Monday, 31 March 2008

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

A load of old cock. A confused, writhing mess that could have been at least an hour shorter. And this fucker runs at 2:41, including the credits – it's not so much to be enjoyed, as endured.

I can't even explain the plot; it's ridiculously complicated and full of so much flab I sat open-mouthed as I watched my life being wasted in a mess of computer-generated effects and meaningless dialogue.

There are hallucinations that mean and do nothing for the plot; are they supposed to add charm and wit? They don't.

Even the great Chow Yun-Fat is wasted in this, and that's not a sentence I type easily. It's 2:41 of absolute nonsense, start to finish. If I had seen this at the cinema, I would have been incredibly unhappy.

The first POTC was fun, and had a certain charm. The second was a soulless, but vaguely amusing romp. The third manages to wipe out any of the good the first two created and comes out looking just like a moneymaking exercise… Funny, that.

Johnny Depp was his usual fine self, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley brought a touch of, erm, woodenness to things. Geoffrey Rush is excellent, and I can't help but think he's the unsung hero of these movies. Such a superb actor, his Barbossa stand right out in this dross. The supporting cast are uniformly very good, working with such limited material really does make it obvious who's got talent and who has a pretty face and fuck-all else.

The cameo by Keith Richards is amusing-ish – until he sits and starts playing guitar, which is a bit… Stupid, I think is the word I'm looking for.

This movie made nearly $1bn worldwide; the series has made more like $2.5bn. With DVD sales and rentals on top of that, it's obviously been pretty profitable. It was marketed aggressively, and we got suckered in. My stepdaughter loved it, and she's probably the target market more than I – but Disney, it's me that buys the tickets. You have been warned.

A genuine waste of time.

Friday, 7 March 2008

I Am Legend

'I am a twat for forking out four-and-a-half quid to see this fucking movie', more like.

This movie is shite.


First, let me say I went into it with a reasonably open mind. I am a huge fan of the book this is 'based' on, it's one of my favourites; I knew the movie had changed many, many things, so went into it thinking I would just look on it as a totally separate entity.

So I did, and it's still a load of shite. Warning – there are spoilers in this.

Even more annoyingly, the changes that were made contributed to its shiteness.

Okay, the book features one man, the last man on earth, who is surrounded by what are basically vampires. This was caused by a virus, and every night, his fortified home is plagued by his neighbours wanting a slice of Robert Neville pie. They call out to him, they play on his loneliness, they try to lure him out with sex. He's been alone for three years, and this drives him crazy night after night. The book was written in the 1950s, so no VCR or DVD for him; a record player is the best distraction he's got. That, killing vampires all day, and trying to find out why he is immune to the virus.

The movie still has a virus (though it bears more than a passing resemblance to 28 Days Later in its effects), and it still has creatures that want to feed on you. But they have no human qualities, which removes one of the most interesting dynamics out of the story. They're monsters, and poorly computer-generated ones at that. Oh, but one of them is cleverer than the rest, and tries to catch Neville in the movie. It makes for a reasonably interesting sequence, in which one of the strangest moves of the movie occurs; the dog dies.

In the book, he encounters the dog and spends a long time trying to win its trust. He never does, fully, and the dog disappears each night to sleep in its own hiding place. One day, the dog never returns. Neville is understandably heartbroken; this is the closest to a relationship he's come in the time since everyone died.

The movie sees the dog with Will Smith from the start, and he's had the dog since it's a pup. Yes, he's upset, but the work put into the relationship to earn the dog's trust is a wonderful part of the story.

I guess the dog relationship is not that important, but in the book it illustrated quite perfectly his loneliness. In the movie, he had had company since day one. Not so bad.

What else? Unforgivably, this movie – one of the most expensive ever made – is boring. It really is dull. In the hands of a better writer, this could have been great; with a better, more articulate actor in the lead role, it could have been really special. It's not. Smith does fine with what is a fucking awful script, but he's very limited as an actor in an action role. We know he can act – he was Ali, he had Happyness… but he was in Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, Wikky wikky Wild Wild West… and in the action roles, he's limited to put it politely. Some actors can do it, some can't – I'm thinking Matt Damon, Chow Yun Fat – but also, this is a movie with one man in it for almost its entirety. Not only do they have to carry the movie, they are the movie; so if the script is poor and the lead is hamstrung by that, how good can the movie be?

