TONGUES ON FILM – JULY 2009

by Ross Sharp

Only a few this time around. I’ve been immersed in various television series the last couple months, “True Blood”, “The Wire”, “Mad Men”, “Flight of the Conchords” and the feature flicks have taken a backseat …

… And there’s another series of “Mad Men” due out soon, the final season of “The Wire” should hit the shelves any time now (I hope) and given the quality of so much that’s coming out as far as television series go versus some of the crap that’s on the big screen these days, sometimes I think you’d be better advised to spend thirty, forty bucks on a season of a show rather than fifteen bucks on a cinema ticket …

Watchmen“WATCHMEN” (2009)

It’s very colourful this film there’s a lot of colour in it and a big blue guy with a big blue penis who lives in a snowflake on Mars.

And another guy who wears a tie-died sock on his head and another guy called “The Comedian” who doesn’t tell any jokes as far as I could make out and he gets bumped off by another guy maybe for not telling any jokes who knows and a bunch of other guys decide they should find out who did it before they get bumped off too so they all put leather underpants over their stockings and tie bedsheets ‘round their necks and jump out of windows and go to the Antarctic.

As you do.

I read the book a whole bunch of years ago and it was fun, it was good, I liked it yeah, but it’s a comic book you know, why so serious?

Then, I didn’t like “The Dark Knight” much, thought it was muddled, unfocused, took itself way too seriously and that Christian Bale’s raspy vocal affectation threatened to render his whole portrayal an unintentionally unhinged parody. Loved “Batman Begins” though. Also “Iron Man” which was FUN. Huge fun.

F!U!N!

Robert Downey Jr., I could watch him count change. Was nuts about “Sin City” too. Robert Rodriguez. There’s a man knows what he’s doing. Rodriguez could direct Robert Downey Jr. counting change, I’d watch that.

But “The Watchmen”? Yeah, it entertained me, it passed some time, it wasn’t bad, it didn’t bore me, I was half busy making a chicken curry after about an hour and half cause it goes on for a bit this film couple of hours over two I got hungry a man’s gotta eat keep his strength up y’know?

So, it was alright.

The film, I mean.

I guess.

Chicken curry.

Chickeny.

Mandy Lane“ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE” (2006)

Here’s a novel idea for a chiller –

Take a bunch of attractive, over-sexed junior high-school students, put them somewhere remote for a weekend and start bumping them off one by one.

Why hasn’t someone thought of that before?

This is where I thought “Mandy Lane” was going and thing is, I didn’t much  mind because it’s such a well made film, with none of the hyperactive cuts and zooms or shaky cam crap that’s become so horribly prevalent in films these days, especially films like this. There’s some really nice cinematography in this movie.

And then, just when you think “Mandy Lane’s” going to be all too predictably ordinary plot-wise, it pulls a few neat and nasty twists and turns, none of them too impossibly or cynically contrived, and then it ends just right, just when it should and when it did I said to myself, “Shit! That was pretty good.”

And it is.

The cast (none of whom I can recall from anything else) are fine, the script isn’t stupid, the characters are believable, it’s very nicely paced, shot and directed by Jonathan Levine.

Well worth seeing, “Mandy Lane” would make a fine double with “Acolytes”, about which I flapped briefly back here in the May wrap-up.

Surveillance“SURVEILLANCE” (2008)

Two FBI agents (Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) hunt for a serial killer and encounter three different people all of whom have different recollections of the same events.

Directed by Jennifer Lynch (yes, she is) and featuring a very odd performance from Pullman which makes a little more sense later on but it’s still odd. Dennis Hopper circa “Blue Velvet” odd. Like he’s channeling Crispin Glover odd …

Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle had this to say …

“Virtually every line that comes out of his mouth – and virtually every line that someone else says to him – becomes an occasion for smoldering rumination, puzzled squinting and lots of confused tilting of the head. These are inevitably followed by a few half-formed words, spoken with darting eyes … At first, one wonders what has happened to this actor. Has he become insanely mannered? Is he experiencing a nervous breakdown on camera?”

LaSalle didn’t like the film. Actually, he thought it was fucking awful. A fucking awful lot of critics thought it was fucking awful too.

I didn’t think it was fucking awful. I thought it was fucking irritating in its David Lynchian pretensions the first forty, fifty minutes until it realised it had to actually go somewhere and do something and that’s when I started taking some notice.

