Friday, October 31, 2008

No blogging no cry

I find it fascinating, what a commitment a blog is. Not that I actually commit to mine, at any rate, but the amount of work that goes into making a good one. There's something of a chore to go into what is, basically, a forum thread that nobody is going to read. A yell into the cold vacuum of space made purely in good faith, again and again. I consider myself lucky to have but one regular reader, as it is quite conspicuous that certain blogs don't allow comments at all, presumably to give their tenders the illusion that a myriad souls gorge themselves on their proferred wisdom daily* through the sheer absence of evidence.+

I wouldn't consider this a good blog, but at the same time I would consider no blogs that I've seen (aside from YOA's Blog of the Unusually Pointless, naturally - aye, I am a suck-up) to actually be a good one. I mean, honestly, if I want to make myself feel good I just have to look at ANYONE elses blog basically. Three posts a month is amazing output from an average one, and I have to say that most posts that I've seen tend to be three sentences surmising to "Did you see that on telly last night?" or "You won't believe what a bloke in the hardware store said to me yesterday", as if a randomised collection of all the deliberately boring and unfunny exchanges in Seinfeld is what the average net-user hungers for deep in their loins.

So, for these reasons given my inability to post anything but a fairly lengthy essay/review or ill-informed rant, I am able to salve my conscience when the constant, unerring guilt of not updating my blog niggles at my brain... even when I have a ludicrous number of assingments overdue in TAFE. (Pretty much every day inbetween TAFE starting and finishing for the year..) There have been a few topics that I have been meaning to blog on, though, some going back months, so I shall briefly cover them...


Batman: WTF, Mate?

The Dark Knight is some way away from being the greatest film ever made. In fact, if you actually replaced the cast according to the table below, it would be some way away from being a good film..

REVISED CAST OF DARK KNIGHT
Bruce Wayne - Mark Wahlberg
The Joker - Chip Jamison
Harvey Dent - Chris Lily
Comm. Gordon - Gary Sweet
Token woman - Chris Lily/Rebel Wilson
Alfred - The reconstituted form of Frankie Howerd
Lucius Fox - Chris Lily in blackface
Scarecrow - Brian Croucher


Now, of course, the fact that making the most retarded casting decisions EVER would make for a bad film isn't exactly mind-blowing but think about it, aside from the fine work by Bale, Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, everysinglepersoninfrontofthecamera WHAT'S left in the film? The direction is solid, but not particularly good - the action sequences of the film are confusingly shot, washed out, and very brief. While the dialogue is mostly solid, the films plot fails to really hang together at all once you stop and think about it. The film is a collection of supsense drama setpieces, and isn't direction or writing that holds them together - it's just the actors.

Heath Ledger is a good example given that so much has been made of the late actor's take on the Joker - look at the actual lines he's given. They're, really, just bad guy lines. There's a thousand different ways that they could be delivered. An actor not as deep into the character as Ledger, not as interested in showing psychosis oozing out of his pores, and nobody would even comment on who played the part.

You don't have to look far for parts of the script that don't work - plotholes are everywhere. What the fuck is going on in that scene where Gordon fakes his death, apparently in the spur of the moment is a mystery that shall haunt me to my grave. The fact that nobody figures out who Batman is when his trip via Wayne Industries to Japan makes it oh-so obvious is a niggler. The small matter of HOW you can create a sonar map of an entire city through rewiring the citizen's mobile phones from a single computer, WHEN all said citizens are in one isolated area of the city trying to escape is nearly as baffling as the matter of how to hardwire this data into your own eyeballs. The revelation that Two Face is going to be in the next film in spite of a) the fact that he's dead, b) police are on the scene immediately to confirm that he is dead, c) his funeral is in the final scene, scarcely comes as a surprise after pondering this curious details.

The incredibly bizarre result is that we have a Batman film that is best enjoyed on the level of dialogue between good actors. I know, what is the world coming to?


