Archive for the ‘British’ Category

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Christopher Nolan (Dir.), Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman…let’s be real, pretty much the cast of Inception.

Disclaimer #1: I can be slightly irreverent at times. Well, extremely irreverent most of the time. In this ‘review’ I’m going to use harsh language, sarcasm, overly extended metaphors and general jackassery. However, this is purely in the spirit of fun and film criticism. My jokes and nonsense are meant in no way to belittle the horrific events at the midnight screening in Aurora, CO. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this tragedy. If you want some light-hearted ribbing/brutal emasculation of a major film franchise, please read on…

Disclaimer #2: Another one. Sorry! Well, I’m not sorry. Deal with it. This is for everyone wary of the dreaded ‘S’ word. That’s right…Shitzus. None of those yapping little fuckers will appear in this review. There will, however, be spoilers. I have demarcated them clearly. You’ve been warned.

It has arrived…through the ceiling apparently.

Here is a dramatization of me seeing this movie. Last time on ‘Andrew Meets Girls That are Actually Movies: Prometheus’

“Oh hey, I’m Andrew.” “Oh hey, I’m Prometheus. I’m pretty but I actually suck. Wanna make out?” “Any human contact is welcome. Even if you are simply a heavy-handed metaphor. Thank you!”

I’m back at another party, weeks after having surreptitiously exchanged mental saliva, if only briefly, with Prometheus in a closet. It turned out the movie/girl of my dreams was just that. An illusion. Well, the party is thumping but I’m standing in the corner gently swirling my beer in a shitty cup that is always red for some reason. Or blue. Any primary color other than yellow. I’m bored, checking my watch, ready to head home.

“Hey.” She’s right behind me, looking, for some deliriously (and wonderful) reason, like Anne Hathaway in a skin-tight cat suit. I am about to comment on how inappropriate it is based on our recent weather…and then I realize I need to shut the fuck up before I do something stupid, you know, like scare away a hot lady in a cat suit. “How’s it going?”

“Oh. Good. Thinking of heading out…”

“I just got here though.” She smiles at me. I’m interested (read: extreme understatement).

“What’s your name?”

The Dark Knight Rises.”

I finish my drink. “I’ve heard about you. You’re supposed to be pretty amazing. But I’ve already been burned once this summer… Not sure if you know Prometheus…

“That’s a shame. It’s also a shame that, not only am I hot, but I’m also surprisingly emotionally poignant, politically relevant and filled with Oscar-winning actors.” I take pause for a moment and consider the last item on the list. I’ve heard weirder things. I’ve done weirder things.

“That’s awesome and everything. But the last girl who said that wasn’t, well, all there…”

“Really? Not smart? Or deep? How about me? I’m a sprawling epic about class warfare, reminiscent of the French Revolution, all the while threading together a narrative of intense emotional destruction and, at the same time, extensively exploring these themes in relation to the concept of parental abandonment and societal isolation”

“Oh.” I grab someone else’s drink and down it. “Well…in that case…”

And then we make out. Everywhere.

“Who the fuck is Rick Ross and why the fuck is he in my police report?” ~ Batman, a Rick-Roll virgin.

We have finally reached it. After Nolan’s years of puttering with forms and structures, he has at last reached his eventual goal of inserting true thoughtfulness and literary considerations into a product so commercial it practically has a McDonalds ad taped to its nut sack. This is probably the closest we will ever get to a legitimate movie masquerading as a blockbuster film. Now, I know to some of you lugheads, that might not sound so appetizing and so, in response, I offer you this: Anne Hathaway in a fucking cat suit (#drool) and, for the ladies, Tom Hardy is only mostly disfigured (meaning he could still take on Matthew ‘Duller Than Matlock and Impossible to Spell’ McConaughey in a prettyboy-off with one check bone tied behind his back). There are action scenes! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is likable! Michael Caine cries! Twice! (It’s like watching an angel weep, if that angel has a grizzled British accent, has killed multiple people with a sawn-off shotgun and once stole a bunch of Italian gold). Apparently, Mr. Nolan decided to put in a little bit of everything for everyone which might explain why this movie is almost THREE FUCKING HOURS LONG. But I forgive him. I also forgive him for the fact that I only slept like three hours last night because I was so fucking excited about the end of the movie I couldn’t pass out, like a child terrified of closing his eyes in fear of wetting the bed once more (Editor’s Note: totally never happened to me. Totally never.)

That day, rock/paper/scissors ended terribly.

What’s it about? I refuse to give away much (like some other phallus-gobbling reviewers out there. I’m looking at you ‘The Guardian’ and David ‘How Have You Been Doing This For So Long?’ Letterman). So. Batman. He’s sad. Bane. He’s evil. Bane wants to fuck Gotham up. Batman doesn’t. Gotham gets fucked up. Batman gets fucked up. Aaaaaaand Anne Hathaway helps a generation of boys become men. That’s all I’ll give you. It’s as complex as a Dickens’ novel, if Nicholas Nickleby used his armory of ultra-tech to do battle with a severely steroid-jacked Oliver Twist (Note to Self: TV series idea. I’m thinking…Lifetime Channel?) It also, structurally, has about five fucking acts packed to the gils with twists, turns, ups, downs, side-to-sides and Anne Hathaway in a cat suit, as well as a half-way point that basically screams INTERMISSION. I expected a Pythonesque curtain to descend and John Cleese to try to sell me an albatross. Alas, that dream shall continue to go unfulfilled. This thing is so long and all-encomapassing that you eventually leave the theater a crushed shell of your former self, as though Bane has pummeled your innards into a veritable pea-soup of fanboy glee. Sense, patience and the ability to stand long monotonous barrages of tribal drums will be melting out of your fucking ears as you stumble from the multiplex. If that doesn’t entice you, stay the fuck away. This shit ain’t The Avengers. Yes, there are some witticisms (this should be fucking shocking coming from Christopher “Humorous as a Holocaust Vigil” Nolan) but this is an EPIC. Not in the sense of assholes with backwards caps and popped collars going for the record number of jaeger shots to be ingested by way of their rectums, but in the Homerian sense of omnipotent narrative brutality. It’s a marathon. If you don’t train and prepare, bringing with you acceptable sustenance (a jumbo popcorn, a hotdog, three packs of snow caps and a roast turkey should do it) you might die. No joke. It’s that draining.

In the apocalyptic dance-off, Batman realized that he had no way of competing with a perfect landing of a triple sow-cow.

