Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Man In The Mirror

"So, what did you get up to last night, dawg?"
"Don't call me 'dawg", motherfucker! Who the hell talks like that?"
"Apparently you do. You're talking to yourself. You see, this is a flimsy expository device to make your observations about the movie you saw last night more interesting by reframing your pedestrian opinions in the form of a dialogue with yourself."
"Aha! OK. Let's start again."
"Cool. So, what did you get up to last night?"
"Well, I went to a screening of Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely."
"Another screening? Certainly racking up the free movies this month, aren't you?"
"Not just free movies. Paid cash money to take Buttercup to see Alvin and the Chipmunks on Saturday afternoon. Ah, singing rodents. Good times."
"Aren't we straying off the subject? I freaking loved Gummo, so I must have been looking forward to Mister Lonely. What's it all about?"
"Yes, sorry. Mister Lonely - difficult to articulate in a tasty soundbite, but I'll give it a go. It's a film about celebrity impersonators and impossible dreams and skydiving nuns."
"Sounds great!"
"It is great - some of the time. It's not one of those movies governed by a strong narrative throughline, but so what? Narrative is overrated. It's wildly uneven but when it's good? Man, it is awesome!"
"For real!"
"The film bounces back and forth from Paris to Panama to the Scottish Highlands, tracing the lives of a group of celebrity impersonators including Michael Jackson (Diego Luna), Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) and Charlie Chaplin (Denis Lavant). Oh, and James Fox is the Pope."
"Innit! Stunning performances all, but Werner Herzog practically steals the entire movie away from the lot of them. Glorious."
"And skydiving nuns! Now seems like a good time to mention that Mister Lonely will be out in the UK on 14 March 2008 and the US on 30 April 2008. This talking-to-myself-in-the-third-person is getting really irritating now. Can we stop this foolishness?"
"Shut up!"
"You shut up!"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You Used To Think That It Was So Easy

“Windin' your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day
You'll drink the night away
And forget about everything”
Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

Excitement and anticipation were my overriding feelings on Wednesday night as I headed towards Leicester Square for a screening of The Bank Job. And here’s why:

1. The invitation to the screening was printed on an old, discontinued one pound note. How unutterably cool is that?

2. The director of the movie is Roger Donaldson, a filmmaker I am exceptionally fond of. Not because he is such a gifted storyteller, or because I absolutely love No Way Out and Thirteen Days, but because seven years ago he was gracious and accommodating to an inexperienced film journalist conducting his first interview and he made me feel comfortable and relaxed as he answered my questions. A true gentleman.

3. It’s a heist movie! I love heist movies!

4. The pitch worked on me straight away: “In September 1971, thieves tunnelled into the vault of a bank in London’s Baker Street and looted safe deposit boxes of cash and jewellery worth millions and millions of pounds. None of it was recovered. Nobody was ever arrested. The robbery made headlines for a few days and then disappeared - the result of a UK Government ‘D’ Notice, gagging the press. This film reveals what was hidden in those boxes. The story involves murder, corruption and a sex scandal with links to the Royal Family - a story in which the thieves were the most innocent people involved.”

5. It’s a movie about London and history and corruption and secrets and lies. And it all takes place on Baker Street, a road that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked on Baker Street. I set foot on Baker Street nearly every working day of my life. And the attention to period detail is just glorious. Sure, the odd anachronism sometimes pokes its way into the corner of the frame now and again, but this is an irrelevance when the film manages to get everything else so right.

6. Peter Bowles is in it!

When I walked out into the chill night air of Leicester Square after the movie had ended, I was not disappointed. My excitement and anticipation had been justified. Ten minutes after the curtain had dropped and the last of the credits had rolled, I was standing outside 185 Baker Street. It is still the site of Lloyds Bank 37 years on. And all these years, as I’ve been walking past, I never knew that it was a location dripping in intrigue and mystery. Not only as the location of the “Walkie-Talkie Bank Job”, but the hidden crypt running under the street containing the remains of many who died in the Great Plague of London in 1666.

