Mike Figgis Tweets Away His Dignity

One of my favourites to follow on Twitter is Mike Figgis, acclaimed director of ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’

And he seems to only ever use Twitter as his Google:

Or a way to rehabilitate his career and reassure himself that “all is fine, honest”:

You know why you’re “[film] star free,”  Mike? Because you spend your time insulting almost everyone in the business:

Maybe there isn’t anything “behind the curtain,” except a ginger man wallowing in his own self-pity…

“The Awakening”: I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost

I walked out of the cinema and the only word I could think of was, “Meh.”

The film’s set in a Cumbrian boarding school post-WWI, where some ghoulish happenings are scaring the bed-wetting pupils. Of course, this is the early twentieth century, so kids weren’t slumped in front of their LCD screens watching Jersey Shore, playing Call of Duty or masturbating to hardcore porn. (Or, in rare displays of energy and ambition, possibly all three.) The years after the Great War were, as the pre-credits caption states, “a time for ghosts,” presumably when folks had a lot of time to jump to conclusions about how every cold area in their homes were the foul design of a demon spirit, and not simply the result of some poorly installed household insulation. Thus the History master of the school, Mr Mallory (Dominic West) recruits a professional sceptic called Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) to deal with it all. Cue a terribly clichéd introduction:

Mr Mallory: “I was sent to request your help. You are a ghost hunter?”

Florence: “You can’t hunt what doesn’t exist!”

Mr Mallory: “We think we have one that does…”

Florence: *raises eyebrows*

Then again, for the most part, Rebecca Hall does deliver an assured and confident performance, achieving just the right amount of melodrama necessary. Imagine Angela Lansbury, but with more swagger.

Unfortunately, the film’s structure, direction and concept throws her performance down a waterfall of mole piss. It opens with a rather stylish yet misleading scene in which Florence infiltrates a séance and debunks it, but then wastes this effective start with a following exposition that’s full of scenes of Florence looking concerned in corridors and classrooms. This continues for nearly two thirds of the runtime, presumably as a way of establishing herrings of the red variety.

Most of the scares are of the “jumpy” type (which, indeed, are a welcome change from shaky cameras a la ‘Cloverfield’, undead zombies a la ‘Resident Evil’, and people shitting with gusto into each other’s mouths a la ‘The Human Centipede’), but sadly these scares are signposted more clearly than most junctions on the M60. For instance, whilst our protagonist is taking some much-deserved “me-time” in the bathroom, she spots a hole in the wall. What do you think happens when she slowly kneels down to peer through this hole? Yes. That.

Even though director Nick Murphy claims it’s a “thriller,” it feels painfully indebted to horror films like ‘The Orphanage’ and ‘The Devil’s Backbone.’ Murphy seems to have no shame in stealing from paying tribute to other more successful films, e.g. the ball rolling down the stairs from ‘Changeling,’ the cloth over the face distortion from ‘The Others’ (ad infinitum.)

This all leads to a predictably tepid ending, with unbelievably-difficult-to-follow plot twists galore. So much so that it makes M. Night Shyamalan look like the epitome of restraint. I could tell that most other people in the cinema didn’t get the conclusion either. It was almost as if this ‘shock’ conclusion (which, incidentally, doesn’t) was deliberately rushed so as to apply plaster to its cracks before anyone had time to call Rogue Traders. The plot twists don’t hold up to such close scrutiny: I left the cinema thinking, “but wasn’t she..?”, “but surely that means..?”, “but they never..?” whilst getting the impression that if I were to ask the director, he would shrug nonchalantly in response and roll a fag.

With so many great films being released ahead of the Oscars, there’s no need to add this to your already cholesterol-induced movie-going buffet. Well … unless you fancy watching Rebecca Hall masturbate in a bathtub. Now you never got that in “Murder, She Wrote.”

Picture Perfect: “Hyde Park on the Hudson”

Who is that dashing gent with the pince-nez and long cigarette holder? Is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt?

No, it’s Bill bloody Murray. Everyone loves Bill Murray. He oozes cool.

His new film is ‘Hyde Park on the Hudson’ in which he plays President F.D. Roosevelt. Excellent news.

It covers the time when King George VI (Samuel West) and the Queen (Olivia Colman) visit the President’s holiday home for the first time. How charming.

The plot will mostly focus on that one weekend in 1939, and the allegations of his sexual affair with his cousin (played by Laura Linney). Ewwww. Way to kill the whole vibe. Incest.

Taylor’d to perfection?

Now I know there ain’t many Lautner fans out there at the moment (or ever, for that matter), especially after his first non-Twilight film ‘Abduction’ bombed at the box office (maybe his forthcoming role as Stretch Armstrong will wipe that smug grin off your faces), but shouldn’t we look on with admiration at his sheer relentless milking of the bloodied, sore teats of this cash cow?

Okay, he looks like a Llama that suffers from muscular dystrophy, and yes, maybe there is some truth behind the whole “he couldn’t act with a gun to his head” argument. But in the new Twilight film, ‘Breaking Dawn Part 1’, he takes this to a whole new level. In every scene, he acts as soullessly, robotically, and joylessly as possible. Occasionally, he seems close to expressing true emotion, but reigns himself in like the true pro that he is. It’s almost as if Taylor Lautner’s saying, “You wanna see bad acting? I’ll show you some bad acting!”

Way to stick it to the naysayers, Lautner.