As the years have passed, Nolan has been secretly weaving together a tapestry of immutable acting talent and, like that fungus at the bottom of my pantry, is growing with each delicious morsel that he consumes. I’m not sure if he signs a contract for these actors’ souls or if he’s just pleasant to work for, but Nolan’s Harem of Beautiful Men is on full display here. We have Tom “Watch Bronson Right Now, You Little Whores” Hardy acting the fuck out of this thing, even with Darth Vader’s fist lodged in his mouth. Also, there’s Morgan “God – I will keep making that joke because it is still funny to me” Freeman given more to do than simply point and spout at fancy gadgets. Marion Cotillard is back as Nolan’s shadow, steadily murdering all of his dreams and driving him mad with boner-popping desire (she is a very attractive woman, even if she a frenchie). Also, finally, Mr. Oldman is allowed to come into his own, truly stretching out those Oscar-pants he so graciously tried on earlier last year in Tinker Tailor This Sounds Like A British Porno Spy, and offering up a performance packed with so much heartbreak you’d think it was a bad day in the trauma ward (my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by Grey’s Anatomy day at Northwestern Memorial Hospital). I would also like to say, for all of the attractiveness of Ms. Hathaway and her figure that simply will not quit, even if you take it’s stapler, stop paying it and move it down to the boiler room, she delivers one hell of a performance. While most of the film is a mirthless cortege of unending barbarity, Ms. Hathaway is positively delectable as Selina Kyle, expertly adapted to stick just close enough to the comic’s conception without ever dipping into the realm of painful punnery or Pfeiffer whippery. She seems to be the only person here enjoying herself, constantly gobbling each scene with cat-like don’t-give-a-fuckery and impenetrable confidence. Both she and Cotillard aid in a pleasant departure from Nolan’s usual sausage-fest offering, providing at least two women in Gotham who can be classed at a level above ‘District Attorney/Wet-Blanket Barbie’ (Side Note: there was a limited edition of Wet-Blanket Barbie’s released in the mid-90s to help with menstrual education. It was a limited edition for a reason. Side Side Note: There will never be a ‘District Attorney Barbie’ for the obvious reason that legitimate employment hurts chances of marriage). We must also offer her the age old honor of ‘props’ for making herself both likable and engaging enough to survive some of the more ridiculous shoe-horning of her character into the latter half of the film. Honestly, she has no place being there…but no one is going to argue. Trust me.

There are two standouts, however. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as shiny as a new nickel playing the ingeniously conceived John Blake. From a structural point of view, the wide-eyed and almost impossibly intuitive cop provides an emotional spine for a good deal of the movie while our heroes, Oldman and Bale, are otherwise indisposed (which really sounds like they’re on a sex holiday. That would have been incredible.) In the hands of another actor, Blake would have been limper than a penis in a Phyllis Diller convention. But this boy is erect as hell (That metaphor went to the wrong place). Joe Levitt is that wonderful intersection of young talent, endless charisma and 3rd Rock From the Sunness that we need in our new acting generation. Never once does he lose believability and literally every time his character is threatened onscreen, the audience gasped. They didn’t even do that for fucking Batman and the movie is named after him. On that note, let’s talk about Bale. Yes, the bat-voice is still here, intermittently. Finally, though, he has crafted a human being on screen that we actually are interested in. No longer is the hot-headed billionaire-jackass but a reclusive drinking-his-own-urine type of shut-in (you know, like that famous one…Hugh Hefner.) He’s hurt, physically, emotionally and metaphysically; and he’s looking for a way out. Instead of seeing the Bat as this infallible machine of pure ass-kickery, we get a glimpse of the human underneath and the fact that nobody’s physical form can take that kind of depreciation and still face off against Tom Hardy. His performance truly forms the missing piece of the emotional puzzle, bringing his arc into full-body over the three films. Though we barely even see the Bat throughout the nine hours of this film’s length, we see a shit load of Wayne. And it couldn’t be more necessary.

Bruce just made a really off-color joke. He hasn’t realized that ‘negro’ is no longer acceptable nomenclature.

Of course, since this is Batman, we must discuss the villains. While the last we saw of Bane was the Hulk as though he’d been roped into an impromptu S&M convention, this one is simply a bastard of such dickish proportions he’d give Stalin a run for his proletariat, with arms the size of my head and a mouth with more metal than a Slayer tour. It’s an interesting, though not wholly sense-worthy, departure from the manic insanity of Heath Ledger’s divinely-inspired Joker. This antagonist is deliberately sadistic, fully in control of his hatred and completely lacking in anything resembling empathy. While there was an irrational sense of safety in the fact that there was no rhyme or reason to the targets of the Joker’s malice, Bane is coolly calculating and evisceratingly vengeful. When he has your number, he will pound your ass harder than a fist-ended jackhammer. Granted, his plan to turn Gotham into a sinewy fiefdom is so far-fetched it makes the horizon look close but it certainly makes for some exciting cinema. Especially the hilariously out-of-tone court hearings overseen by a gleefully disheveled Cillian Murphy. In the end, however, this villain is far closer to the heart for Bats than the mad-dog off the leash, even if the titanium crab attempting to emerge from his esophagus does reduce his facial emotive capacity to zilch. There is nothing comparable to the Joker, but the rest of this film beats the hell out of Harvey “Your Yelling Voice is Kinda Whimpy” Dent and Eric “Smarmy Ass #4” Roberts. Advantage: Rises.

*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*

Alrighty, boys and toys, ladies and babies (Editor’s Note: no baby should see this movie on account of having to explain the fact that Selina is in a momentary lesbian relationship that never really comes up again. Though babies have a keen sense of lesbianism and alternative sexuality, their capacity for disjointed character traits is nil) have you all seen the movie? If so, continue. If not, STOP READING AND WATCH IT. IT’S AMAZING. If you don’t plan on watching it, well, then, I guess…to each their own. Batman ain’t for everyone. Well, intrepid readers, ahead thar be plot-points! Tid-bits! In-depth discussions of thematic arcs! Jokes about Inception! You have been warned.

Now, the big thing that people are doing is directly comparing this movie to The Dark Knight. This isn’t fair for a multitude of reasons. Dark Knight existed in a vacuum, providing something rarely seen in the span of human existence: intelligence in blockbusters. It discussed some stuff in an adultish manner, had thru-lines, characters attempted to exist and the Joker was in-fucking-credible. What The Dark Knight Rises does is tie together the disparate elements from both the first and second movies which, to be honest, seemed so fucking divergent they could be a Chicago-based young adult novel. This is the keystone, holding together this at-once muddled mass and at-twice a sprawling examination of chaos/order/fear/parental loss. We all watched Nolan wrap his lips around the massive sausage that is this franchise, expecting him to gag on it, predicating a vomitous explosion of akin to the Schumacherian efforts of the earlier series. However, unlike any other Brit in existence, this gentlemen seems to know how to chew after biting off too much. He artistically deep throated this comic book, bringing it to a climax so titillating you can…well, we’ll leave that metaphor to finish itself (INNUENDO). Not only that, but like the master of the shadows it portrays, this movie stands alone, without any aid from its predecessors.

