Joe’s Blog

Archive for May, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

May 28, 2008 1:09 am

Until the untimely death of Heath ledger, Indy IV was probably the most anticipated film of the year. The release two weeks ago of the well recieved Iron Man has also taken some edge of the release.

But let there be no doubt, this is still a film that the world has been waiting for. And whilst it is thoroughly entertaining, it falls way short of its predecessors, and even some of the more modern variants/imitators/usurpers.

The plot is convolution defined: Indy hooks up with a young kid to first rescue one of Indy’s old colleagues, and the boy’s mother with the suspiciously similar christian name of Marion (… hmmm). This then leads into an adventure to first find a crystal skull, and then return it to its rightful resting place, deep in a secret Incan temple. Throughout all this they are persued by evil Nazis… sorry… Russians who are hell bent on stopping them. They are led by a rather sexy looking Cate Blancett, a psychic who wants to harness the power of the skull for nefarious means.

If this all sounds a little familiar, that’s because that’s EXACTLY what it is. In fact at times, Indy IV resembles little more than a Greatest Hits package of Indy movies past. Some of these references work: the opening twenty minutes take place in a familiar looking warehouse, and is easily the best sequence in the movie, leading to an incredibly tense encounter on a nuclear testing site.

From here, the movie jumps from one action set piece to the next with little regard for logic, and even less regard for letting the audience know what’s going on.

The action is, in the main, well handled. An early motorbike chase is a good showcase for Harrison Ford’s stunt double (though unfortunately this time  it’s not the legendary Vic Armstrong, who was otherwise engaged on The Mummy 3), but an over long truck chase is too closely linked to its illustrious Raiders predecessor to be wholly effective. For a start it packs in too many elements, and too many characters in peril, to keep your attention focussed for its duration. Like so many modern action sequences, it flies by in a blur, whereas Indy’s more famous truck chase kept you on the edge of your seat the whole way through.

But the least said about the waterfall the better (it’s even more ridiculous than the waterfall scene in Temple of Doom… see? It’s just doing what was done before, but bigger).

On the subject of action sequences, it’s worth mentioning the modern movies greatest asset, and worst enemy: CGI.

In the build up to the film’s release, Lucas and Spielberg both portrayed themselves as martyrs to the cause of reclaiming movie making from the computers. Spielberg nixed digital film for old fashioned 70mm. The DP studied previous cinematographer Douglas Slocombe’s style to retain continuity, and it was announced that the effects work would be done using traditional methods (matte painting, wires, rear projection) and CGI would only be used where these methods were not possible… I’ll tell you now, that’s utter arse.

CGI gophers? CGI bats? Both used superfluously (with the exception of the hilarious first shot of the movie).

CGI lens flare???? Thirty years ago, lens flare would have been removed from a film. Now they are adding it in!!!!!

In the truck chase, most of the foilage was added in digitally, because it was too dangerous to shoot the chase in such a heavily overgrown area. Fair enough. But don’t then insert CGI foilage for the purposes of cheap gags!

The one exception I can buy, is a large scale giant ant attack, but it’s not very well done.

I’m not adverse to CGI when it’s used well (can you spot the CGI in Casino Royale for instance? And no it’s not the sinking house: that’s a model), it’s just don’t make a big deal about the fact that you’re not using it, and then use it extensively.

One thing the film does have going for it is a superb cast… who are thoroughly wasted. This is Harrison’s show, and no one is going to steal it from him, though Blancett gives it a fair go, hamming it up like Brian Blessed.

Shia LeBeof, playing the same character as Justin Long in Die Hard 4 but in a leather jacket, is enteratining enough. John Hurt gets  athankless role as a professor driven nuts by the power of the crystal skull, and Ray Winstone has fun as Indy’s sidekick, no wait he’s a baddie, no, hang on, he’s Indy’s mate again…

Nice to see Karen Allen back in the fold, giving Indy a love interest that’s believable, and her sassyness is very welcome at a time when the film begins to flag a little, but ultimately she’s there to deliver one line and that’s it.

A bright spot is Jim Broadbent as Denholm Elliot’s replacement. Given little to do, he adds a touch of class to proceedings, just like his predecessor (without the comdey buffoon rewrite).