Wanted is fucking awesome

In comparison, the soon-to-be-obscure movie Wanted, in which Mr Tumnus learns how to bullet-dodge, is the purest form of action movie, brought to cinema screens by the same completely insane Russian dude who made the Night Watch films - I think it says something for the original that I have met two different people who couldn't make it all the way through, asked me how it ends, and after I struggled my way through an explanation of the plot they stared at me in blank confusion and that was the end of the conversation. That said, you have to love a film that closes with the villain imploring the hero to hit him, and the hero screaming his head off and punching him over and over again into the credits. Well, judging by their reaction not necessarily, but, hell, it's cool.

The plot of Wanted is completely irrelevant. That dude who plays Mr Tumnus learns that he is the Chosen One, which in this scenario means The Most Kick-Arse Assassin Ever Born, and is given a gun and told to shoot people. He does this. A lot. He is given the assignment to kill Man Who Killed His Father. He does this.

Some wusses would make that the end of the film. But if that was the case then there would be waaay too many characters who could be killed left alive. So to maximise the sheer level of carnage he discovers Man Who Killed His Father is actually just His Father, and then goes back and kills the ENTIRE secret order of Assassins in glorious bloody revenge, involving a dump truck filling with rats strapped with explosives.

Oh, yeah, spoilers.

It is impossible watching the film not to think that it is either a brilliant comedy satirising modern society's excess, or an experiment to create the ultimate action movie experience through ODD levels of cheesy dialogue, macho attitude, senseless violence and ridiculous spectacle.

Some people may remember back to the days of French Connection, when having a gun-weilding murderer on a train was dramatic enough. Wanted has two. But this isn't enough, so there's a third following the train, who wants to kill them both. To do this, she crashes her car into the train. Which makes a screw come loose in the trains wheel and forces the train to crash. Over a bridge above an impossibly high ravine. Which collapses. So all three have to fight their way through tumbling train carriage after tumbling train carriage. All that's missing is aliens showing up at the end, it is INSANE.

Of the two theories, though, I lean more towards comedy. Angelina Joelie has a massive automatic rifle on a hinge with a camera mounted, linked to a monitor by the trigger so she can see where she's shooting. Morgan Freeman's death is played for laughs. When Mr Tumnus slams a keyboard into his arsehole 'best friend's face, naturally the letters 'F', 'U', 'C', 'K', 'Y', 'O', and 'U' are the ones to come flying off directly at the camera, along with a gracefully spinning tooth.

Watching this film, in the same week as I did The Dark Knight, I could not help but feel that if they were somehow cross-pollenated, then you would have the ultimate movie. As it is, we have a bizarre spandex character piece and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with grievous bodily harm. Go figure, Western civilization.


The AVs suck

Everyone who talks up the AVs needs to take that shit back. But then it could have just been Nick Briggs doing it, I don't know. But their reputation has been DISGUSTINGLY inflated.

To be fair, there are some good stories. Most need another round of script-editing, though, end too quickly, and they are spoilt by Nick Brigg's Doctor and the companions, all of whom are useless free-loading wankers.

Makes me appreciate


Big Finish

*Sigh*, yes I should really finish off talking about PMG's stuff. How's this for a quick run-through:

Terra Firma - Interesting continuity but borderline masterpiece
Fraidy Cat - Like having your mind suffocated in sleeping pills.
The one in the Cube - Like that but worse.
Time Works - Yeah, pretty good.
Other Lives - Headscratcher
Memory Lane - File it under "I-can't-believe-this-was-actually-good". Seriously, it was ace. Loved it. I'M NOT BEING SARCASTIC, OKAY, IT'S REALLY GOOD!
Absolution - WTF?
The Girl Who Never Was - HAW! WERKUM TA SINGAH-PAWWWWW!


The next on my list of "Holy shit, this is good!" is Brave New Town. Just... wow. Auton audio story, I filed it under 'shithouse' immediately. But it's right up there with Paul's best!


So...what about the DWADs?

What about them? I really have no idea if I said anything about listening to them at all. Probably. I do stupid stuff like that often. But, no, not listened to any of them at all.


And Ashes to Ashes?

God, do you know hard it is to sit through an episode of that? No? Oh, it's really, really hard.


