end-market Prometheus. A growing fan base has been waiting for this film from the mid-2000s when it was just a poster. Then it was a teaser with some unexpectedly slick CGI. But mostly it was vapourware until this year. The Blair-Witchy campaign pushed the game changing production history forward, announcing a kind of Endseig for crowd funding. From a few bedrooms in Finland this became an International co-production with a lot of it shot up north in Queensland. So it was hotly anticipated.

It has divided its anticipators the same way that Prometheus has. But the fact is that it is more than just competently made. It uses a good contrast of scale to create a world where the big black cosmos really is waiting outside the rooms, offices and cars. The jokes work and the performances are appropriate to the material.

And it's fun.

What about the Moon Nazis being, you know, Nazis? This is kept soft with references to racism and some admitedly mild ridicule of the nazi racial ideal. It's pretending to be neither Holocaust nor Triumph of the Will. (Well do the nazis at least get their arses kicked? What do you bloody think?) What you do get is a series of pretty well-aimed digs at the current state of realpolitik and the perennial problem of spin: the sight of Sarah Palin Stand-in being cheered by a speech given her by a nazi apparatchick is funny and sobering in much the same way as the number 57 is used in The Manchurian Candidate (that's really worth discovering for yourself.)

For all my reservations I ended up enjoying Prometheus. I dug Iron Sky, though.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ten films I dislike: 18/06/2012

E.T.: Don't care. Didn't like. Never have.

Gremlins: Wanted to be wicked but wasn't much better than cute.

Terminator: Derivative concept handled well but title role so poorly cast that it's like a holiday snapshot of a loved one that inadvertently stars some oversized goof in a g-string who was walking past at the time. Now shake vigorously and imagine the T as Lance Henriksen (who was originally cast in the role). Better. Much better.

Analyze This: Billy Crystal is funny. Robert De Niro is not.

Bicentennial Man: Asimov's ideas vs Robin Williams' vanity. Guess which one loses.

Where the Buffalo Roam: Bill Murray playing Hunter S. Thompson. That's how they pitched it. That's where they left it.

The Deer Hunter: Five minutes of good cinema wrapped in what feels like a fortnight of self-important cinema.

The Abyss: Generally like this one but two points: The guy who goes nuts is already nuts when you see him at the beginning. Ed Harris is primed to do the big deed at the end. Why him? "Someone's got to do it." So ...WHY him ...? I mean, I know, I know, he's the star. But why him?

Signs: Superb beginning and development demolished by one of the most gormlessly stupid conclusions imaginable.

Age of Innocence: Well, at least Merchant Ivory didn't do it.

Top 10: 17/06/2012

Eraserhead: To get it out of the way, still my favourite film.

Suspiria: Nightmare logic should not be easy to control. It's beyond control here. The only time it's under control, the film starts flatlining. Then it picks up and goes back to Suspiriaville.

Freud: Written by Satre, boiled down by John Huston and starring a post-accident Monty Clift and in-bloom Susanna York. Hard black and white with dream sequences and memories to rival the Dali scenes in Spellbound.

Burn: Pontecorvo's epic of colonisation and revolution presents a Marxist attack without dogma. Strong preformances by a maturing Marlon Brando and Evaristo Marquez as the admiring enemies. One of Morricone's most glorious scores.

The Blair Witch Project: Even when the triumph of the production and marketing stories surounding this film clear you are still left with a great campfire tale, a  steady descent into panic and despair. It's not just a great ending.

Apocalypse Now: This still works and sometimes for reasons different from those that used to make it work. That reason is enough for me to consider the concept of the perfect film bullshit. Top marks for that alone.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari: So engaging it obliterated my youthful intolerance of silent movies. Incredible piece.

Greetings from Wollongong: Half feature length but persistent in my memory for its style, wit and conviction. Feels like a feature. Not because it drags but because it contains so much. Misery porn? More like misery erotica. Love to see this again.

Citizen Kane: An epic I could watch on any day.

