Monday, 21 May 2012

Pulpy Wong & Warring Peace

John Dies at the End is an amusing comedy/horror novel about a pair of deadbeats who get drawn into an interdimensional war with some blood thirsty intruders. Our protagonists are nicely drawn slackers who's bafflement and irreverence in the face of a variety of nicely peculiar, lethal interlopers provides an endearing and frequently funny counterpoint to the gore and mayhem the critters cause and though the writing isn't the best and the plot proceeds with fits and starts it's still a thoroughly good read. Apparently the author, David Wong, is a co-founder of and with this promising debut slice of schlock hopefully he'll spend a little more time on polishing his next book than trawling the net. Oh and there's a movie version and it looks not bad.

David Peace is frequently compared to James Ellroy (a sort of critics shorthand I guess) but his jarringly direct prose is strafed with poetical flourishes far more sophisticated than the Devil Dogs cartoonish stylings and there's plenty of evidence to Peace's talent in his stunning GB84 a furious, fictionalised history of the miner's strike of the 80's. With multiple narratives including a Union accountant, ordinary miners, Special Branch bug men and duplicitous, shadowy fixers Peace creates a kaleidoscope of endemic cynicism, brutality and political naivete that leaves a distinctly bad taste in the mouth. I'm not sure exactly how historically accurate this book is (was only 8 at the time) but it's an amazing, exhilarating look at a seminal period in our recent socio-political history and a telling reminder in these austere times of just what lengths governments will go to get their way.

Bobcat's Dogmatics

You might remember Bobcat Goldthwait as the mewling, addled gang leader from Police Academy 2 but since then he's been quietly forging a career writing and directing barbed, close to the knuckle indy satires. Sleeping Dogs was released a few years ago and went largely unnoticed probably due to it's er, distasteful premise however it's a funny and quite touching rom-com. Cajoled by her fiance a young woman shares her dark secret, that one bored night she gave oral pleasure to her pet dog perhaps unsurprisingly it doesn't take long for her life to get turned upside down in the ensuing turmoil and recriminations. A surprisingly mature script keeps the film from sinking into John Waters territory and there's enough laughs to sweeten the salty brine of social awkwardness that soaks through all the wonderful performances.

Goldthwait's most recent offering, God Bless America, is a clunking hammerblow to the nutsack of contemporary Amurica and it's moronic media virus. After a thoughtful office worker gets fired and receives a terminal diagnosis he snaps and starts a violent rampage to lessen his country's burden of noisy idiots starting with a 16 year old reality TV starlet. There's plenty of Network-ish rantings peppering the blood letting and though I'm onboard with the cultural stupefaction invective the laughs just weren't there and it falters in the final third. Still it's quite enjoyable, kind of like Natural Born Killers mashed with Idiocracy.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Vinyl Veneration

Whedon's Groove

Joss Whedon produced (and apparently cast) the super po-mo horror The Cabin In The Woods, a sharp, tongue in cheek subversion of the oldest of horror tropes. Despite the bunch of stereotypes finding themselves in a creepy old house battling a bunch of psychokillers from the very start there's obviously something else going on as the narrative is split between the kids and some behind the scenes techs pulling the strings. The performances are decent enough and the script/plot just about balances the comedy and horror but it drags it's feet a little only to rush through it's final, revelatory act. Director Drew Goddard could've worked a bit harder to make the reveal a little less obvious but it's still lots of fun and well worth watching, especially if you're aux fait with the genre.

Whedon makes a more concerted effort as writer/director of the superhero monster mash Avengers Assemble bringing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk together to battle some pesky invaders in a foot to the floor, dayglo action spectacular. Whedon takes the sensible option and eschews characters and plot for a witty script and a whole host of face-offs with plenty of bangy smashy nonsense. This will no doubt rake in the cash ensuring, at the very least, a sequel for each of the main characters as well as another gang bang. I was a bit skeptical bout this beforehand but Whedon's done a marvellous job. Disengage brain and you're in for two plus hours of unashamedly superficial fun

Spring Swing Tings

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Soggy Whitebread

Guy Ritchie returns with another dose of Holmesian antics starring Jude Law & Downey Jnr in the meh-some Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows. I guess the success of the first film emboldened Ritchie as he really let rips with his trademark guffing about, with a bullet time bonanza, not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-it-is dialogue and lumbering attempts at humour which results in him squeezing out an unabashed action film, largely devoid of intelligence and with a central character that bears little resemblance to Doyle's cerebral sleuth. The two leads are still as ill suited and uneasy in their respective roles as before but, thankfully, their ineptitude is somewhat offset by more admirable performances from Rapace and Harris. It's reasonable multiplex fodder I suppose but insubstantial and entirely forgettable.

Equally as half witted is Man on a Ledge, an almost 80's-dumb thriller about a revenge heist perpetrated by a on the run convict. Sam Worthington mumbles and looks confused throughout his balancing act and as the plot unfurls into mediocrity it drags in Ed Harris and Jamie Bell to the uninspired shenanigans. There's little tension and with a humdrum script that spoon feeds the plot out it's pretty much the epitome of mangled, soul less factory product being churned out in Hollywood these days. Out of the two, and it pains me to say this, I'd recommend Ritchie's film as at least it has some gloss.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Red Planet Blues

TV mini series adaptations of fiction classics should be a sure thing - reasonable production standards twinned with the time to explicate the plot rather than have it scrunched into the usual 90 mins. I've always been a little naive though and it turns out The Martian Chronicles is a cheap and cheesy rendition of a Ray Bradbury novel following over the exploration and colonisation of the Red Planet and the inevitable discovery of it's comically cliched inhabitants. Rock Hudson leads the cast with a empty eyed, hammy performance and over the ensuing 6 hours the script and acting never lifts above the am-dram and the sfx tragic but somehow it kept me watching, It does have a wispy, dreamlike atmosphere and the ghost planet motif is nicely done but I guess that's down to Bradbury's original anyways it's definitely one that's for just the nerds & nostalgists.

Edgar Rice Burrough's aging Martian adventure, John Carter, got a polish from Disney but a kicking by the critics and sure, it's big budget fluff. but it's not nearly as bad as some of the guff I've sat through. It doesn't make much sense, is stuffed to the gills with cheese and the main actor, Taylor Kitsch, can't act for toffee but that hardly distinguishes it from the majority of Hollywood's offerings. The titular hero gets zapped from the South into the middle of a Martian civil war and discovers his new found abilities might hold the key to ending the conflict and finding his way home blah blah blah. Given the amount of cash they spent on the snazzy sfx it's just a shame they never though of making something more than the average dumb blockbuster better film.