But... Arrested Development

Amazed to discover that the press about a show is accurate. Well, there's a big chunk that's inaccurate, because apparently the makers of this show are under the delusion that it's a Games/Office style mockumentary masterpiece, often making weird comments like "It's a documentary... it IS a documentary!". Presumably a documentary about actors given scripts filled with catty insults and double entendres but, hey, anyway...

Yes, this show is... well, the best American comedy since Frasier. Or, if you hated that, the best one since Seinfeld. Or if you hated THAT, the best one since M*A*S*H. If you hated that... erm... well, the first ever good American comedy. But then you'll probably hate it anyway and declare a fatwah on them all.

I can't really go into what's great about it, because American's only really know how to do one type of comedy right and that's farce. It doesn't matter if it's Malcolm in the Middle, Just Shoot Me!, The Office: An American Workplace, Scrubs or any of the ones that I mentioned above, the reason that they work is because it's all farcical larger than life characters in identical situations. AD is brilliant at this because it has the most functionally abnormal people in television struggling to deal with plot twists too bizarre to appear in most soap operas.

I fucking LOVE it and am quite sad that there's no more episodes to watch.

Finally... Doktor Cube

Ewen mentioned it the other day and reminded me of it's existence. What the hell?


EPISODE 9: FALLOUT-AT-140
Previously on Doktor Cube: "Here I come."
With a flash of trans-dimensional energy, a great white streak of
trans-dimensional energy seared through the sky, cutting away at the
70% industrial grade purple clouded sky. And with a roar from 8-BALL's
uranium titanium einsteinium coated mercury, the Doktor materialised,
AK pointing towards his destination above the pyramid, and began to
fall towards his destination. As the great purple mass opened up
beneath him he gained sight of his target and saw that a great army of
rain drops were losing the race to the roof of the plutonium titanium
marble laced temple roof.
As he descended at 140kph, the Doktor couldn't help but reflect on the
events which had led up to the present moment, 400ft above the temple.
What had happened after his mental blankout, sending him to Bon Ist
Tas Taion station was ever a mystery to him. The last thing he
remembered was the swedish "Protector" communicating to him to old
liquid smooth Polish. And then suddenly, things began to make sense…
as to just what the hell had happened.
The Doktor hit the previously analysed temple rooftop and created a
shockwave which rocked the outer three layers of marble lace. As he
hit, he spread the kickback throughout his body to focus in his AK, in
which the warp core sent it back to holding tanks back in 8-BALL's
super secret clandestine facility. The Dr walked over to the side of
the temple and extended his vision 32.5x with his CUBE vision. Looking
down into the wilderness, he could see the red points created by high
tensity focused laser pointers, no doubt created by undetectable TWO
clone snipers, perched in their trees, waiting for Dr Cube to appear…
by brilliant tactical planning, the Dr had not taken the ground route.
Firing his AK three times, 17 bodies fell limp 2.5 metres to the
ground, high powered magnum rifles in tow. Immediately afterward in
response, 498 TWO clone foot soldiers flowed from various points in
the temple wall, to begin mowing down anything in site, moving or non
moving, which stood over 6 mm from the ground. Very precise, thought
the Dr, but ultimately worthless. Apparently it was in fact remotely
possible that TWO had been stupid enough to leave his airways
unguarded.
"Apparently I was correct in assuming that you would come here, Dr Cube!"
The Doktor reversed his angle by 180 degrees and launched an RPG from
his AK at a 129 k velocity, just fast enough to put his weapons
supplier off balance when he dodged the carefully timed shot. "Damn
you Cube, you will pay for this insolence! I provided your hardware
for longer than I can remember… now what could that mean? Am I even
human? HAHAHAHAHA! Good bye, Cubey." The Doktor responded, in harsh
various Polish dialects. "You betrayed me. The trigger mechanism was
faulty… and now its up to me to show you how they're built correctly!"
Firing off explosive tip rounds off of his AK the Doktor cart wheeled
on his right thumb and forefinger to the right, using his other
fingers on the same hand to wedge an RPG in the roof tiles of the
temple. The weapons engineer produced an M-249 SAW heavy machine gun,
and slapped a belt of ammunition into place on the side. By this time,
the Dr had already expended his first clip of ammunition into the
plasma shields protecting the engineer and reloaded, all on schedule.
As the engineer let loose a barrage of destruction following the
ground where the Doktor had previously been standing 2.536 seconds
before, the Doktor whirled around and propelled the empty AK cartridge
at the RPG which then detonated. The resulting explosion caused a
build up of energy in the grooves between tiles of the temple roof,
which caused a massive uranium based reaction, and the tiles
superheated then moved in every direction against each other. Shards
were propelled in every direction, as the shockwave blew in every
direction creating a massive crater digging through multiple layers of
the pyramid. The Doktor launched an RPG down into the expanding blast,
which detonated, and then used the warp core to begin absorbing the
smaller energy at a manageable level, then as the threshold expanded
took on the greater power of the uranium/marble lace reaction,
allowing him to descend with ease down into the crater, where the limp
form of the weapons engineer now lay dying.
He spoke. "It doesn't matter Cube… it's not like you have your revenge