With The Bank Job, a whole bunch of my preoccupations come together in one satisfying package. It’s still only January and I might have already seen the best film of the year. AKA says check it out.

The official website for the movie complete with the trailer can be found here, and for some more background on the true events that inspired the film click here.

The Bank Job is released in the UK on 28 February 2008 and in the US on 7 March 2008.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Shoulda Taken That Left Toin At Albukoikee

I wish I could run through a solid brick wall and leave nothing but a perfect AKA-shaped hole in my wake.

I wish I could run off a cliff and keep going, running through the air before the awareness that solid ground has disappeared hits me. I'd be suspended in thin air for a scant few seconds before plummeting into a canyon as I vanish into a cloud of dust.

I wish explosives could go off in my face and leave nothing more than blackened scorch marks and burnt hair which would magically disappear before the next scene.

I wish the soundtrack to my life was the sound of tightly-coiled springs twanging and cymbals clashing.

I wish life was like a Looney Tunes cartoon. I’d let the worst happen, dust myself off, and let Porky Pig wave the audience goodbye.

You do realise, this means war.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Trapped In A World He Never Made

January – the poorest month of the year. The longest interval between pay cheques and the financial hangover from Christmas hungrily gnaws at the hollow pockets of my wallet. What’s a guy to do for entertainment?

I suspect that 2008 will be the Year of the Press Screening for me. Plonking down cold hard cash to watch movies might be one luxury I can’t afford in the coming months. Fortunately for me, there are always stray e-mails penetrating my inbox inviting me to screenings. So this week, I went to see my first movie of the year. And no-one believes me when I tell them what I went to watch. Even if they do believe me, I can detect in their eyes a look that screams “Why, man? Why would you do such a thing??”

Ready? I went to see THIS!

Yes, to commemorate the DVD release of Howard The Duck, I squeezed myself into one of Soho’s miniscule screening rooms to let the insane magic of one of cinema’s most derided creations wash over me. And I’ll tell you a little secret. I was one of the only people who went to see it 20 years ago when it was released in the UK with the bland, almost-apologetic title Howard: A New Breed Of Hero. I loved it then too – for entirely different reasons though.

How can you not love a film that is so inept, misconceived and borderline offensive, riven with bad acting and dialogue that makes your ears weep, yet at the same time is genuinely funny, thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable from curtain up to curtain down? I am in awe of the fact that something as gloriously lunatic as Howard The Duck exists in the annals of cinema. And there really is a lot to recommend it.

The one thing that the film gets right is the character of Howard himself. The flip-side is that it totally fumbles the purpose of Howard. In Steve Gerber’s wonderful 70s comic, Howard was us. He wasn’t the freak. Everyone else was. He was Gerber’s mouthpiece – a vehicle for his frustration and amused irritation at the state of America in the 70s. In the movie, Howard just ends up as another reluctant action hero.

The duck effects in the movie actually stand up reasonably well in 2007. And there is more fun to be had here than in the stodgy lifeless effects spectacles foisted on us every summer.

But it says something when the best performance is the one given by the guy in the duck suit. Lea Thompson hit an all-time high with Back To The Future, only to thud right back down to earth with Howard The Duck. And the less said about the inter-species sex hinted at in a family film the better. Jeffrey “Ed Rooney” Jones is both teeth-grindingly dreadful and so far over-the-top that you cannot help but fall madly in love with his crazed appearance. And as for Tim Robbins – there’s no sugarcoating it. He is just crap in this.

It made me want to crack open my Essential Howard The Duck collection, just so that I could enjoy once again how it all began. And I’d definitely sit through the movie again. I might wait another 20 years until I do though…

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Damn Right

I love this:

(Found via Ectomo “a wonder closet of fringe art, culture and ephemera”. You should be reading it. Trust me.)