"The only thing less subtle than Michael Bay's monster set-pieces are the product placements littered throughout this dystopian sci-fi fable: two minutes in and we've already had a plug for a certain brand of sports trainer... It's better than anything else Bay has ever done, though given his CV (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys 2 et al) that's really not saying much."
A 2 star 'ouch'. And we have such a soft spot for Ewan McGregor too. What about Peter Bradshaw and The Guardian you ask. One star we reply.
What a classic cartoon moment it is when Tom finds his head between the two cymbals Jerry's holding and - classsshhhh! Tom's bulging, traumatised eyes reverberate somewhere outside the disc-like remains of his skull. That's how I feel, having been well and truly happy-slapped by the latest deafening film from Hollywood's no-nonsense-no-nuance action maestro, Michael Bay, who gave us Pearl Harbor and Armageddon. I was found face down outside the cinema afterwards by police, to whom I could only whisper, pointing to the mashed red stumps where my ears used to be: "Cann'ttt hear ... "
We like that. It'd be nice if Peter went Gonzo a little more often. Was it really that loud or is he just you know, older than us hip kids who like explosions and stuff? " You could release a flock of startled geese into the cinema auditorium entirely unnoticed. The point is to blow things up and crash shiny black vehicles into each other, and that really does get dull." Damn. But what about little Ewan? At least the acting around the exploding bits must be good. Right? Right? "McGregor does that charmless rat-like grin a fair bit - less attractive than Scarlett's unvarying inflatable pout. Mr Bay is now presumably developing a project about Krakatoa."
Crap... we wanted to like this. Over in The Times things don't get any better with James Christopher, but it does scrape in two stars:
"The trip from Pearl Harbor to The Island is not very long if you're Michael Bay. It's a straight line from one cinematic disaster to another. Bay isn't a film director, he's a wrecking ball, knocking vast holes in budgets and smashing the crockery into expensive smithereens... There isn't a scrap of organic logic in sight. Every line of dialogue rings false. Every set piece has been sawed off a superior film. McGregor's sincerity is as appealing as acne and Johansson is utterly wasted"
Things get even worse out on the Internets where even the film's producers are giving the thing a good kicking. Being grown ups though they lay ALL the blame at the feet of the actors:
"Listen those are superstars of the future, not superstars of the present. Even lesser television actresses, quite honestly would have more connection to that audience."
That was producer Walter Parkes now openly attacking the performances by McGregor and Johansson on the website he runs with his wife. It's a scary world when even Hollywood big shots are using their blogs to flame one another.
Things improve once we move away from that fake and fabricated world of beautiful people to settle in... Los Angeles.
Crash, not to be confused with the leg wound humping delights of David Cronenberg, is one of those great ensemble movies that we always have time for. Over at the Independent Anthony Quinn agrees that it's well worth a look and compares it favourably with some other Londonist faves. "The progenitor of this LA ensemble is Robert Altman's Short Cuts, to which Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia is a flamboyant young cousin. Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon and Willard Carroll's Playing By Heart are lighter, more soap-operatic variations on the theme." Three stars then. He goes on to say that:
"Writer-director Paul Haggis and co-writer Bobby Moresco have given the famous melting pot a fierce old stir, and from it drawn a passionately felt, somewhat contrived but highly watchable drama... while the result isn't quite as incendiary as advance reports have indicated, it is still sufficiently against the Hollywood grain to feel thought-provoking... Instead of heartwarming messages about forgiveness, it honours ambiguity and brings us close, closer than is comfortable, in fact, to what Americans today are really thinking about one another."
Another three stars from The Guardian, but this time a move away from the Altman/Anderson comparisons saying instead that Crash "looks very much as if it was conceived in an earlier time, during the 1990s fashion for anti-PC satire: the period that gave us Sipowicz unrepentantly mouthing off about black bosses in NYPD Blue and mad-as-hell Michael Douglas insulting Korean storekeepers in Joel Schumacher's Falling Down."
Well we had heard that it was all about racial tension and that there was a fair bit of shouting involved.
This is super-edgy stuff, so much so that almost no character can arrive on screen without pranging another character of a different racial group and yelping insults, right off the bat, dialogue that can be summarised as: "Good morning!" - "I'll good morning you in a minute you spic/ Mick/ black/ cracker/ al-Qaida terrorist asshole etc!"
Bradshaw does however mention that "like Lord of the Rings, it ends about six times". We hope that most of those endings are good ones. LOTR could have done with losing around three of them. Bradshaw sums it up nicely calling it a "a very watchable and well-constructed piece of work, and a potential script masterclass: but its daringly supercharged fantasies of racial paranoia and humanist redemption are not to be taken too seriously."
You're the boss Peter.
James Christopher over at The Times is also intent on handing out three stars saying that "The script is clever, the racial theme is worthy of Newsnight, and the editing just sublime. Haggis kisses a dozen modern arthouse classics before his film is ten minutes old."