on me yet… or your revenge at all for that matter… I am not even the
real weapons engineer…" "What the hell are you talking about." "I am
simply a creation by your mind, manifested by TWO's technology, to try
and detur you from doing anything to his temple, he wants to kill you,
he wants so badly…" "Then you don't know where the real you is?" "No,
but YOU know that he isn't responsible…" "What?" "Some part of you
knows…some part…it's your mind putting the pieces together… find the
protecter… that's where you will get your answers…" And then the
manifestation faded away. Looking around, the Dr saw that he had
violently laid wast to the upper 16 levels of the Mayan temple
pyramid. He had now descended into what looked like the primary
communications chamber. Whilst outside of the pyramid, 8-BALL's
technology was highly accurate, mapping out a great deal of the area
which excellent detail. Inside the pyramid however, according to
8-BALL, it was left to his scenario probability programs, which
created very vague schematics, in the form of the Aboriginal flag,
which a purple sky, green each, and a triangle instead of a circle to
represent the pyramid. 8-BALL had drawn his own schematic onto the
napkin however, and provided it to Cube before leaving. Opening the
"map", Cube gained an approximation of the dimensions of the temple.
It was taller than the ground, did not touch the sky, and had 147
levels, 102 of which extended underground. There were seemingly
computers everywhere which were hardwired into the main system.
Putting a silencer onto his AK to maintain a stealthy entrance, the Dr
walked through the still smoking hole in the wall and took note of all
the TWO clones focused at the communication panels, attempting to
co-ordinate the gathering army of two clones outside the building. The
Dr shot one and the rest remained oblivious, unable to hear due to the
headsets preventing sound penetration. The Dr lifted the headset off
of the dead body and put it on. He yelled into the headset "PAY
FUCKING ATTENTION! YOUR WORKMAT E IS KILLED, THIS IS A WORKPLACE
HAZARD!" After they all turned around in mortal fear, the Doktor added
"Where is the – " looked at napkin notes "BAD MAINFRAME n SHIT." They
all pointed towards the lift. Having had bad experiences with lifts
recently the Doktor exiled them to the smoking crater. He walked over
to the lift and pressed the button. Almost immediately the lift
arrived. The door slid open, and the lift was empty. Reloading his AK,
the Dr stepped into the lift and examined the buttons. Pressing the
one labled "TWO's SHIT, DO NOT NICK" the lift doors closed. As the
lift started to move, the Dr looked to his right and saw ONE standing
next to him. "I don't suppose there is any point in killing you, just
another manifestation, yes?" "Say it again Doktor, this time in Norse.
No, there is no point. But then is there ever?" "You tell me, One."
"You know that destroying TWO will help me Doktor. The numerical power
in his reputation as a master controller of the internet earns him
much. Is helping me what you want to do?" "Your time will come TWO."
"Sooner than you think… and believe the me in you, you figured that
out from the moment we last departed." The lift doors opened. "See you
soon Doktor."
Stepping out of the lift, the Doktor saw a white room, with a single
computer with a desk and a seat in the middle of the room. The walls
which seemed to stretch off into the distance in every direction…
using his CUBE vision, the Doktor saw that there was but one path to
the desk, which curved the room twice on this side of the desk before
reaching jumping distance of the chair. On either side of the walkway
were great pits of oblivion, shining shades of dark purples and
greens, and the computer appeared to be make of a bone-like calcium
based substance… the other side of the desk appeared to be static...
Disabling his cube vision the Doktor made his way along the path from
memory and was making his way around to the computer desk the Dr was
able to jump to the near side of the desk using a series of carefully
timed manipulations of TWO's world physics engine. After landing on
the near side of the platform on which the desk was located, the Dr
carefully walked around the desk towards the other side. As he came
closer to the computer's screen it almost seemed to be bending away
from him, as though it was trying not to let him see it… As Cube
finally crossed to the other side of the desk he came into complete
view of the screen. There was a white piece of paper taped onto the
screen, it had wrote on it: "WRONG COMPUTER- OUT OF ORDER- NICE TRY
DOKTOR"
The Doktor looked up, but the elevator doors had disappeared… and the
room began to stutter with static, as if it was loosing reception.
Looking once again at the computer the writing on the note had changed…
"SO DOKTOR, YOU HAVE ALREADY MET THE MANIFESTATION IN IT'S IMPERSONATED FORM."
"Yes, I have. It is only manifestations from my own mind, nothing I care for…"
He looked away and back, and the note had changed again.
"THE MANIFESTATION IS NOT TWO'S CREATION. YOU SEE NOT EVERYTHING YOU
REMEMBER IS NOT EVERYTHING YOU KNOW."
"The train station… lost memories… what of it?"
"THE MANIFESTATION CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH THESE ANSWERS, THEY ARE KEY TO
DEFEATING TWO."
"Then tell me."
"THE MANIFESTION MUST SHOW YOU. YOU MAY NOT SURVIVE… YOU DO NOT
REMEMBER LIVING THESE."
"Very well. If it will help me defeat TWO… then show me."
"PREPARE YOURSELF"
And with that the static faded out everything and the room then turned
to black. All the Doktor could hear was the sound of his own
breathing. And CUBE vision only showed black inverted.
He reloaded his AK with explosive tip, RPG and charged his warp core,
straightened his coat, adjusted his armour, and waited…
The first memory was re-awoken.
NEXT: TOTAL RECALL