At the curtain’s close, after the sneakily named-Robin wanders into the Bat-cave and we get a glimpse into Wayne’s new freaky-deaky life as Bonersaurus Rex alongside Sexelina Kyle, just pounding it out Florentine style (with some added Alfred action) we have been treated to a comprehensive view of this hero, a fully-developed arc stretching all the way from the homicidal little ass who gets the shit slapped out of him by Katie Holmes to the infringer of basic civil liberties while fighting the Joker to the broken shell of a man who almost loses all principles in search of final vengeance. Going into this film, they clearly hint at Wayne’s demise, offering a thematic thread of a man who is seeking his own destruction before realizing that death is by far the simplest option. That, coupled with his unhealthy obsession with a woman my friends described as ‘Sarah Jessica Parker on a good day’, is beautifully juxtaposed with the twisty tale of a forbidden love affair between Talia and Bane. It’s the only moment of humanization Hardy is afforded in the entire film, just a ephemeral glimpse of that angelic face before being maimed in the name of love (not the Bono name of love, the name of love where you are vigilantly stopping an entire prison from raping a small girl. You know, Twilight love). In that second, this codification of the purest of evils transforms into nothing more than a star-struck lover, a guardian of the only thing in life that he cares about. A love that would blow up a fucking city. Yo, Bella, would Edward take an entire metropolis hostage with a weaponized nuclear core and systematically murder dissenters just out of pure affection? No? Bane’s a real man. Also, he’s a psychopath. So…he’s like pretty much every dude after their balls drop.

Batman…I’m your father. Well…in a metaphorical sense. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up. Please stop crying.

I will say that I had some issues with plotting etc. Batman’s ‘death’ was a little too reminiscent of both The Avengers (without the wit) and Heroes season one (without the terribleness). Also…if he was vaporized by a neutron bomb…what the fuck did they bury at the end? There was a patch of disturbed ground under his tombstone… Did Alfred bury his Wayne sex-doll as some sort of perverted effigy? We all know he has one. Also, we harp so hard on him getting his shit wrecked, when he easily just appears at the end with Selina, I expected the camera to pan down and see a spinning top spinning away. It just seemed so easy in comparison to the rest of the film. No doubt, my inner fanboy was pissing himself with relief, as this continued to confirm the fact that Batman is, in fact, immortal. Seriously, though, if I were Alfred, after the emotional fecal maelstrom Wayne had put him through over the course of this 20-hour ordeal, I would have walked right the fuck over to that table and punched Bruce in the nut sack. Then hugged him. And then the nut sack again. What a cock.

Finally, here is a list of absurd plot devices throughout the film that didn’t fit too well into reality: the fact that the core decays in EXACTLY the amount of time Batman needs to heal his spine; the fact that Batman is suffering from a decay of cartilage (a chronic disorder) which is then completely ignored after his back is miraculously healed…who are these guys, the dudes from The English Patient? Geographically, it makes sense, temporally…not as much. Also: why does no one ever shoot Bane? Or Batman? There must have been stray bullets going everywhere in that final fight. None made contact? None? Also, I know Robin is meant to be the ‘Boy Wonder’, but that doesn’t make him fucking Miss Cleo. How the hell was he predicting all the bullshit he goes through?

But I can forgive all that. Why? Because Batman, that’s why. Because this is thoughtful, delicious entertainment of the highest order. Because watching this movie is like a 2 hour 45 minute Swedish Massage, it’s gonna get that deep tissue and it’s going to fucking hurt…but a pretty lady is touching your naked back and the next day you feel like a million bucks.

*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*

The only time since Transformers 2 that I’ve ever wished I were a motorcycle.

Nolan’s come a long, long way. So often his films are pretty and heady as hell, but lacking the emotional core required to draw in someone of my particular tastes. I, shock and horror, didn’t care all that much about Inception. It had a shit load of style, it was kind of smart in places, but it’s a soulless demon of a film experience. Even The Dark Knight felt unfairly manipulative in its designs. You felt as though Nolan was more on the Joker’s side than the Bat’s, gleefully obliterating hope and life in the goal for more excitement. Here, however, you never once doubt that Nolan is with the Bat, pushing him along, praying that he’ll win out against this foe so evil, even Aleister Crowley would be reticent to invite him to a goats-blood and virgin-rape party. This movie, unlike anything Nolan has really produced in the past, is about people. Hurt people. People searching for redemption. And we want them to get it.

Hopefully, this movie changes things. Hopefully, we’ll finally get the better class of blockbuster we, as a people, so deserve. Perhaps audiences will reconsider seeing Transformers 4 in favor of something a little less intellectually necrotic. This is the new wave and Batman is the banner man, charging into the darkness of popular taste, waging war against mental sloth and lackadaisical pop-shit gluttony. We need more Nolans. We need more Whedons. We need the good shit to be the norm. And we need to celebrate it, unfettered, unadulterated and unashamed. Go see The Dark Knight Rises. Let movie companies know that this is what we want. Tell them to shove their What to Expect While You’re Expecting and their Expendables 2 up their rectal channels, along with the rest of the shit they plan on laying out over the next few years. This is a revolution. A revolution of the smart blockbuster.

Also, I hear the IMAX is awesome. That’s not part of the revolution. That’s just pretty.

Brave (2012) – Mark Andrews (Dir.), Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly

I want to go to there.

There is a film company, out there, lost in the darkness of the cinematic hellscape we call Hollywood. A beacon of impeachable light, a bastion of true talent and imagination. As the demons of bullshittery infect every commercial frame of celluloid time and again, they persevere, a teflon giant, kicking ass and taking names in the realm of childish glee and unfettered creativity. I am, of course, describing Pixar. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that if I were to run into Pixar in a gas station, it would take about two minutes before my panties are on the floor and I’m doing unspeakable acts. I mean, come on, for all of its family values and sensibility, you know Pixar is freaky in the sack. And then, after that momentary tryst, I’d keep calling, show up at Pixar’s place at 3 am, weeping my eyes out and searching for comfort. Disney would demand, “Pixar, who is this crazy asshole?” and Pixar would just say its someone who needs their help. And then, as we begin drinking the wine, I make a move. And…BOOM. Fake pregnancy, break up the marriage and I have a ring on the finger. Let’s just say, I’ll lock that shit down. And if it does take some boiling pets Glenn Close-style, so be it. I am determined.

Alrighty then, to Brave. No juggernaut of such skill and amazingness is perfect. Nor is this movie. But I’ll tell you this, for all those naysayers sneering at the shortened running time, the neat little bow placed on its top at the end, and the general lack of the complexity we have come to expect from the studio as a whole, they can shut up. When was the last time you saw something this beautiful and heartfelt? Shut up. Just shut it. That’s my future spouse you’re shitting on there. Anyway, Brave is great. Not the greatest, nor will it be remembered. But it’s well worth seeing and soon. So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? This is the story of Merida (voiced by the infinitely cute Kelly MacDonald) rebelling against her straight-laced, tradition-bound mother (Emma Fucking Thompson. I told you in MIB3 her actual middle name is ‘Fucking’. Deal with it) who is trying to pawn her off to one of the three major clans to help ensure Scottish peace. Well, Merida gets a spell from a random surprisingly tech-savvy witch that ‘changes her mother’.

I’d marry her. Barring the fact that she’s sixteen. But I’d wait. In a totally not-creepy way.

I won’t give away spoilers…but you can kind of figure out what she turns into. Okay, fine. I will give spoilers. She turns into a bear. Genius. Let’s move along.