The Draughtsman's Contract: Property and inheritance and expert drawing manage to mix with a witty intrigue. First I saw of Peter Greenaway and still the one I like the best.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ten films I dislike: 11/06/2012

The Stunt Man: Supposedly profound power struggle between a tyrannical movie director and the fugitive stunt man. Reminds me of those theatre pieces that don't want to commit to being plays or dances and one character turns to the audience, points and dramatically intones: Alright, this is YOUR PERFORMANCE. WE ARE YOUR NERVES!

Reservoir Dogs: I didn't buy into Tarrantino the way a lot of my friends did because of this film which had wit, strong, well-coreographed action and real cinephilic skill. So do all my favourite Scorsese films and this was like a cover version of them. Well, I used to think that. Then I saw a few Hong Kong actioners which filled in the blanks. It felt flat and calculated even though it was made with obvious love of the form. I found that a little creepy.

A Room for Romeo Brass: Shane Meadows is one of those UK directors we're all meant to admire for his mix of warmth and kitchen sink realism. I just see actors with too much freedom to express their characters and plots crowbarred into the final acts. I think you're meant to forgive the wincable contrivances of this film in the light of Paddy Considine's fiery performance as a psycho. See also This is England which I also think is not better than two of its central performances.

Casino: Goodfellas with pokies. Linear and plodding despite the cast and creative team. A series of strong character sketches which add up to an endless length of knotted string. Scorsese's been dead to me from Cape Fear on. This seemed like the old gunslinger twirling his Colt just like in the old days and then missing the barn door with every shot.

Don't Look Now: At uni I sang the praises of this one along with all my friends after it was on late night tv once. The tragedy of the lost child stirred through the thick atmosphere like an insoluble wine, never blending, always visible. I showed the blu-ray recently to some friends and was apologising for it from the halfway mark. An utterly wasted opportunity, given strong material and all the ambience you could ever want for a thriller. This brings my score for Nicholas Roeg films to a perfect zero (yes, Performance included).

Defending Your Life: Albert Brooks is a good presence in most of the movies he's in that he doesn't write or direct. His improv turn in Taxi Driver lifts that already celestial piece even higher. Whenever he does write and direct there's always a problem and it's not something that suggests itself immediately. His own films are usually whacky comedies and they are almost universally unfunny. This one starts out really well. Brooks dies and goes to limbo where he must make a case to go to the good place. After about twenty minutes in all the jokes about this have decomposed into dust and it becomes a great ugly, clunking rom com. Why? Brooks is smug. He's not only a smug character feeding himself one liners, he directs other actors in the scene to laugh at them. Nothing kills a joke like self-congratulation. There is a worse example (The Muse) but that is irredeemable from the word go. This one could have been saved.

The Hudsucker Proxy: My first sign that the Coen's were fallible. This attempt at a Capra screwball social comedy ends up more of a self-indulgent Sturges washout. If someone had told Jennifer Jason Leigh she was allowed to loosen up her suffocating impersonation of Katherine Hepburn she might still have a career today.

Twilight Zone: The Movie: Grue and grossness kept within industrial safety standards made sure that these retreads from the original tv series just looked newer than the real ones. If it was creepy by suggestion in 1963 it became dayglo and unsubtle in 1983. I hate Steven Spielberg.

Immortal Beloved: Amadeus got away with being historically innacurate because the history was less important than the theme of mediocrity vs genius. It also got away with it because the cast and director were clicking like card in a bicycle wheel spoke. This one fails despite people like Jeroen Krabbe, Gary Oldman and Isabella Rosellini in the cast and Bernard Rose in the chair. Rose had previously made the superb urban myth horror Candyman and the intriguing and absorbing Paperhouse. Having some great music and the gift of a great historical character played by his generation's actor's actor didn't help for some reason. It's silly when it isn't boring.

Flashback: I hate buddy movies and I hate them more when they are road movies with a cloying nostalgia. Dennis Hopper is an aging hippy activist being transported across the US by FBI agent Keifer Sutherland. Dennis subverts Keifer in all sorts of ways until Keifer finally loosens up and goes on Dennis' wild ride through the standard checklist of buddy movies. "The nineties are going to make the eighties look like the fifties," says Dennis. Actually, that came true. He just forgot to add,"...in a good way." Fifties and Eighties = fresh new approaches with a lot of originality. Nineties = repackaging of the three previous decades but sold as fresh.