*'Wisdom' there can be replaced with 'irrelevant anecdotes about Power Rangers'.
+Not universally, though. I mean, it's fairly safe to assume that Larry Miles doesn't activate comments out of fear of 12 million posts of "TWAT!!!"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Double the Fist... what was all THAT about?

Since House Party circumstances and a lack of enthusiasm have meant that I haven't been able to stay up on Friday for an episode of Double the Fist, and so I've watched them all today and yesterday when my brother gave me a copy. I've said for a while that, due to the intense weirdness of the current series and the fact that it's gone all story arc, I wasn't entirely sure if I liked it yet, and would rather wait for the last episode. Having seen the last episode, I'm still clueless.

The reason I became a fan of DTF is simple. It's funny - it takes the strange idea of what it takes to be a 'real man' in a modern testocracy, willful ignorance and fearlessness of lobotomal levels, to an even greater extent wherein the idea of performing stunts with the explicit intent of hurting yourself seriously, often fatally. Perfectly demonstrated when the 'weak' magician becomes 'fistworthy' by locking himself in a cabinet in a straight jacket he doesn't have the key for, having it set on fire and pushed down a hill so he can jump over a roundabout. Without actually having the cabinet on wheels and not being any kind of escape artist. Heh.

The latest series, though, feels like it has a whole different agenda. So much work has gone into the writing that I've been quite taken aback. So much work has gone into writing it, I would go so far as to say, that they've barely worked on making it funny.

