Tagged: Film & TV

re:View – The Spirit (of a greater movie, half-heartedly revived)

So, I finally got round to watching The Spirit – which I was totally dying to see from the moment it was announced, and then totally missed in cinemas (along with pretty much every film that was released during my MA Year from Hell). Well, looks like I haven’t missed out, at least on this one. It’s kind of…bland. (And that’s not even a pun on the signature Frank Miller colour scheme.) I’m not even sure what it’s trying to be. It’s too clichéd to be meant seriously, and not clichéd enough to work as a spoof. And not funny enough, either.

Same for the characters. Sure those superhero movies need their ensemble of stereotypical Good Guys and Bad Guys and In-Between Guys, and Nice Girls and Evil Girls and the staple Batshit Crazy Girl… And in my humble understanding of the genre, the more extreme the opposites (and personality disorders), the better. But The Spirit‘s characters aren’t even evil or crazy enough to actually make you care which side they’re on. No development. No twists. They might fool us for a scene or two – especially the ones with an affinity to the Bad camp – with a little eccentric flair brought on by some stunning, absolutely fabulous costume design. But in the long run it all feels more like some weirdo fashion designer’s latest showcase than anything else. The costume changes are just a bit too random and incoherent to do anything for the characters, who stay rather lifeless behind all the paint and goth fluff.

The film does have some really pretty noir visuals, though. I mean, of course it does. It’s Frank Miller after all. But even the imagery gets a bit stale with déjà vu as you keep going, ‘Oh yeah, seen that before.’ The graphic novel sequences? The token colour objects? The white blood on black? It was original in Sin City. And now it’s just so Sin City. Or more like, so trying to be Sin City.

The Spirit‘s many women are probably the best thing about the film. They’re gorgeous. Really, really beautifully designed – although, again, designed as in nicely styled pictures, not as in carefully carved-out characters. Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson and Stana Katic play them brilliantly – within the narrow space the plot allows them. But they could have more of an edge, a little more darkness. I mean, seriously. The Femme Fatale isn’t even bloody fatale. AT ALL. Also, none of them is quite a skinny little Nancy Callahan. But then this is not Sin City either…

Anyway, if there’s one reason for watching the film – apart from being a fan of Frank Miller’s, film noir or the colours black, white and red – this is it:

Verdict: Eva Mendes. Dressed in…diamonds. Does anything else matter, really?

re:View – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (even without wearing Prada)

So, I mainly watched this one because it’s got Gillian Anderson and she gets to be a gorgeous, glamorous, total bitch. But by the time her character popped up on screen, I was already so thoroughly entertained by the UK’s answer to The Devil Wears Prada that I had nearly forgotten I was waiting for her appearance.

The story is, uhm, let’s say, charmingly predictable. Sidney, a young, talented British journo with a whole bunch of ideals and an even bigger ego, who specialises in pissing everybody off (hence the title), somehow gets himself hired by American’s most famous celebrity magazine. Roll on the cheesy, painfully over-used establishing shots of N-Y-C. The glitzy world of celebrity journalism, of course, isn’t at all what Sidney expected and he duly falls flat on his face. Multiply. His collection of Shoulda Known Betta experiences include pissing off all his superiors, pissing off his only well-meaning colleague (and true love-to-be), pissing off the city’s most powerful publicist, and pissing off all the celebrities. Oh, and making a complete fool of himself believing Megan Fox would actually let him get anywhere near her pants. However, in due course, he sells his soul for a trip all the way to the top (and a little closer to Ms Fox’s pants.) But just as he’s about to have it all, of course, he becomes disgusted with himself and turns his back on the corrupt world of glamour magazines in favour of his great ideals and (yawn!) true love.

So, the story certainly doesn’t win a prize (at least I hope it didn’t, or I’m gonna look really dumb), and you totally keep waiting for Miranda Priestly to come marching into the office and start ripping up throats any second. Sidney is pretty much a male version of The Devil Wears Prada‘s wide-eyed Andy, but while Anne Hathaway’s Nice Journalist Girl faded a little next to Meryl Streep’s all-eclipsing evilness, Simon Pegg’s underdog charm and hilarious comic timing allow his character to take absolute command of the the somewhat lame plot.

From the remaining repertoire of adorably stereotypical characters, Megan Fox stands out with an altogether fabulous parody of herself, and Gillian Anderson almost fills Meryl Streep’s Prada heels as the ‘Queen of New York’ – the über-dominating publicist who decides which of her clients the magazines will ‘want’ to put on their next cover.

Gillian Anderson in How to Lose Friends And Alienate People
BTW: Gillian Anderson with a red pen, editing copy. Cue major obsession.

So, yeah, it’s another of those Virtuous Journalist vs The Rotten Magazine Industry films, and it’s another one based on a journalist’s memoir (Toby Young’s, in this case). But this one’s fun, fun, fun from the first minute until the credits roll, and it doesn’t make you hate yourself for still wanting to be part of that infamous magazines world by the end of it.

Verdict: It’s got all you need for 110 minutes of marvellous, lighthearted entertainment. And it’s got Gillian Anderson. And she does the Scully Eyebrow™. What more could you want?

Totally Worthless Comment: If you google Scully Eyebrow, the image search turns up two pictures from my The X Files: I Want to Believe re:View. Win!

re:View – The X Files: I Want to Believe (that this is not the film I’ve waited for for six years!)