So, the rest of the movie is Merida trying to stop her hilariously goofy, yet incredibly adept killer of a father (comedian and renowned star of Boondock Saints II: Boondockier Saints, Billy Connolly) from murdering her mother and stuffing her while at the same time transforming her back to herself before the second dawn. Why the second dawn? Shut the fuck, that’s why. We’ve got some side plots with a demon bear and the absurdly impish firecrotch redheaded triplet brothers. People learn lessons, the scots are ridiculed and everyone lives happily ever after. Again, it ain’t deep. But, damn, it be pretty. I remember when the movie Final Fantasy: Spirits Within came out, bravely not being at all like the video game it was ‘based on’ and employing Alex Baldwin as the main love interest. It really was a brave film. Did I say ‘brave’? I meant ‘piece of baboon feces’. Anyway, all of Geekdom was creaming themselves over the main character’s hair and how ‘lifelike’ it was. Well, it could be called ‘lifelike’ if the bitch had never heard of conditioner. Maybe some styling products. I know this is post-apocalypse with a bunch of…ghosts? I guess? But you could find SOMETHING to use. Sidenote: That movie is an enigma, a blip on the radar of collective insanity. Try watching it. I dare you. It also answers the age old question of “Is Steve Buscemi as terrifying in CG as he is in real life?” I won’t tell you now. You have to watch and find out (cue: evil laugh). Anyway, the belabored point is this: that lady who had all of Japan’s technology up Square’s butthole trying to simulate real hair was a woman with straight black hair. That’s like paying thousands of dollars getting every paint in the world together, only to do something in black and white. A brunette? Really? I love me some brunettes, but that shit ain’t exactly challenging. Come on, people, have some balls. Brave on the other hand creates the most gorgeous mass of curly red locks that I have ever seen. I got a major salon boner that almost lasted long enough to warrant a doctor visit.

If I ever have a daughter, I want her to be Merida. Well, less ‘making me turn into a bear’ and more, I dunno, science enthusiasm.

This is an important movie though for subtler reasons than you’d expect. First of all, it’s one of the few Pixar movies to pass the Bechdel test. And with flying colors too. The main two characters are ladygirls and extremely competent ladygirls at that. Both are charismatic. Both are intelligent. In fact, rarely in a major motion picture is the central relationship between a mother and a daughter. You might get one of the side plots concerning them or it’s an utter chick flick. But here…it’s compelling as all hell, at least to me. You have this girl throwing her independence in the face of age-old tradition, believing that its solely her mother’s fault that they are in this mess, when really her mother is simply a slave to the same traditions. She isn’t forcing the girl into line, she’s offering ways of coping with what can’t be changed. But then…they change it… and that all goes to the wind. So…I guess…fuck tradition? Sure. Why not. Not only that, but there is no love interest. There is no disarming male presence that comes to the rescue in the end. They’re all too busy fighting like idiots. How refreshing is that? Seriously. But, for all the well-devised exploration of full female characters, the movie is decidedly short-sighted on the Scots. I’m not sure if any of the Scotch actors involved minded being portrayed as backwater nincompoops. I mean…it was funny, though an utter fetishization of Scottish culture, a minstrel show for modern day anglophiles. But…pick your battles. I did laugh pretty hard when they all walked back into the castle bare-assed. So. Yeah. That’s cool.

One thing that did endlessly amuse me throughout the film is the fact that I know very adult things about each of the actors involved. That’s like watching Sesame Street knowing that everyone behind the scenes is doing blow (not true! I promise! I know some of those guys and it’s not true!… To my knowledge…DUN DUN DUUUUH). We have Kelly MacDonald, perpetually stuck as that schoolgirl in Danny Boyle’s trippy-as-fuck morally-questionable Trainspotting. You know, that movie where Ewen Bremner shits himself and then accidentally throws it over a couple of parents eating dinner. Also, on the amazingly delicious and entirely white-as-fuck British quiz show QI, Emma Thompson recounted the fact that when she was living with Stephen “Oh lord, He’s Queerer Than Oscar Wilde With a Pineapple Up his Arse” Fry, she used to terrify him by stripping naked and shaking her titties in his general direction. True story. And hilarious. And…arousing? Sorry, I have a crush on Ms. Thompson that will never die. Finally, we have Billy Connolly. I have seen his penis. Not in real life…just on British television. Seriously, you should switch on some of the smut on the BBC. Those saucy minxes. I couldn’t get that out of my head. Especially Connolly’s free-balling haggis flopping about Trafalgar Square (he actually did that. Wikipedia it if you don’t believe me).

From left to right: Merida gets murdered in ‘No Country For Old Men’, Fergus was a boobie guzzling zombie in ‘Fido’ and Queen Elinor is that lady who told Arnie he was pregnant in the oft forgotten ‘Junior’. Fucking pedigree.

In the end, you should see Brave. Support Pixar. They have more talent in their fucking nighttime janitorial staff than Brett Ratner has in the entirety of his nobbish existence. Support a movie with a couple of strong female leads and set outside of America’s comfort zone. It’s funny, it’s cute, it’s pretty and it has a tiny bear diving into a woman’s cleavage. What’s not to love?

Fahrenheit 451 (1966) – Francois Truffaut (Dir.), Oskar Werner, Julie Christie

Fahrenheit 451: starring a really pretty lady and a Bill Murray impersonator.

And now we get to see me truly live up to my twitter handle (@filmicignorance – huzzah for self-plugging!). Seriously, if we discuss basic camera movements, directorial choices, mis en scene, etcetera, ergo, ad infinitum, I can bullshit rather successfully. But when it comes to actual knowledge of cinematic history, I’m a fish out of water. And much like that trout you’ve just tossed into a hilarious situation, I shall flounder and splutter, make up words and bellow opinions. However, in the end, I don’t know shit about French New Wave. And wikipedia can only get you so far. Well, with that said, let’s dump this piscine writer out of his natural aquatic habitat.

This film came about as a suggestion from a good friend and secret pretentious ass, Guy. He’s a hair stylist. He reads a lot of books. When we discovered that Ray Bradbury had passed away a week or so ago he demanded, nay, ordered me to watch this movie. It was on the list. Julie Christie was in it and it had a fancily named director that seemed familiar. My response was ‘sure’. So, after a night of heavy, heavy drinking, returning to my house at 5am and splitting my new jeans in half, I decided to take a gander at this handy little adaptation of a Sci-Fi classic.

Um…What?

Firstly, to those of you who don’t know…you fucking should. Ray Bradbury was a badass. They force children to read his books in school. I’m sure you have skimmed the spark notes of Fahrenheit 451 or maybe Something Wicked This Way Comes. If you have not read these books FOR SHAME. For SHAME on you, sir or madam. Bradbury, unlike many Science Fiction writers, could actually fucking write. I know, it’s a novel-ty (see what I did there? Haters gonna hate). His tales of dystopian futures, foreign planets and stepping on butterflies in the past not only force some extremely poignant and disturbing questions on what place technology has in society, but he also manages to meld each of these with a constant exploration into the disenfranchised and isolated adult male. I recently went back to read Something Wicked, hoping for a crazy/scary/juvenile romp through an evil circus…only to find all these sad middle-aged assholes longing for something deeper and more from their suburban lifestyles. So, no matter how much I wanted evil dwarves, sand witches, illustrated men and bearded ladies with meat cleavers, I was left with the question of…”When I’m fifty, will I regret my life?” And that was a fucking kids book.