I have a theory for why this is the case - the featurette on the volume 2 DVD, "How To Make Double The Fist" recounts in quite a lot of detail how dejected the team felt in the aftermath of their well-deserved AFI award win for Best Comedy. Why? Because as I remember all too well it caused an endless tide of bitching from TV gliteratti wannabes like Michael Idato, mindlessly saying that nothing could beat Kath & Kim and that the awards were thus a joke. And, as the team notes, some of the hacks went so far as to trash DTF even though their comments made it clear they'd never so much as seen an episode of the show. In their words, if you won an award for being the best carpenters in the country, you'd have no trouble getting work. But they did. After DTF was over, they didn't get renewed, they weren't invited back and Doug "Mephisto" Bayne was forced to whore himself out to The Chaser.

So now, after several years and a change in the ABC upper echelon towards a slightly less weak, spineless and/or canine configuration, when these talented mofos actually get the second series that they so rightfully deserved... they have something to prove. Even though the strength of the show is in brief, self-contained sketches with machine-gun absurdism and SFX-aided pratfalling, they want to show that they're better writers than anyone else in the country (A pretty easy feat for these guys, really, but it's one way to get noticed). At the same time, though, this means that DTF goes from being "An extreme lifestyle program" to... well, the most fucked up sci-fi ever. Complete with nu-skool character development, flashbacks, story arcs and whatnot.

But the thing is, to be truly Fist it all needs to be completely retarded. For example, Steve is given a shitload of character development, but break it down... trying to run a successful furniture company selling goods that indiscriminately kill the owners is an epic failure which gives him a full nervous breakdown, leading him to wire his fans with explosives and give the team impossible orders, ala Hitler In The Bunker. He then murders his best friend, realises his mistake, and retreats from civilisation, meeting a band of man-loving hermits who teach him to feel emotion. This journey makes him a changed man... until he learns that he has EATEN the corpse of his best friend and finds himself more assured than ever that the Fist is the only true way so massacres the entire tribe and decides to kill the Monks that taught him in an act of Oedipal rage involving tossing a small flower across the room. He uses their time-bending chainsaw to travel back in time and kill Captain Cook, reclaiming Australia for himself - however, he is essentially betrayed by EVERYONE in his team. After screaming in desperation to Womp that he loves him, which leads to the day being saved, he then shoots Womp in the head to cover up what can only be assumed to be repressed homosexuality and declares him the arch enemy of his new totalitarian empire.

And... I'm clueless as to what this is meant to achieve. We learn a lot about Steve Foxx... but did I want to? He's just a psychopathic fat guy in flannelette who gives the Fist Team their orders, right? Do I need to know any more than that? It's my view that this a comedy, and so writing for the characters should have entertaining the audience as its perogative and not really anything else if we're trying to make this an American style /drama show.

That's not to say that NONE of it is funny. I defy anyone to not laugh at "The way of the flower!", and the flashback scene to teenaged Steve and Rod playing at the empty canals was gut-bustingly funny, mostly due to flawless casting. But.. most of it isn't. In fact a lot of it, like the death scene of Panda, followed by the heartbroken scream of "THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR TRYING TO MAKE PEOPLE BETTER!" and a demand that he be burned on her funeral pyre, left me staring at the screen in dumb shock at what had just unfolded. I don't know, maybe the fact that the character was just whichever cast member wasn't on camera pissing around in a rented panda suit was meant to make the ultra-dramatic killing-off of a character funny, but said castmember-in-panda-suit was a big part of the show. It's like a symbolic burning of the bridge in terms of style..

The big problem, though, is that the arc dominates the series utterly and doesn't really have a satisfying pay-off. Again, maybe I'm missing the point and the idea is that it's a parody of sci-fi arcs, but this doesn't really come across. And I consider this quite a serious problem given the fact that TIMESAW is probably the best episode the show has done, with a brilliant premise, but can't really be watched or enjoyed without having seen three previous weeks' of shows, and ending with a lot of issues unresolved that you need to watch the underwhelming finale to appreciate.

I've said for a while that I'd have to see the final episode of the season to know whether I actually liked the series or not. Turns out I was wrong because I still have no idea what to think about it. I want to stress, though, the final episode is not bad. It's just ten times more bewildering than anything else in the show due to being roundabout 100% arc rather than the usual far more comfortable 50%.

Anyway, a quick summary of all the awesome stuff in the show that I wish had been used without the plot.