It’s got one of “those” endings. Twisty.

A bit too clever-clever twisty, twisty for the sake of twist. There are only so many times a film can twist before it starts looking like a gimmick, a twisty gimmick, a gimmicky twist.

I blame M. Night whatshisname. Twistymalan.

Say the word “twist”.

Say the word “twist” out loud.

Go on.

Now say “twisty”.

Out loud …

Go on.

TWIST!

TWISTY!

Feels good, doesn’t it?

The Unborn“THE UNBORN” (2009)

Gary Oldman turns up halfway through this film and sticks around for a few scenes. Before he was cast, Gary rang his agent …

“Sammy, listen. I need to put some new guttering in and I wanna refit the kitchen out the country house. I need to pull in a few quick bucks, anything going on?”

“All I got … what I got, this horror movie thing … “The Unborn”. That’s all I got, Gary.”

“How long would that take?”

“Five days? Maybe I can get you through in four?”

“What would I be?”

“A rabbi. Also, an exorcist.”

“A Jewish exorcist?”

“Yep.”

“Do Jews even do exorcisms?”

“The fuck do I know? Ask a Jew.”

You’re a Jew, Sammy. You’re a fucking agent, for fuck’s sake, it’s not like there are any Episcopalian agents in fucking Hollywood … What’s it about?”

“Some girl in her underwear, she’s being fucked about by the, er, … spirit of her unborn dead brother … who died. In the womb, like. Not the girl’s womb, the one in the underwear. Her mother. The one in the underwear. Not the mother, the mother went nuts. The girl in the underwear’s okay. Except for her brother. Who’s dead. The mother’s dead too. She went nuts. The brother’s a problem. He’s dead.”

“… You high, Sammy?”

“… The fuck you wanna to do this shit for, Gary? The fuck happened the money you made offa “Batman” and “Potter”? You blow it in Vegas?”

“It’s invested. I got investments, Sammy, I gotta think about the future, y’know? It’s all tied up, that cash. I need some extra.”

“You wanna do this?”

“I got guttering to think of. Who’s the girl?”

Odette Yustman.”

“Who?”

“She’s hot. You’ll wanna fuck her. Can’t act for shit, but she’s hot. Some list she made, world’s hottest this, hottest that, y’know? She got an arse could get a dead man hard.”

“The underwear scenes …”

“You’re not in those. You’re a fucking rabbi, Christ’s sake …”

“You sure?”

“Okay, I’ll see if I can swing you an underwear scene … Maybe you can loosen something in a tense moment …”

“… Some underwear.”

“Y’know, you’re a bigger pain in the nut now than you were with Madonna.”

“I was never with Madonna. That was Sean Penn.”

“Was it? Who am I thinking of? You’re all the fucking same, you people … I know, I was thinking the other guy, Beatty. Yeah, Beatty. How’s Uma these days, by the way?”

“We split up over a decade ago, Sammy.”

“Well, that’s a damn fucking shame. I’m very sorry to hear that, Warren.”

“Gary.”

“Gary. Right. Look, I’ll get onto the producers, I’ll have my girl get onto the producers, we’ll work something out … Friday okay?”

“Friday’s fine.”

“Done.”

“Bye, Sammy.”

“Bye, Sean.”

And thus is film history made.

Righteous Kill“RIGHTEOUS KILL” (2008)

Directed by Jon Avnet, who gave us “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Up Close & Personal”, which says a whole bundle, I guess. John Gregory Dunne’s disastrous experiences as screenwriter on that latter puddle of weepy pudding were well documented in his memoir “Monster”.

The only reason to watch this film, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, two senior craftsmen at their trade, trying to invest some depth

and gravitas to a script that doesn’t have any and would barely cut it as an episode of “The Shield”. Stock-standard characters, cardboard cut-outs, a blah-blah-so-what serial killer thing going on, it would be a certain bet the only reason this got the green light were the names attached.

Playing a couple of cops, Pacino pulls back on the usual eye-rolling, scenery-chewing tendencies, De Niro’s quiet and restrained, and it’s fun to watch them work together, work off each other, both men confident enough by now in their talents and processes at this point in their lives that neither feels any need to “pull” a scene to them with actorly trickery.

But the film itself is just bog-standard, piss-poor ordinary. You may as well be watching “Law & Order”.

What a shame.

Why don’t you go make a chicken curry instead?

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