Why didn’t anyone tell Truffaut that this image is really silly? Do the French not have the same silliness glands as the rest of us?

So what happened here? Fahrenheit 451 is a fascinating, if deeply-flawed, concept of the future. One without books. In fact, books are illegal and firemen are those whose job it is to dispose of said contraband. With fire. (Since regular firemen no longer exist because all the houses are conveniently ‘fireproofed’, not taking into account organic food stuffs, paper and, you know, human beings). So…everyone’s illiterate? Apparently not. But there are robot dogs that are amazingly terrifying and underground book traders and funny uniforms and…well, you get the gist. It ain’t that complicated but it raises serious concerns about the direction society at large has taken with the advent of television and film… I wonder what Mr. Bradbury thought of Kindle. Probably, “Fuck Kindle.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

This movie was inevitably going to receive the ‘film’ treatment. Much like Something Wicked (Pam Grier…what the fuck do you think you’re doing?) and A Roll of Thunder (Ed Burns, why do you still have a career? And Ben Kingsley, you should be ashamed for, well, everything except Gandhi), this one has some major dramatic potential. Well, let’s make it Francois “Father of French New Wave and Doesn’t Speak English” Truffaut to direct. Amazing! He’s an Artist with a capital ‘A’! And let’s get Julie Christie, a woman so beautiful, we’ll cast her in both main female roles! But of course she can play more than one character! And let’s piss off Terence Stamp (who was going to play the awesomely named ‘Guy Montag’) and replace him with a German dude who couldn’t pass for English if he lathered himself in bad teeth and warm beer. And let’s make it Truffaut’s first English-language movie! And his first color movie! What can go wrong?

Apparently, everything. From what I understand from wikipedia-ing for about 10 minutes (because, honestly, who reads anymore? Come on.) French New Wave was a style of film that employed extremely naturalistic settings, almost documentarian in nature, as well as clipped scenes, natural light and diegetic sound. I suppose the objective is to construct a new, stripped-down way of making films to avoid the over-elaborate nature of operatic film scores, special effects and general falsity. Well, like that dude who gets killed at the beginning of The Warriors, I can dig it. In fact, Goddard’s Breathless was crafted in this style, a movie I’m itching to finally see. Truffaut wrote that. He’s the father of the entire movement (one of them at least).

Well, like a father, pulling up his terribly-washed jeans, Truffaut wanders over to his children playing the latest video games with their friends, asks to join and then throws the controller across the room when he realizes none of it makes any fucking sense. This isn’t his ground. He is out of his element, Donnie. You can’t make a movie in a dystopian future using found costumes, found locations and found objects. Why? Because in the future, it’s going to be fucking different. I love that Truffaut gathered up real, in-use books to burn on set. I love that the costumes, other than the hilariously terrible ‘firemen’ are cut right out of Vogue 1965. Here’s the problem, it is almost 50 years later and no one dresses like that…unless somehow, during this uprising, the hipsters overcome the rest of us and demand that we return to the fashion of 1960s England. The kicker is that some of the people are costumed, some of the sets are made. It’s as though the art director had a heart attack halfway through his designs or was mysteriously bumped off and his body was never found at the base of the stairs of Pinewood Studios and chopped up into little pieces and then hidden in the walls… I’ve said too much. (It’s murder. What do you expect? Truffaut is French. If at least three affairs and two murders don’t occur on a French film set, then the whole project is an abject failure. That’s science.)

Also, the man doesn’t speak English. He wrote the script. IN ENGLISH. No wonder everyone sounds like they just had a lobotomy with a complimentary bottle of wine (aka, French Lobotomy). The only point that I need make on this matter is this: the actual tagline for the film is “Aflame with the Excitement and Emotions of Tomorrow.” How did this man manage to make a science fiction film sound like a prostitute’s yeast infection?

And now: special effects. Notice the wires at the ends of the tube things. Yep. Top quality.

This mis-applied film style pushed this movie to the halfway point of crazy. There were two things that knocked it over the line. One: color. It looks like Van Gogh puked on this movie. Everything is so goddamn eclectic and bright, I almost had a seizure. That and the random bouts of slow motion, frantic zooming and inexplicable panning, I was ready to spew. Well, that might have been the hangover. But, as in all things, I blame the French.

The second force yanking this confused beast into the land of bat-shit is the acting. Firstly, we have Julie Christie who, though she is really pretty, speaks lines as though she just discovered the English language and is excited to tell you all about it. One of the more interesting choices on the part of the director was to have Christie play both female lead roles, Montag’s wife and the rebel who leads him to the book-side of things. What this does is reinforce the idea that Montag, as he falls from grace within the cutthroat world of fire-manning, doesn’t leave and change sides simply because of a pretty face. She has the same face as his wife, you know, the lady he is legally obligated to bang. The girl is simply convenient, a lubricant, if you will, to encourage his slippage through the revolutionary birth canal. Woah, that metaphor got weird fast. I apologize. Anyway, the whole thing would have worked if Julie Christie knew how to play anyone other than Julie Christie. She smiles, gasps, speaks words and all the rest of that stuff in exactly the same way at all times. The only thing that changes is her haircut. Thank god, otherwise this would have been confusing as hell.

Christie is one thing. Incompetent, perhaps, but serviceable. Who really steals the shit-show is Oskar Werner. As the story goes, Truffaut was all lined up to have resident badass and only-person-on-earth-who-could-make-Michael-Caine-nervous Terrence Stamp to play Montag. That shit would have been amazing. But…Stamp had already slept with Julie Christie and was worried she’d upstage him. I wish I could have gone back to 1966, taken him aside and said “Terry, bubby, look at me. Christie couldn’t upstage a fucking tree. At least a tree changes seasons occasionally.” But, alas, time travel hasn’t been invented yet. And if it comes about during my lifetime…then obviously I attempted and failed in this endeavor. So, future Andrew, I’m sure you gave it your best. But…you suck. Anyhoo, back to the point: Truffaut thought, (in French, so imagine him wearing a beret, holding onions and twirling his mustache) “No Stamp. This film is set in England? What is the most sensible thing to do? Hire another English actor? OF COURSE NOT. That would be far too predictable. I shall have a German.” And so, Oskar Werner was hired. The man is about as British as Idi Amin is Scottish. Not only is he German, but the guy does not give a fuck. Not a single, solitary, crying alone at night, orphaned fuck. Again, according to wikipedia, Truffaut and Werner hated each other. Thus, Werner attempted to drive the film into the ground. Well, good job buddy. You won. This thing couldn’t be more into the ground if it were Anne Heche’s career (younger readers might ask ‘who?’ and I respond with ‘exactly’.)

