Your Woolamaloo Gazette holiday movie guide

Looking for some movies to watch over the Easter break? Here’s the Woolamaloo Gazette handy guide to some recent releases:

Mick-Ass: the tale of one Irish superhero and his forbidden love for his donkey

Butter Island: Intense psycho-drama as Leonardo DiCaprio suffers an allergic reaction to dairy products and takes a dark trip through his deepest fears

Splash of the Fountains: Anita Ekberg digitally reanimated and fighting monsters from Greek mythology in the Trevi Fountain. All now in 3D, including Anita’s enormous knockers coming right out the screen at you.

How to Drain Your Flaggon: a delightful 3D CG animated romp of a young lad’s first foray into drinking mead in his viking village.

Alice in Underwear in 3D: a now grown up Alice escapes a planned loveless marriage by travelling back to Underwearland and becoming a lingerie model.

Treen Zone: Matt Damon joins classic British hero Dan Dare to fight off an invasion by the evil Mekon of Mekonta’s Treen army during the second Gulf War.

Radio Times

Off down to BBC Scotland for a short time this afternoon to do a quick spot on the Movie Cafe, alongside historian Mark Jardine, talking about the resurgence in the big, tough hero again as Solomon Kane hits cinemas and another Robert E Howard creation, Conan, is heading back to cinemas too; show is available for a few days on the Listen Again feature.

Magical Movie Moment: Cyrano de Bergerac

I thought I might start occassionally blogging on a series of ‘triple Ms’, or what I refer to as Magical Movie Moments. Its those scenes that stand out from a movie – sometimes a fabulous movie, sometimes just a wonderful scene in an otherwise average flick – that just encapsulate for me the real magic of cinema. They are those scenes that transcend narrative, genre or any of the qualities we would normally discuss about a film, they simply are and they are wonderful; they make you forget everything else for a few precious moments by their utter perfection, they enchant you and for those moments you are lost, a child again lost in another world. Long after the film ends and the houselights come back up that special scene, where the story, the imagery, the music all combined to a few moments of magical perfection, will stay in your mind.

For the first MMM I had to select a scene from my all time favourite film, Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s astonishing Cyrano de Bergerac. Colossus of modern French cinema Gerard Depardieu is perfectly cast as the titular Cyrano; the finest swordsman in the realm, an inventive wit, writer, poet, philospopher, yet cursed with is enormous nose he feels women judge him not by his prodigious merits but his physical looks and so brave on the battlefield or the duel, he retreats from announcing his love for the beautiful Roxanne (Anne Brochet, never more beautifully luminous as here).

The entire film is simply perfect – the costumes and sets are wonderfully evocative of the period, the characters perfectly played by a superb cast, the doomed tale of love, swords and poetry delivers a heady mixture of swooning romance and flashing blades of pure swashbuckling grandeur, all given with the flair of poetry; even the subtitles, the English ones by Anthony Burgess, are a work or art, often translated into verse, suiting Cyrano’s larger than life character perfectly.

Its hard for me to pick just one scene when I love the film so much (I rewatch it at least once a year) – the balcony scene as Cyrano in the shadows feeds line to the handsome but none too clever Baron to relate to Roxanne (who is drawn to his beauty but his words even more so, unaware they are Cyrano’s), the scene where she tells Cyrano she loves someone, he thinks she means her but then learns otherwise; she leaves all breathless, commenting on his recent duel with a whole crowd of assassins “what bravery”, “oh,” he replies to her departing back, “I have been braver since…” and that wonderful scene where, convinced she does love him, he takes on a hundred men who are sent to kill his brother poet, “take away the midgets, bring on the giants!”, the ‘schink’ of a hundred swords beign drawn then Cyrano leaping from one to the other, dispatching all the villains with his sword as the music swells… Fabulous.

But I can pick only one scene and I’ve opted for the famous duel in verse. It happens quite early in the film, as Cyrano is in the theatre after dispatching a fat actor from the stage for insutling his cousin a foppish aristocrat approaches him and insults his prodigious nose. Cyrano then follows him, teasing him and humiliating him in front of the crowd for not being intelligent and well read enought to craft a more inventive insult, himself tossing off dozens of poetic variations on possible insults he could have used, clearly showing that the Viscount may have rank and title but Cyrano is how own man, intelligent and brave and so beholden to none simply because they have the lace and clothes of rank (reminiscent of Rabbie Burns A Man’s a Man for a’ that). Then the swords are drawn and Cyrano announces to the crowd of Parisian onlookers he will compose a poem of the duel while he actually fights the foolish aristocrat. Flashing blades, swashbuckling swords cross as poetry flies, a wonderous marriage of verse and action that enchants me every time. I love film, I love poetry, I spent many years at school and college enjoying fencing, how could I not love this scene?