There are big fucking holes in it too. In the book, everyone except Neville is dead of one sort or other. In the movie, we learn that there is a one per cent survival rate – one per cent immunity. Two other people come and find Neville; one is a young boy, maybe eight years old. So if this has been kicking around for three years, how the fuck did a five-year-old kid survive something that's turned billions of people into flesh-eating monsters? Never explained.

With the island cut off – it's set in Noo Yoik – how did these folks reach it? Never explained.

My biggest gripe though, is the ending. The end of the book is… it's unique. It's where the name comes from. SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND MOVIE FOLLOW!

In the book, Neville has been killing vampires wherever he finds them, until one night, they overrun his house and capture him. Captured, he speaks with a sympathetic vamp (there's a good reason they get on – read the book!) and she slips him the means to kill himself, as the vampires plan a public execution of him.

Why? Well, he figures it out as he look out of his cell and sees thousands upon thousands of vampire-types waiting to see him come out and die. He's become something else; he's become the boogeyman, the name they say to their children-vampire things when they won't behave, Robert Nevill will come and take you in the night. Their roles have been reversed, he is the anomaly in this new world – and he paraphrases, "I am legend."

In the movie, cornered in his house, certain to die, Will Smith discovers he has cured the virus and can reverse everyone's sickness, and puts the girl and child into a safe in the wall where they can wait safely until morning and make their escape… with a vial of blood containing the cure. Then he chucks himself into the band of monsters with a hand grenade, killing himself and blowing the shit out of them.

Instead of the poignant "I am legend" ending, we have the two survivors in a car, reaching Vermont where they heard there was a colony of immune. They reach a walled area, the door opens, they're among humans again; and the voiceover says "blah blah blah, this is his legend."

I hated it. I tried and tried, but they lost me by boring the shit out of me, then really lost me with a character I couldn't care for, then really really lost me when the dog, one of the best canines I can remember seeing in a film, dies.

It's shite when your action sequences can only have one outcome; he's the last man alive, so he's got to survive or the film will only be 50 minutes long. Takes some of the suspense away, I can tell you.

Okay, maybe my mind was partially closed, but even so, I Am Legend is fucking shit.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Perfect Stranger

What if Halle Berry and Bruce Willis made a movie together and no one cared?

It happened just last year. Never heard of it? Me neither. So when I saw it on cable tonight I just had to watch it, if only as fodder for a post on the ole' Grenade. Berry plays a reporter who goes undercover at an advertising executive's business. She's trying to find out what happened to a friend of hers who was killed while she was secretly seeing the ad exec (Willis) behind his wife's back.

He's a chat room guy. Likes to fool around with women online before meeting them in real life. So she creates a screen name on IOL (get it?), and she starts flirting with him in what must be the worst online user interface ever created for film. C'mon...seriously? A plot about a man cheating on his wife through AOL chat rooms?

1994 called and wants it's movie back.

But there is this one scene where Berry meets up with Giovanni "creepy guy pretending to be friend who is not-so secretly obsessed with her" Ribisi and some other dude at Chumley's in NYC. Chumley's is/was this great bar in the West Village on Bedford Street. 86 Bedford Street, to be exact. Kinda hard to find if you don't know what you are looking for. It used to be speakeasy back in Prohibition days, and legend has it that certain cops would warn the bar owner prior to a raid, so the owner would tell his customers to "86 it" out the exit with the 86 Bedford Street address. Hence the term that is used by restaurant owners and many, many other folks when they run out of something, or if they want something crossed out. I say "is/was" when talking about the place because the chimney fell into the bar about a year ago and I'm not sure if this historic site is back up and running yet. Heading into the city the next two weekends so maybe I will check it out.

What's that? You wanted to know about the movie? Don't bother. The above paragraph on Chumley's is much more interesting. Well, not much more interesting. I was half-asleep when I typed it, so it couldn't have been that great.