Coolest scene in the movie. Bitch got burned.

Now, this movie, though an utter mess, still has some formidable artistic merit. I do believe that there is a worthy adaptation of this tale out there. In fact, a remake might be the perfect treatment. Get some actual art direction, a terrifying robot dog and a director who doesn’t have both thumbs up his anus (of the thumb-in-anus category: Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, Peter Berg, etc.) and you could make something truly worth watching. This movie is worth a gander. Past all my pissing and moaning, there were several truly haunting and affecting scenes lodged in amongst the mess. The part where the old woman sets herself on fire? Awesome. Also, Bradbury enjoyed this adaptation solely because of the final scene. We’re left with all of the rebels who, in fear of losing the books they truly adore, memorize every single text and then burn the evidence. We’re left with dozens of people, wandering aimlessly through the snow, repeating the words of poetic greats over and over, each of them stripped of their humanity and reduced to nothing more than literary titles. A living library. With no other purpose than to remember their text.

What’s the point of loving books if you can’t enjoy them? What cost did these people end up paying? What’s the end? Just remember until you die and pass it on to someone else? Well played, Mr. Bradbury, well played.

Prometheus (2012) – Ridley Scott (Dir.), Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba

You could have been the one…

DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers. Big ones. I’ll let you know when they’re coming. I promise. I don’t usually give this disclaimer, so you know I’m super cereal right now. Super cereal.

To begin, here is a dramatization of my experience watching Prometheus.

I’m at a party. Drinks are flowing. I know a girl is here. A girl I’ve been dying to meet for ages. I’ve seen her photo on Facebook. I know her parents, both incredibly smart and famous. Everyone and everything tells me we’re going to hit it off. Love of my life potential. Sipping some shitty keg beer, I spy her across the room, gently twirling her gorgeous hair. She’s alone, looking into the crowd. I’m sweating around the neck. Under the arms. I’m a fucking mess. Like a champ, I toss in an Altoid and take the plunge.

“Hey…I’m Andrew. You’re Prometheus, right?”

She smiles. “Hi! It’s nice to meet you!” God, she’s beautiful. Everything I could ever want in a girl. Hits every button.

“I know your parents. Your mom, Alien, is just amazing. Her work on expanding concepts of gender stereotypes as applied to space travel and science fiction artistic design is unparalleled.”

“Oh my god, I know, right? My mom is amazing. I want to be just like her.”

We both drink. It’s going well. She’s smiling. “So, what are you studying here?”

“Comparative religion.” The music is loud. We’re shouting, but we don’t mind.

“That’s so cool! Any particular focus on anything?” Her eyes…oh god, her eyes.

“Yeah! The meaning of life and where we came from.” God she’s incredible. I want to put my mouth on her mouth and do the dangerous tongue dance.

“And where do you think we came from? Are you a creationist? Deist? What?”

“I think we come from aliens.”

I pause. I drink. The little Mooney gets a little less excited. “Oh…cool. What do you mean by that?”

“Well…like…we come from aliens from outer space. They’re like gods, but not. They’re aliens.”

“Sure. I could get down with that. But who created those aliens?”

“Other aliens. Or maybe…maybe…the same aliens. Think about that.”

I finished my drink. I really need another one. “That’s really, um, really interesting. Do you have a background in molecular biology? Or chemistry?”

“No, no, no. I suck at science.” She laughs. She snorts. I laugh too. There’s a silence. A really, really long, ball-shrinking silence. “So…you wanna go make out?”

I sigh. I look at my watch. “Sure. Why not?”

Look how pretty. Just look…

Prometheus was meant to be my savior. A taut, intelligent sci-fi blockbuster sent by the gods to elevate the summer movie-going existence to a higher plane, to wrench us from the jaws of such shit-shows as Battleship and Abraham Lincoln: Super Serious Broody Vampire Hunter. However, just as Elizabeth Shaw dives into the darkest depths of space only to come up short, so did I. Instead of a god, I just found a collection of Popular Science headlines stuffed into a pretty package. And it is pretty. Holy god. See this bitch in 3D and drool, mortals. For Ridley Scott will fellate your eye-testicals with such delicious skill and fervor that you’ll have to hold yourself back from making out with the screen. But, for all of its beauty, this thing is dumb as rocks. It tries, it really does. And it fails. Not spectacularly. Most people will leave the theater thinking “Huh, that was cool.” But they’ll be left unsatisfied, like a meal of greasy sweet and sour chicken. Tasty and empty all at once. A spiritual and emotional carb-fest.

This is really two movies. The first half and the second. While the former is blessed with imagery of space that would make Neil DeGrasse Tyson wet his schoolgirl panties as well as psychological and metaphysical potential, the latter is a mess akin to the aftermath of a locker-room icy-hot taint-smearing contest. It’s as though the screenwriters got to a certain point, a well-ordered, clever script in hand…and then suffered a painful bout of plot-hole exploding diarrhea. I’ll get to that latter in the aforementioned ‘SPOILERS’ section (see, I’m warning you like a good boy).

Noomi’s sex face. Bitch is hardcore.

What makes this whole experience all the more agonizing is that there is so much going in its favor. The centerpiece of the film is David, played divinely by Mr. Michael “If I Were Gay…Hell Even If I Weren’t, I Would” Fassbender. As with all movies in the Alien franchise aside from the two sorely underrated and extremely well-made AvP mov- (okay, sorry, couldn’t keep a straight face. Fuck those movies), Prometheus includes a ‘synthetic being’. Now, Alien first introduced the concept of a less-than-benevolent robot causing human deaths. Aliens capitalized on Ripley’s fear at first, but subverted it by creating cyborg-Jesus, Mr. Lance “Hey, Is Anyone Hiring?” Henriksson, the nicest android on the seven space-seas. Prometheus goes deeper and darker. David is a conundrum, left to his own devices for 2 years while everyone else takes a nap that induces puking upon awakening. We’re given a five minute montage of this physical oddity of a being wandering around the spaceship alone. It is, hands down, the most compelling stretch of cinema this movie has to offer. David is complex beyond belief, a slave and a teacher at once, homicidal (sort of) and a savior, daddy issues, soul issues, people issues…all the while coming off as the perfect gentleman. I haven’t seen a physical performance from an actor like this in years. Fassbender, I will have your babies. Meaning…when you have some, I will steal them and breed them to be a super-race.

For a sci-fi film, we’ve got some hefty acting chops on offer. Like, prime-cut, nubile, slaughtered lame chops. Charlize Theron (my future wife, along with Eva Green) is icily sexy as hell and unrelenting in her corporate bitchiness. Idris Elba, the result if you put Tyler Perry and Samuel L. Jackson through a talent juicer, is wonderfully charismatic as the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ captain. Even the no-names on offer do it up, classical-style. Of course, the counter-point to Fass-I love you-bender is Noomi “Chick With A Dragon Thing” Rapace. I am so glad she’s escaped the event horizon of character stagnation that could have so easily sucked her into the black-pidgeon-hole, a place riddled with the corpses of Matthew “Ferris Bueller” Broderick and David “Baywatch” Hasselhoff. Her performance, through all the shit she has to do, is visceral and immediate. Everything you could want in an attempted body-space-horror classic. I want to see her more. And everywhere. Get on it Hollywood.