Ohh nice turn of phrase. He continues "I've never seen a film so eloquent about blind prejudice and the easy slope to bitterness. The infectious skill of Crash is how Haggis captures the shallow glassy politeness of strangers, and the bottled anger within."
Not quite as flattering in his summing up though:
The fatal flaw is the commercial desire to strike a perfect balance, and end with a lifeaffirming slap on the rump. The moral, I guess, is that it's not the done thing in California to make a "cool indie film" without swallowing an elephantine feel-good laxative. A shame, because this film flirts with subversive and important issues.
Now speaking of laxative it's time to move onto Billie Piper. This is what you get for encouraging her in Doctor Who. Utter tripe about idiots in a haunted house: Spirit Trap
Let's let Pete off the leash first. Brace yourself Piper, he's going to slap a star on you. "Oh Billie. Billie, Billie, Billie. Just when we were all feeling so good about your stuff in Doctor Who, you go and do this terrible British paranormal non-thriller."
A non-thriller. And you know what you get if you take the 'thrill' out of 'thriller'... Er.
Or as Pete puts it "Awful things happen. It's like a horror-film version of The Young Ones."
That actually sounds quite good. But after that mauling we expected pretty much the same from the Independent and Anthony Quinn and we get it with another single star:
A bunch of students (including Billie Piper) are summoned to a mansion in the belief that it is their new digs, though given that the place a) looks like a film set, and b) is in unaffordable Hampstead, they might have twigged something was up. Honestly, students nowadays.
James Christopher at the times follows suit but also hints that perhaps it's so bad it may be good saying it's "a truly mesmerising piece of hocus-pocus" and that "Merely murdering the script is not enough. One of them must die. You can squeeze the suspense into a teaspoon. Director David Smith's only notable contribution is to lock the front door, turn off the lights, and toss away the keys."
Maybe this means she'll be back for more Doctor Who after all.
Lots of movie beans to spill this week and quite a few trailers to tease you with too.
Check out the Everything is Illuminated trailer. It's the big screen version of the Jonathan Safran Foer bestseller. It looks great and has a bespectacled hobbit and a very familiar vegetarian Q&A.
A million miles away is Tom-Yum-Goong. There's a trailer to watch but if you liked the fist happy shenanigans of Ong-bak and also have an attraction to elephants you're in for a treat.
The Movie Hole brings news of the improbable Zoolander 2, but what the hell, we liked the first one so we won't complain too much if it turns out to be more of the same. Then again it's something of a relief to hear that Shanghai Noon 3 and Starsky and Hutch 2 look less likely.
Scarier than the prospect of bad sequels are bad remakes and we are less than thrilled with the idea of a new Wicker Man. Who could ever replace Edward Woodward? Anyone but Nicolas Cage we expect. Then again they've replaced Christopher Lee with Ellen Burstyn. I bet he's more vexed about that than being cut out of Return of The Ring.
The Londonist staff are still divided over whether we like any or all or just some of M Night Shyamalan's movies and those waters are about get muddier now that he's casting Lady in the Water. It'll be interesting to see if he can outgrow the twist endings that now hamper his movies or whether he'll just reveal that a giant kangaroo was responsible for whatever the hell happens in the first 90 minutes of the film.
We have a plaque in the Londonist office that simply says Don't Fuck With Yul Brynner. Words to live by we believe. We should mail it to the morons who are intent on remaking Westworld. Just because Michael Crichton keeps recycling the same story doesn't mean we need or want a new improved version. We had hoped this idea had died once Schwarzenegger stopped acting as he was the one signed up for the remake many moons ago. God only knows who they'll cast in this now.
The best bit of news we heard is that Tom Sizemore is now suffering from a rare medical condition that leaves him sexually insatiable. We didn't know being a bloke was a rare medical condition. It turns out that it's not being a complete knob that has ruined his career and seen him in and out of court and rehab. He now has priapism - probably caused by years of alcohol and drug abuse. His manager says "He can have sex nine times without stopping. They should hook him up to a generator the next time there's a blackout on the west coast. An LA based urologist points out that "Priapism is an abnormal, persistent, and painful erection that won't go down in spite of orgasm, and can be caused by alcohol or drug abuse", so it'd be wrong to take the piss. That'll come later when Sizemore becomes the next Hollywood star to have a sex tape show up on the Internet. According to the IMDB:
Sizemore's addiction prompted the actor to rig video cameras up around his house, which for the past three years have documented his activities with a string of women he has lured back to his California pad. Three such tapes have been allegedly stolen and are expected to be released on the internet.
Priapism or not we bet his performance won't be half as good as The Relic.
We still feel bad for poor old Ewan because of The Island fiasco and because he got all huffy in Leicester Square a few nights ago so we'll put a link in to the trailer for Stay and pretend it's the best one we could find so it makes him feel a little better.
If Scarlett Johansson needs a shoulder to cry on our doors are always open.