Overall then, it’s a tad disappointing. It’s entertaining enough, with touches of brilliance, but the whole package feels like just that: a package. A demographically approved pick and mix shovelled into an Indiana Jones bag.

Nothing suprises me about Lucas anymore, but from Spielberg you expect more, considering how much affection he and the audience have for the films.

It’s far better than the Star Wars prequels, not as good as any of the original films, and, I fear, come the end of the summer, it may not be the most fondly remembered blockbuster of the year.

Friday Tunes: Richard Cheese

May 9, 2008 4:48 am

richard cheeseRichard Cheese

OK, so I’m probably the last one to get the joke, but today I discovered this fine ensemble, Richard Cheese and the Lounge Against the Machine.

You remember the last ‘Friday Tunes’ post where I went off on one about how for five minutes everyone was into cheesy lounge music? Part of that was to do with an irritating little scroat called Mike Flowers Pops, who decided it would be an immense wheeze to make out Noel gallagher had stolen ‘Wonderwall’ from an old 60’s tune.

It was cobblers because it was too self-conciously twee and cheesy.

Mr Richard Cheese (geddit?) seems to have taken a cue from a certain Paul Anka, who a few years back released a dreadful album of ‘contemporary’ songs done in a Vegas stylee. He massacarred such classics as ‘Black Hole Sun’, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and… er… ‘Eye of the Tiger’. The album was made even worse by the fact that Mr Anka obviously thought this was a brilliant idea.

(EDIT: I’ve since discovered Mr Cheese has been doing this sort of thing for nearly a decade… so Anka must have copied him)

Mr Cheese and his (superb) band also think its a brilliant idea, but also are aware that it’s also fucking hilarious. These guys tread the path that Mike Flowers and Paul Anka would NEVER tread.

Here are some absolute stormers, and if you like ‘em, then for christ’s sake buy the albums (click the pic below for a link).

richard cheese albums

Richard Cheese – Creep (Radiohead)

Richard Cheese – Me So Horny (2 Live Crew)

Richard Cheese – Closer (NIN)

Richard Cheese – Rape me (Nirvana)

Boris Johnson: For Amusement Purposes only

May 8, 2008 12:39 am

It didn’t take long for Boris to make his first balls up as London Mayor, but you’ve got to admit it’s a doozy: upsetting the Tube Unions. You couldn’t make it up.

 Seems Boris’ first splash of inspiration is not one of his headline-grabbing policies from his campaign about bringing back Routemaster buses (who cares), tackling the congestion charge (believe it when I see it) or adding coppers to the streets (pull the other one). No his first big policy decision is to ban alcohol on the tube.

Brilliant.

Apparently it’s something vaugely to do with ‘anti-social behaviour’, that wonderfully 21st century catch-all term used to describe wankers who hit people and break things.

I was intrigued to see this will come into force on the the 1st June… three weeks time. So in the space of just six days Boris has researched his policy, decided it is for the public good, budgeted for the extra police (which we haven’t yet got), budgeted for the marketing of the scheme (people need posters) and consulted everyone concerned. Wow. That’s fast work.

Except,of course, he hasn’t done any of this. He’s simply plucked out of his arse one of those policies that no ‘right-thinking person’ could disapprove of and decided that’s what he’s going to do.

As for consultation, surely he spoke to tube bosses about it? Well, he may have got a statement from Timmy O’Toole or some other oxygen wastiing suit, but Mr Bob Crowe, really the most powerful man in London, was not consulted. And he’s, (…and I can’t bear to type this…) probably right that he’s concerned his union’s members are liable to find themselves under even MORE threat from irate passengers.

But the one thing that grinds me most about this, and I’ve written to Boris’ office about, is that there isn’t a problem of people drinking on the tube. Yes, it might not be particularly appealing to see people drinking on the tube, but we could all run off a list of unpleasant things on the tube. Boris isn’t going to ban food, loud music or teenagers from the tube.

The problem is DRUNK PEOPLE. Unfortunately, people get drunk and do stupid things. And it’s THIS that gets up people’s noses.