For the first hour or so, we’re bombarded with textual titillation, thematic fertility, emotional anticipatory foreplay. They sow so many seeds that it could have blossomed into a veritable rainforest of fanboy/intellectual brilliance. We have the juxtaposition of the human search for their ‘creators’, while relying on the help of their created David, a sorely disenfranchised and neglected child of the new age. While the scientists put so much work into ‘why do we exist’, David asks the same question only to be offered: ‘because we could.’ We get the conflict between creationism and darwinism, both sides arguing that the discovery of creators will discount the other. We’re given a haunted-temple, filled with the corpses of ancient super-beings, severed heads and a forest of pods reminiscent of the egg farm in the original Alien. Things get creepy and violent after a long first act and Mr. Scott gives us one of the most breathtaking sandstorms ever seen on film. So what goes wrong? Well, Damen “Blue Balls” Lindelof worked his magic he must have learned on Lost and fucks it up royally. Every single theme is reduced to its basest form. Ridley Scott did everything right, other than his creature design. It’s a feast for the eyes, if not for the mind. The acting, cinematography, scenic pacing and lighting is all pitch-perfect. If only the whole thing made some goddamn sense.

Noomi after her audition for The Fifth Element. Luc Besson is hardcore.

Alright, those of you who have not seen it, I’ll meet you at the bottom. For the rest who sat through it, join me down Rant Lane. So, without further ado:

*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*

Alright, now the uneducated riffraff is gone, let’s talk. Fill up your glass, get comfortable. It’s gonna be a hard one. What goes wrong? Well, the most inspired moment in the entire film, plot-wise, is when David infects the unfortunate Holloway with the Venom-Evil-Super-Human juice. Shit was getting realer than fag-hag night in Boys Town (I don’t think that’s a real thing, but it should be). The movie derails itself entirely when Theron turns Holloway into a man-sparkler. Yes, we do have Noomi Rapace’s super-cool self-cesaerian…but what came of it? A shitty little squid, anus-monster? That’s all your monster-department could crap out, Ridley? You gave the world the face hugger. Not only that, but Noomi cuts herself open, stitches herself up and then gets back to it. There are no fucking repercussions. If she didn’t wince every time she did anything, I’d have forgotten the whole creature in the stomach thing even fucking happened! Even when she figures out David intentionally fucked with her…she just kind of accepts that. WHAT? Another thing, why couldn’t we have two real characters stuck in the evil-temple overnight to fight the space worms, not just evil-Shakespeare-with-Hipster-glasses and Brit-Hick-9000?

Also, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to cast Guy Pierce as a dude who’s a thousand years old? AND why did his face look like a fucking whale’s vagina? I have questions, Mr. Scott. At that point the film splits into 3 parts. We have the old dude trying to become young again, along with some serious Oedipal undertones…the creation of a new race of aliens running about a spaceship…AND a random-ass zombie movie. I’m sorry, when the British Hick dude returned after his pretty sweet death at the hands of the cobra-penis-worms as super-zombie, I almost threw shit at the screen. He comes in, out of nowhere, kills a bunch of red-shirts, and then gets his shit wrecked by Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. What the fuck was that? Not only did he look like brainiac dumped in retard-juice, but the scene had no consequences. It happens and then it’s over. There was no fucking point.

Finally, we have the middle finger to the fans hoping for brand continuity. I’m sure if they just thought having the ending mirror the beginning of Alien was just too hard, but anyone, ANYONE who remembers Alien clearly recollects that the ‘Space Jockey’ is in the pilot chair with a hole the size of a chestburster. In this movie, he ends up in the ship way out of the way and his entire chest cavity has opened up. Come on guys. You’re smarter than this.

In all fairness, the concept that we inevitably wish to destroy that which we create was pretty interesting. They simply didn’t do anything with it. The motivations of the ‘engineers’ was beautifully unclear until one of them woke up and turned into space-Michael Myers. The prospect, though, of a sequel Prometheus 2: Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender’s Head Adventures in Space! gets my balls a little wet. Well, a lot wet. Drenched with fanboy orgasmic potential. Make it so, Mr. Scott. Make it so.

*SPOILERS OVER*

Yes, this is what British people actually look like when you deprive them of tea for longer than 48 hours.

So, what are we left with? Something beautiful. It’s not as mentally deficient as most of the cinematic sludge out there…but it could have been so much more. Like Inception, it could have redefined the blockbuster film. Instead, it succumbed to the same cliches, smearing itself with predictable fecal matter like a toddler left alone in a bathroom. It gives us great performances, even one that might be remembered. Otherwise, this is another Avatar, ultimately forgettable. You could have been so much more Prometheus. You could have challenged. You could have questioned. Instead of being the love of my life, you’re a fling. You’re a one night stand. As I lie awake in the bed, thinking on everything you said, everything you promised and how it simply won’t be fulfilling, I pull my arm away, crawl back into my pants, lying creased on the chair, and sneak out the door. I glance back one more time, holding onto that fleeting hope that I’m wrong, that you actually were everything I wanted…I simply had no idea what my deepest desires were.

And then I remember that fucking part with the super-zombie.

I turn away. I leave. There isn’t going to be a second date.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) – Alfred Hitchcock (Dir.), Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave

She didn’t vanish…she’s above the train. She’s right there, guys…

There’s a gentleman who existed once. Many years ago. He entered filmmaking, a hidden specter, pumping out films as though they were Irish babies (that’s three a year), subtly and gently redefining how we understand tension and visual storytelling. Part silhouetted shadow of night, part Winston Churchill impersonator, this man is a master of thrillers, a godfather of horror and a delight of British sensibility. I am, of course, talking about Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

We all know Hitchcock as the man who brought us Norman Bates, a fear of biplanes flying over our heads in corn fields, and James Stewart watching us get dressed from his rear window. Hitchcock’s name is synonymous with cinematic excellence and class (as well as ‘ornithophobia’, but that’s because ‘ornithophobia’ is recklessly difficult to say.). However, what you might not have known is that Hitchcock’s career spanned about forty years. Watching a movie from his earlier years (i.e. The Lady Vanishes) and one from 1960 (Psycho) would be like comparing Oliver Stone’s Platoon, a grim, well-shot, brilliantly scripted Vietnam thriller, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps a movie that thinks it’s better than the numeral ‘2’…and that Shia Lebeouf isn’t completely fucking terrible. It would be like comparing Scorcesse’s Goodfella’s to Hugo. Both good, but occupying opposing beds in the overnight train of Marty’s long career. A train fraught with gunfights, Jack Nicholson wearing a strap-on, and people demanding to know if you think they’re funny, like a fucking clown.

Speaking of trains: This movie. Hitchcock loves his trains. We have strangers meeting on them, we have people taking them North by Northwest. I’m not sure what about these locomotives endlessly fascinated the man, but every chance he gets, he cuts to a vehicle rolling by, pounding and steaming its way along. Inadequacy issues, perhaps?

Tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. Alright, that’s it, outside, after school. Gloves off.

Well, in a nutshell, this thing is about a spoiled spark-plug Iris (Margaret Lockwood, doing her best to confuse the shit out of me with a half-English/half-American garble of an accent. Which was it? IT DROVE ME CRAZY) befriending an old woman, Mrs. Froy (Dame May Witty – not sure if she was a dame or she was just badass enough to demand that it was put in the credits) on a train going through the Eastern European country of *muffled cough and change subject*. After getting hit on the head, she passes out and Mrs. Froy is gone. Nobody on the train remembers her. Everyone thinks can’t-decide-what-side-of-the-fucking-pond-she-came-from Iris is crazy. Except for famed parent of everyone famous, and Petyr Baelish look-a-like, Michael Redgrave. He had a character…I guess he played music and was writing a book…or reading a book…point is, he looks like Petyr Baelish and he is dashing as all hell. It seems that Mrs. Froy was just a pigment of Iris’ imagination, but, remember, this is Hitchcock…

While watching this classic, I decided that this was the same plot I’d seen before with a woman on a train going missing and whatnot. And then I remembered that I HAD seen it before…on stage when I was a wee little shit. About the point when they discover the magic cabinet, I had a moment of “Eureka!” And stripped down naked. My roommates don’t appreciate when I do this and I don’t appreciate them stifling me, both emotionally and artistically, so they can shut their whore mouths. Anyhoo…When I was about ten, my parents dragged my brother and myself to see a campy adaptation of this movie made for the London stage. If I remember correctly…it sucked. I never saw the second half because either I A) Fell asleep (extremely plausible) B) left in a huff because the two old women in front of us complained that my brother and I were “Eating our sweets too loudly.” Well, missies, you’re lucky you can still hear anything. As your bodies break down and the last wisps of youth flitter away into oblivion, you’ll be glad you could hear my damn sweets. Enjoy eternal nothingness. Jerks.

It was an apt translation to the stage, I discovered as the plot unfurled and the characters grew ever-more ridiculous. It’s about as campy as Ru Paul starting a musical theater company. Is this the same Hitchcock that made me fear tennis matches? That pushed Jimmy Stewart to the brink of madness? It’s almost easy to forget that Hitchcock isn’t just British, he’s as British as the bloody leg-before-wicket rule enacted at the third test match of the Ashes after a fortnight of raining cats and dogs. Or, simply, ‘British as fuck’, in American. We have these two men, Caldicott and Charters who wander from scene to scene, complaining about foreigners (their food, their language, their lack of up-to-date cricket information and their not-being-british). Now, I like to think I’m an enlightened person, an ally to the LGBTQ community…but these guys were about as gay and a sausage eating contest in a Nazi all-boys school. Like…prep school gay. Like…St. Paul airport bathroom gay. In summation: these two ‘hetero-life mates’ and their discussion of ‘cricket’ was nothing more than a prelude to good old, weepy, shameful, don’t-tell-your-mother penis-to-penis. And yet…it never comes up. Ever. Nobody mentions a word. They just accept these two confirmed bachelors climbing into bed together shirtless and don’t blink an eye. Oh the English.

“No, that’s preposterous, there’s no nob-gobbling here! We’re simply discussing the trade routes of the the Dutch-East India company’s…Caldicott, stop nibbling my earlobe!”

That aside, the whole ordeal waffled between taught political thriller and a damn pantomime. When the doctor (so obviously, gloriously malicious and yet NO ONE SUSPECTS HIM) tells Iris that Mrs. Froy “Never existed,” I had half a mind to yell “Oh, yes she did!” And he’d have turned to the camera and stated flatly, “Oh. No, she didn’t.” And I’d yell back, “Oh, yes she…” The point I’m trying to make is that pantos are fucking insufferable. They’re like strapping two toddlers to your head and dousing them in pepper. Entertaining for about six seconds until you have the sensation of a miniature foot kicking you in the temples from both sides for two hours. There was NO TENSION in the entire film. For about 20 minutes you question if Iris is just suffering from ‘crazy bitch-itis’ and this whole thing is just playing out in her head in some mental institution on the outskirts of *cough and mumble, change the subject*. But then you find out what’s going on. The second you question a motive, the motive is made clear. There is no suspense.

And then the fights scenes…oh lordy. There are two. And they are amazing. Both brilliant and horribly terrible that you stare on in utter shock. First, the fist fight. It’s like two virgins who decided they were both subs, thereby both of them are tied up, trying to dry hump each other into oblivion. And Iris stands to the side, gently kicking their bottoms. It reminded me why I’m so glad virginity is not a permanent affliction. Next: a gunfight so nonchalant, you’d think it was cucumber that was simply too cool for academics, thus it lies there, not giving a fuck. People are shooting, sort of. It’s the most painfully British shoot-out since the Queen decided that she didn’t want to go to the royal wedding and capped a few guards. I think that happened. I heard about it.

This movie didn’t seem to care. An overwhelming sense of distance hung in the air, forcing any connection with the characters into the sidelines, leaving these oddballs of British sensibilities to flounce further down the road of absurdity. This was codified for me when Charters (the tweedly named Basil Radford – I know, right? People actually have names like that) walks out of the train and gets shot in the hand. He doesn’t react. He doesn’t do anything. He just glances down and walks back inside. After getting shot. In the hand. WHAT? What’s confusing about the entire ordeal is that sometimes it exemplifies Hitchcock’s strengths: his ability to visually advance the plot, his sense of wit and character, his complex plotting…and yet the rest is a floundering mess of Anglican hilarity.

Is he shooting? Or just pointing out that there are people trying to murder them in that general direction?

It’s difficult to tell if this was intentionally a comedy or simply so soaked in goofiness that Goofie would have asked them to “cool on that shit.” (And then Goofie would knock down his sunglasses, rev his engine, look into the camera one last time and declare ‘Derrrrr. See ya later!’ He’d ride off into the night, just a light dwindling into the mountains, a ghost drifting from our lives as quickly as he had entered. We’ll miss you, Goofie. God rest his soul.) Excuse me. Sorry. To the point: Hitchcock  is a master, a genius even. Perhaps this absurdity was simply an extended piece of satire, singling out the British as completely disconnected from the international community, people who emulate their island dwelling, repelling all invaders attempting to broaden their world view. The central plot point is that there is a message that needs to get back to the Foreign Office about two major European powers joining forces. Since this was made in ’38, Hitchcock couldn’t say who it was…but let’s assume it rhymes with Shmermany and Shmussia. Perhaps he was kicking the Brits where the sun don’t shine, a very naughty place no one should mention in polite company, in order to force them into the international community on the brink of world war.

Or, perhaps, it was just really silly. Like…really, really, really silly. It’s a fascinating relic, a milestone on a career so prolific it would make Joyce Carol Oates say ‘Damn, son.’ See this movie. I laughed more during the length of its run-time than I have in a long while.