The story
Some FBI agent goes missing. Some psychic creep goes all psychic about it. Let’s call Agent Mulder. Much stalking through the snow sans plot ensues. Oh, and there’s some dodgy Modern-Day-Dr-Frankenstein-Thing going on. And dog tranquilizer. For the sake of this re:View, however, we’ll focus on the aspects of the film you’ll actually (possibly) be bothered about.

Act One
No-Longer-Special-Agent Dr Scully works in a Catholic hospital and has a bit of a faith crisis because The Church Folks won’t let her do some Really Totally Radical Risky Brain Surgery to save a little boy’s life. Xzibit Special Agent Mosley Drummy shows up, somewhat inappropriately, asking for Mulder.

Scully tells him to go screw himself cause, ya know, they’re no longer FBI and all. She also kind of annoyingly stresses the point, throughout the film, that she’s a DOCTOR now.

Also, The Creator tries to shock us for a sec by making Scully talk about Mulder like he’s History. But then she totally goes home to convince Mulder to get on the case. With the F-B-I. And the audience goes

“I’m happy as a clam hiding away from the world and cutting out newspaper articles all day”-Mulder says the FBI can go screw themselves. Also, he’s got a beard. Well, not any kind of beard. Maximum eeew!-level kind of beard. He tries an eyebrow wiggle that used to be sexy in pre-beard times on Scully–

and they both go all awkward and you can tell they’re WAY beyond frustrated. And just in case we still don’t get that point, there’s THE PENCILS™!

The audience goes

(The Pencils™ = Universal X Files Symbolism for Frustrated!Mulder – and consequently Frustrated!Scully – since February 8, 1998.)

But somehow The Pencils™ work their magic and Mulder agrees to be airlifted to DC.

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re:View – Lesbian Vampire Killers (It never happened. It never happened. It never happened.)

So, I knew it would be bad. I walked into the cinema fully prepared to see a bad film. But this one completely blew my wildest expectations. And not in a good way.

Lesbian Vampire Killers works by a simple formula. Take two average/loser-type blokes trying to be comedians (James Corden and Mathew Horne, bless yer hearts), some girls flaunting hot pants and fake Swedish accents (“Jaaa.”), a blonde virgin, a swearing vicar, oh and, of course, a bunch of trash-glam vampires sans personality. Lesbian vampires, even. Hence the title.

From there it all goes pretty much as you’d expect. The fake Swedish hot pants models are turned into fake Swedish lesbian vampire hot pants models (“Jaaa.”). Average/loser-type bloke number one turns out to be the Chosen One. Chosen to kill the soon-to-be-resurrected lesbian vampire queen, that is. Said lesbian vampire queen is resurrected, the process involving, in some way, the blonde virgin (by now, of course, the love object of our loser-turned-hero).

Some graveyard-posing, licking, nibbling and punching later, the lesbian vampire queen meets her untimely end by way of a phallus. (Don’t ask. The implications are too traumatic. My mind has already gone into denial. It didn’t happen. It never happened. La laaa. What never happened?) The heroes go on to become lesbian vampire killers, on a mission to eliminate all evil looming all across the world. (Er… Vampires? Lesbians?) And that’s pretty much it.

Never mind the stereotyping. Or the misogyny. That was to be expected. It’s supposed to be what supposedly makes this film funny. (Hint: doesn’t work.) Oh well, if it were only that. The lesbian vampires, when staked/beheaded/exposed to holy water etc., don’t make their exit as you’d expect – ya know, like explode, fall to ashes, go up in flames or whatever method is the fashion among the undead these days. No. Not the lesbian vampires. They turn to spunk. Well, not officially. But there’s an awful lot of squirting of spunk-alike substance going on. Kinda hard to miss that one, really. And about as traumatic as the phallus-induced demise of the queen.

One little ray of (blood-red moon-)light, however, at the end: Upon the queen’s defeat, the remaining lesbian vampires are “cured” from being vampires. But, believe it or not, they’re still lesbians. Thank goddess.

Verdict: Repeat after me: It never happened. It never happened. It never happened. It… – what?

re:View – Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or: Two outta three ain’t bad

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a film about three women who end up in the bed of (or otherwise under/on top of) a hairy, full-of-himself macho named Juan Antonio:

1.) A boobs-parading superficial? dumb? …uhm, artsy blonde searching for meaning in her boredom-plagued (love) life, aptly portrayed in a dumb, one-dimensional manner by Scarlett Johansson.

2.) Her complete opposite and totally-settled-in-life BFF (Rebecca Hall) who has some remotely comic moments but talks so much you get distracted trying to figure out the cruellest way to kill her circa seven minutes into the film and at any moment thereafter.

3.) The beau’s suicidal/homicidal genius painter (read: maniac) ex-wife, in the stunning form of a completely out-of-control Penelope Cruz. (Who, in all her screaming/sulky gorgeousness, is also pretty much the only thing that makes you want to sit this film out to the end.)

The latter, after much shouting and vicous eyeing of the competition, not so spectacularly snogs the blonde. And then they all randomly, and in varying line-ups, sleep with the macho (who is, frankly speaking, not that irresistible).

As you may have guessed from the title, all this happens in and around a sickeningly postcard-picturesque Barcelona.

The only thing that kind of saves the film is its narrator. His comments, intentionally ill-timed and superfluous, are so painfully clichéd they very nearly gain a poetic beauty (that will grow on you once you’ve moved on from the cringeing stage, promise.)

The ending, I vaguely remember, was a bit of a WTF-experience. Although I have to admit that I don’t remember what exactly the end was. And that’s only 10 days after seeing the film.

Verdict: Two outta three ain’t bad, eh?