Episode 1: Mephisto's vampire slaves, Shauno the Naughty Hypnotist (also Rod's nemesis)
Episode 2: Bruce Spence as a shapeshifting dinosaur, Tara, the council worker's Autobot, ghost pokemon
Episode 3: Insane elf slaves, evil Swedish furniture makers, Tara doing accounts, international travel through jet-mounted lounges
Episode 4: CRACKBOT!!! And the text adventure bit, "The website came through this cable, we can find it by following it!"
Episode 5: Everything to do with the house party. Everything. Especially Rod getting raped and "A thousand lasers!"
Episode 6: Ballistic Man, the world losing gravity when it stops turning, Mephisto fishing for dolphins, the way of the flower, "One of us always tells the truth.." "The sky's yellow!"
Episode 7: Just about fucking everything, but especially the 3D chess game and Joseph Banks being an X-Man.
Episode 8: Everything to do with the Medieavals, especially the tapestry theme for the episode and Mephisto finally being awarded Double Fist for making the most retarded plan since Baldrick retired.


I guess I have no right to complain looking at the above list, because it's all moments of insane brilliance that you get on no other show on television... but I can't help but think that trying to give the series weight has confused the mix, and taken a joyfully frivolous show and turned it into an improbably surreal one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Mummy III - An Amazing Cinematic Experience!

As in "you will be amazed that this shit got made".

Firstly, I have to admit that I haven't actually seen any of the other films in the series and my first disappointment with this film was discovering that it wasn't revolving around a Rogue Assassin-style showdown between Jet Li and The Rock, but rather Brendan Fraser screaming and falling arse over tit endlessly versus Jet Li. Then actually seeing the film and finding out that Jet Li may as well not even be in the film because of the fact that his character is 100% CGI for just about the whole thing. They should have just paid the fucker for licensing rights.

Like a lot of recent 'epics' the film opens in storybook mode, with a voice-over artist giving us as simplistic and condescending a recount as possible of the strange backstory. The Dragon Emperor of the subtitle is Jet Li playing some dude named Han, mystifyingly portrayed as China's first emperor and builder of the Great Wall instead of Q'in - come on guys, this isn't exactly obscure historical fact here! Anyway, once he's done with enslaving all of Asia Han bitches that, despite seemingly being a fresh-faced thirty year old, he's going to die before he has a chance to fuck up even more enemies, so tells his loyal servant General Ming the Merciless to fetch him the secret of immortality in his lunchbreak. If the Zapp Brannigan/Kif nature of this relationship had been examined more this could have been a watchable film.

Anyway, in a plot twist that will shake you to your very core, the witch who is meant to guard the secret of immortality is actually a hot chick. ZOMG how novel. Also, she doesn't actually know where the secret of immortality is. So, er, not a good start. But then she promises she'll go to her local library and see if they've got anything on it. After a short while and falling in love with Ming, she finds some scrolls that give very detailed instructions on how to find immortality! Score! Han is so happy he repays her by tearing Ming apart and trying to murder her. Fortunately our witch knows the 'turn-entire-city-to-clay' spell and casts it to fuck Han up good and proper. The voice-over tells us that he will never be free until McGuffin A is brought to Setpiece B, which will surely NEVER HAPPEN.

The viewer is launched forward in time to Oxford in 1946 where Rick O'Connor (Brendan Fraser), some dude who apparently considers himself to be just below Richard Sharpe in terms of arsekicking quotient, is trying to live the life of a retired landed gentry, but infact simply creating that of a retarded landed gentry. With a little less of the gentry. It's at this moment a viewer with more than a cursory knowledge of how film is meant to work (ie me) will notice that the storybook style of the early scenes isn't going away. I'd say on average the length of a scene in this film would be about 50 seconds - we open in Oxford with quite a potentially funny scene featuring Fraser trying to fly fish for the first time and underdoing a series of brutally injuring mishaps before giving up and pull out a pistol and going postal. Trouble is, this 'scene' goes about 20 seconds, literally, edited as if by someone with ADHD.