Alice in Wonderland trailer

There’s a very brief – but good quality – trailer for Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland now on YouTube. Sadly you’ll have to follow the link as embedding has been disabled for it, which always annoys the hell out of me – if you are going to share a video publicly via YouTube then you obviously want people to see it; you do that best in the virtual world of the web by encouraging others to share it, the digital version of word of mouth and being able to embed makes sense for multimeda like trailers, blocking the function while still having it up publicly shows a PR firm who haven’t quite grasped the digital world and how to use it to share and include their client’s works with their audience. Still, the video looks amazing, as you might expect, Burton and Lewis Carroll being rather obvious bedfellows to my mind, although it may be slightly over-egged in the pudding department.

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

Giant monster movies are generally pretty damned dumb, but often good ‘leave brain at the door’ fun movies (best viewed after a minimum of two pints), but the trailer to Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus looks even sillier than most – giant shark biting battleship? Huge octopus arm twatting planes out of mid air? Crazier than a midget on spring loaded burning stilts firing custard pies from a flan bazooka. And yet I think I might have to go and see this…

Cool Indy stuff!

At long last the fourth (and I’m guessing final?) Indiana Jones movie – Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – is coming this summer. I’m already readying my Fedora and oiling my whip. There’s some very cool merch coming out to tie in with the film, including some beautifully detailed statues:

And I spotted my colleague sticking up some (rather more affordable to the pocket money) action figures. Why weren’t there Indy action figures when I was a kid? Sure we had the original Star Wars figures (and the even better Micronauts, which were more posable, with more joints, plus you could take them apart, always a plus for a kid) but no Indy figures. I may have to get a couple of these to keep the Doctor Who and Captain Scarlet figures on my desk company. What do you mean I’m too old for toys? Cobblers to that, you’re never too old for toys! In fact one of the best things about being grown up is being able to buy toys when you want!

Atonement

Caught a couple of extremely good movies this weekend; last night Mel and I went to see Atonement, adapted from Ian McEwan’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, which means it arrives with the burden of being an adaptation of a highly respected work of literature. It lived up to the challenge exceedingly well, deftly moving from different character’s perspectives and times, from the heavy stillness of a warm, summer day in the country to the chaos of the Dunkirk evacuation, yet rarely confusing the audience despite the multi-perspective, non-linear narrative. The use of colour, perspective, music and sound is fascinating right from the start, from the staccato of a typewriters leading into the rhythm of the music to the sound of a bee trapped by a window leading out to a scene which is seen from several viewpoints around a fountain (water motifs repeat throughout). Intriguing story, very good performances (especially Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, Kiera looking at home in those 40s fashions) and a beautifully crafted film which has obviously had a lot of attention and love paid on it.

Also caught a film I have been waiting for, 3:10 to Yuma (a remake of a movie from the Western’s heyday in the 50s) with Christian Bale, Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda. I have to confess that like many wee boys who grew up to be big kids I still have a soft spot for a good Western; it’s a once all dominating genre which has faded away into the sunset like many of its stars did at the climax of their movies years ago. In the last couple of decades there haven’t been many, although we have had a handful from the highly enjoyable like Tombstone (silly but great, especially Kilmer’s Doc Holliday) to the superb like Unforgiven (a brilliant distillation of years of Western films into a dark, brooding masterpiece) and the quirky, odd gems like Dead Man and The Proposition.

Now we have 3:10 to Yuma, with a Jesse James Western starring Brad Pitt on the way in a few months too. I may have to dust off my cowboy boots. The movie itself doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel – the Civil War former soldier turned farmer trying to struggle to provide for his family, the corrupt local landowner, the outlaw gang, the contrast between honesty and crime and how they Won the West, all well worn grooves in the genre and Crowe’s violent nutter who may – or may not – have a latent streak of decency and Bale playing a troubled hero aren’t new either. But damn, it is a good Western. Oh, and it had Alan Tudyk from Joss Whedon’s brilliant Firefly/Serenity in it too, never a bad thing.

Simpsons

Since we were going to see the Simpsons movie on Saturday I thought I’d swing by and get the tickets in the afternoon in case it was busy later, although in the event the auditorium was half full. I think I got the ticket clerk who is either the stupidest or, being kind, perhaps just having one of those days. I tell her I want the 8.45 showing and she says, right, 4.15. No, 8.45, please. She looks a bit confused and then goes, oh, okay (not sure where she got 4.15 from at all, but hey); I tell her I need two tickets, putting one on my cinema pass card, paying for the other on my debit card, handing her both as I do. She takes them and looks at them like she has never seen a plastic card before (bear in mind this cinema has its own card which I use regularly).