“Miss Bala”: Beauty pageants and balls of steel

Get ready to read the words “powerful,” “brutal,” and “compelling…” (the go-to words for lazy reviewers who have a deadline to meet and not much caffeine left.) This new film by another Mexican up-and-comer certainly packs the proverbial punch.

Set in a lawless border town, director Gerardo Naranjo evocatively paints a visceral picture of a country ravaged by violence and corruption. In amongst all this anarchy, wannabe beauty star Laura (Stephanie Sigman) is an ordinary – yet genetically faultless – young lady, living off little money at home with her father and brother. But one fateful day, she becomes embroiled in gangland warfare and her life takes on a rather different path to that of sashes and tiaras. She is manipulated, violated and blackmailed into all sorts of legally unsavoury activities.

Despite such potential for political righteousness, the film never feels like its preaching to you. The ‘third person’ follower style of the camera denies the viewer of having any more information than the main character has, unnerving the audience through the rearrangement of expectations in a film about the hardly newfound territory of guns [x], girls [x] and glamour [x]. It’s also able to maintain a quiet stillness in between the more climactic action sequences, thanks to little musical accompaniment. This is the life of Mexican drug rings, not generic nightclubs on a Friday night.

But somehow, in spite of subject matter that teems with more morbid exploitation than Michael Haneke could shake a stick at, the film retains a smidgeon – albeit small – of Hollywood stylistics. Maybe it’s the beauty pageant backdrop, maybe it’s the protagonist’s natural good looks, or maybe it’s the slickness of the high heel shoot-outs. Whatever it is, it’s powerful, brutal, and, um… well, compelling.

3.5/5 (Hits home with a bang, like some sort of beautiful bullet.)

Hollywood toys with the idea of Lego

With the recent success of Tintin at the cinema (who actually looks more like a digitised version of LaRoux), it would seem that the vice-like grip of nostalgia has looped its manipulative fingers even further around the purse-strings of Hollywood producers.

It’s been just over 24 hours since I heard the announcement that Hollywood’s making a feature-length film about Lego, and I’m still dead inside.

Not content with a whole theme park dedicated to its angular world of primary colours, these little figurines with their comb-over hairstyles and semi-paralysed limbs are intent on the silver screen.

Maybe it’s because I’m a cynic, or perhaps it’s because I had (and still have) a debilitating lack of logic so severe that even stacking rectangular blocks to resemble a makeshift home was a little out of my remit… I just can’t buy into this cinematic venture.

In a universe full of depressingly low levels of originality, why couldn’t we have a celluloid interpretation of something a bit more, well, inspiring?

I’d rather see Cluedo turned into a detective thriller.  After all, you can’t deny: Cluedo was the sexiest boardgame of our youth. It had the essential ingredients of mystery, decadence, middle-class murder, and the wanton fox that was Miss Scarlett. In fact, the film could centre around the affairs of this feline-figure (I’m seeing Scarlett Johansson here. Need I explain?) as she systematically entices and seductively murders each and every character on the board. You know, like a really arousing, unsolved episode of ‘Poirot.’

Or maybe ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Buckaroo.’ Perhaps the schizophrenic toy donkey comes to life and reaps his revenge on all the children who broke every animal rights law when they loaded him with ridiculous amounts of back-breakingly heavy accessories. It’d definitely need Eddie Murphy on board (the undisputed – albeit homophobic – voice of the donkey kingdom).

Lego, take a backseat. If Harvey Weinstein isn’t knocking on my door demanding the rights to these wistful classics by the end of the week, I will personally donate my body to ‘Operation: The Movie.’

“The Iron Lady” Trailer

Mamma Mia! The Mummy Returns!

Get the garlic crushed.

“Romantics Anonymous” Trailer

Sometimes following every cliche in the “How To Make a Film Trailer” textbook can be fruitful.

Looking forward to seeing this. Looks like how my parents got together. Minus the whole owning a chocolate factory in France thing.

“The Future”: Time travel never seems so dull

As we all have heard, if you drop a live frog into a boiling pan of water, it will immediately jump out.   But place the frog in unheated water, turn up the burner gradually, and the frog will boil alive none the wiser. But what happens if you don’t bother? And the frog just sits there in the water, sometimes blinking, splashing, ribbiting, but mostly ignoring you, neither enjoying itself nor trying to escape its situation, for about an hour and a half? ‘The Future’ similarly never even simmers.

It’s about a couple that decide to adopt an injured cat, but in the 30 days before being able to pick it up from the Rescue Centre, they experience existential despair and are forced to re-evaluate their lives. And we are supposed to believe that

a) shagging a stranger who you visit on a whim

b) campaigning against climate change

c) speaking to the moon

are all byproducts of the adoption process. The RSPCA are gonna be pissed off.

Most people would just buy a litter box.

1.5/5 (Suspends your disbelief like a ball of wool in front of a bored, unimpressed cat.)

“In Time”: Madness takes its toll…

Starring Just-In Time-berlake, this new film by Andrew Niccol is about a dystopian future where time is the new currency. This could have been an interesting premise, if every line wasn’t just a time-based pun, like “I’m gonna clean your clock…” and “Time’s up!” and “Looks like we’re making good time…” and “Lots of time on my hands today, how about you?” “Not this time!”

Co-star Amanda Seyfried’s big eyes reflected back nothing but the wrath of time upon our doomed generation. There were pauses in the dialogue so wide, Russell Crowe could’ve steered the vessel from ‘Master and Commander’ through them.