People generally drink on the tube when they are going out and, therefore, sober. Sober people don’t do stupid things unless they are stupid (and you can’t legislate for stupidity).

Drunk people do stupid things all the time. So if you’re already drunk, how is not being able to drink on the tube going to stop you being drunk and stupid?

The simple solution would be to ban drunk people from the tube. This of course would be shouted down as an ‘infringment on our human rights’. It would also upset a  lot of the City boys who make up Boris’ core voters.

So instead, as I mentioned, he comes up with a plan which affects a lot of innocent people to show that he’s ‘doing something’ without actually doing anything at all. 

Night of the Lepus (1972)

May 6, 2008 5:03 am

Night of the lepus posterWhat is a hungover sunday on a Bank Holiday weekend for except watching trash, eating crap food and generally lounging about in your pants.

That’s generally how I spent the sunday just gone (although I did eventually get dressed), as Lady Scaramanga, myself and Harry Webshiter settled in for a trio of trash cinema at its ‘finest’.

First up is the near-legendary ‘when animals attack’ movie Night of the Lepus. Based on an obscure satirical Australian novel, and subsequently stripped of eveything interesting, this falls into that wonderfully 70s genre. Basically, all these movies (Food of the Gods, Giant Spider Invasion et al), will involve a down-on-their-luck actor battling with poorly matted shots of giant animals, whilst conjuring up a ‘it’s so crazy it just might work’ plan to deal with the situation.

Lepus follows the formula so slavishly that it could be accepted as passable time wasting but for one glaring issue… rabbits are not scary. Yes, that’s right, I said rabbits.

Giant rats are scary. Spiders of nearly any size are scary. Giant mutant sea monsters are scary. Rabbits, of ANY size, are not scary. So the film is crippled from the start.

It’s got an interesting cast. Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh play a ‘young couple’ (the film’s words, not mine) researching animal behaviour, who are called in by Professor Clark (My GOD! Deforrest Kelly!!!!) to investigate an explosion of the rabbit population in some arse-end-of-nowhere Arizona town.

(This is the sort of town where EVERYONE has a rifle. Surely they’d welcome their lupine friends as target practice and fresh meat?)

Anyhoo… the scientists balls up royally, by using an un-tested serum (Whitman admits having no idea what it does when he administers it), and letting their daughter have a rabbit as a pet. The kid promptly swaps her control rabbit (one that hasn’t been tested on) for another (guess which one…). It gets loose and before you can say chicka-wah-wah it’s shagging every other rabbit in sight, and they start growing to extreme proportions (turns out it was a growth serum… or something).

 Much hilarity ensues as the rabbits march on in slo-mo over Hornby railway models, occassionally stopping to be substituted for a guy in an oversized rabbit costume to attack the townspeople (cue close-ups of cute bunnies with ketchup on their faces).

One quite disturbing scene shows a (dead) rabbit set alight and chucked about (clearly on strings) in the middle of a group of genuine (and presumably terrified) live rabbits.

So, after a failed attempt to trap them in a mine (yeah, rabbits can burrow… you’d think a scientist would know that), it’s eventually decided to electrocute them on a railway line. But not before we’ve had a marvellous sequence where the rabbits attack two pieces of stock footage of cows simultaneously, whilst travelling through time so they are at night, but the cows exist in daytime.

It’s utter tripe, quite frankly. In fairness, some of the effects work is quite good. There’s continuity of scale (a concept many giant animal movies forget, even Jaws was a bit fuzzy on this) and an excellent matte shot of a rabbit approaching a guy hiding behind a truck. But this is undone by the ludicrous ‘man in a suit’ sequences.

The editing is atrocious. Scenes begin and end quite arbitrarily, with post-production dubbing seemingly laid on at random where they feel a scene doesn’t quite make sense. (One scene ended with a piece of dialogue spoken by someone who wasn’t even in the scene).

There is actually very little to recommend Lepus, beyond pure kitsch value. In fact there’s nothing. Except Dr McCoy’s moustache, which you’re sure is going to leap off and attck someone at any minute.

Nowhere near as good as Tarantula or Them; not as joyously exploitative as Food of the Gods; and not even enough to give FOTG 2 a run for its money. It holds curio, after hours entertainment only.