I have to explain to her again that I want two tickets for that performance and am paying for one, the other is on my own pass, again waving the cards in front of her so it is pretty obvious visually if she can’t grasp spoken words. She takes them slowly, looks at them uncertainly then picks at her keyboard. So, that would be one ticket and one other ticket – so you really want two tickets? Er, yes, one and one would be two, which is what I’ve asked you for several times now… She did finally get there, although she forgot to ask me which seats we wanted. Jeez, we all have off days, but this girl was slower than a tortoise on Prozac.

And was it worth it after that? Well, no. My friend pointed out one of the biggest problems with the Simpsons movie is that it isn’t really a movie. As with the X-Files movie it is really just a longer than usual episode with a bigger budget, which doesn’t carry a movie. And as with the X-Files movie I have a general dislike of TV shows making a movie version while the series is still running. After the end of the run, as with Firefely or Star Trek, sure, but generally doing a movie when the show is still continuing seems to be to be just a flagrant cash cow. South Park is an exception here as it offered something unusual and different from the series as well as providing a story that worked as a movie. The Simpsons didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, parts of it are funny, there are some scenes that made me laugh, but it doesn’t hold together and overall seemed weak and somewhat futile.

Mind you, I’ve not thought much of the TV episodes either in recent years. I really loved the Simpsons for many years, but the last two or three seasons have been poor; as with the movie they have some scenes which are brilliant but I can’t recall an entire episode which worked for me in the last few seasons, only some scenes, but never an entire episode; magnify that problem by the length of the movie and you have a very poor offering which dilutes the genius of the earlier show. Heresy perhaps to suggest the Simps is past its sell-by date, but it hasn’t worked for me for a while now and the announcement that there would be several seasons more after the weak movie depresses me because it tarnishes the reputation it had during its high water mark. As with the X-Files, good shows need to know when and how to bow out, not just keep milking a tired series for money and so ruining the memories of the earlier, better years (of which there were many). Meantime they are talking about another X-Files movie…

Web-slinging

After all the hype and PR frenzy around the world Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 finally hit the cinemas this weekend, and off we went to a packed theatre to catch it. Two major villains this time (three if you count some bits with Harry Osborn’s son of the Green Goblin), more personal and romantic trouble for Peter Parker (including a rather awful Emo look which makes him appear like a reject from My Chemical Romance) and the introduction of Gwen and Captain Stacey – if you aren’t familiar with the comics that might not mean much to you, but they are (especially Gwen), very important characters from the comics. Shame then, that they were barely used, making me wonder why all the hype to excited fanboys about her appearance…

The film itself was very disappointing – far too ‘busy’ as my mate remarked, like they were thinking, must outdo the first two movies, pack more in regardless of the effect on the story. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad film; if it were the first Spidey movie you had seen you’d probably enjoy it more, but it lacks some solid direction, has too much squeezed into it for no reason other than trying to make it look ‘wow’ (which rarely works if it makes the story suffer) while the emotional arc was just a tiny bit tedious this time, unlike the previous movies. It is still worth seeing though – there are some great scenes there, the Sandman is well done, Venom looks just like he should from the comics (but as with Gwen, not used properly) and I liked the humanised version of Flint Marko, a petty hoodlum, but one driven to crime because he is desperate to find money for treatment for his ill daughter.

And the usual brace of cameos from Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell (as a brilliant French maitre’d from the Clueso school) and, of course, Stan the Man Lee. Enjoyable Saturday night movie, not brilliant but not bad, suffering mostly by comparison with the first two since we know they can do better than this. Here’s hoping Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is better (what is it with ‘part 3′s in movies this year?) – the second one was rather by the numbers and lacking heart, made me think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom compared to Raiders of the Lost Ark; bigger budget, the right set pieces and cast (apart from the female lead) but it lacked heart and felt like blockbuster by the numbers. Here’s hoping Pirates 3 is more Last Crusade then, so I can enjoy some damned fine swashbuckling.

License to be petty

British Airways proved how mature they were by editing the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale for in-flight screening on their fleet. Why did they make some edits? Well, they edited a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Richard Branson and also excised the tail fin of an aircraft with logo of Virgin Air glimpsed in the movie. I’m no fan of Branson (especially since his millionaire’s pissing contest with Murdoch means I don’t get to see certain programmes on cable anymore while he still demands the same amount of money from me for his company for a reduced service) but how damned petty is this? And just think, this is someone’s actual job. BA actually pays someone to make petty little cuts like this to in-flight movies. Perhaps if they left that to one side and employed more staff doing proper jobs they wouldn’t have the worst record in Europe for losing passenger’s baggage? Just a thought.