The same with a scene where Rick and his wife (now played by the biotch from A History of Violence rather than the one from Enemy at the Gates) have dinner, the one where his wife gives a book reading for her pot-boiler mummy 'novel', and a scene where his wife's undergoing writer's block. And decides to jump up on a table and wave a sword around madly. This one particularly shows the problem with these bits - she's interrupted, naturally, by their impossibly stuffed shirt of a crotchety butler coming in and is horribly embarassed... only the butler just walks out again. Was he playing hide and seek with the scullery maid? No, it's just the two writers who bashed this dross out were seriously unable to think of anything for him to say. Such as "Mr Connor has returned from his fishing expedition" or "Dinner is ready" - wow, isn't that hard, is it?

Likewise have the Ministry of Defense bloke show up during Rick's fishing trip and, well, probably ditch the dinner bit because you move Evey's material forward to introduce the character - ideally have the opener to the England scenes being the book reading itself to keep the mummy theme palpable, segue straight into the writer's block scene which will be longer and illustrate the dissatisfaction with retired life between the couple. Look at this - I'm doing re-writes that any script editor should have been looking at TWO YEARS ago. No money for one of those guys in a multi-hundred-million dollar film??

But then I'm not the only one to notice this. Wikipedia informs me that the reason why Rachel Weisz (that beautiful raven haired lady who mystifyingly hasn't been given a role in DW despite asking for one - she's Romana III, people!) didn't appear in this film was given as "problems with the script". She's gone up in my estimations, and she wasn't exactly low in them to begin with.

Wikipedia also told me what some of the problems with the script are that I wasn't able to pick up on my own... Rick and Evey have a son named Alex, working in China with a certain Professor Roger Wilson. The mission they are given by nameless Ministry of Defense guy is simply to deliver disgustingly valuable big-arse crystal to Wilson - they're happy to do this because even though Wilson is a former cutthroat treasure hunter they've crossed swords with in the past, he's since gone on the straight and narrow. And then he betrays them!

Naturally, when watching this I assumed that this was all hangover from prequels. But... no, not at all. Alex and Roger have NEVER appeared before this film. Yes, they've tried to pull a Timelash*, always the sign of a weaker writer. As for Alex, it's hard not to feel like they're trying to rip off Indiana Jones even more by giving Brendan Fraser a college-aged son with attitude just like Harrison Ford got. Only difference being that Harrison Ford is actually the right age to have a twenty year old son, and Shia LaBeouf's Mutt Williams was actually funny, likeable, and wasn't disturbingly fixated on stealing the limelight. And for Christ's sake, of all the films to try and steal material from..

It was at this stage the film was almost getting away with it's crap, and for completely the wrong reason. DAVID CALDER! Yes, Nathan Spring from Star Cops, everybody's favourite acerbic and burnt out bald pommy guy was playing Wilson. Like all the best actors he made the characterisation himself and used brilliant delivery to cover up the impossibly bad dialogue that he was given. He shows up everyone else in the film furiously, and I was beyond upset when he got killed about half an hour in.

From here the film got worse. How much worse? So much worse I don't know how much worse. I walked out. Of a cinema. That's something I never do. If it's at home, I'll give up on a film (Especially if it's called Kingdom of Heaven), but a film at the cinema is a fiscal commitment I don't take lightly, and I intend to be entertained once there. This time I was at a disadvantage due to the fact that I was seeing it alone and thus unable to MST the film for my amusement - I'd gone for a nightout and my other friends wanted to see The House Bunny. A herd of wild horses would be unable to get me into that cinema, and when I saw the trailer for that hilarity vacuum in my own session I was relieved to be reminded that I'd made the right decision. Even though Eagle Eye would probably have been right-er.

Of course, an additional detail is that after I walked out I had to walk back in again, because their film wasn't done yet. Sigh. I walked out a second time in the climactic battle scene and that was thankfully for keeps. What is it with Pirates of the Caribbean-style battles now? Army full of clay dudes versus emaciated skeletons? Neither of them are alive, who the fuck's meant to win???

I haven't gone into much detail here, because frankly very little is needed. I could describe the film at length, but that would be pointless because every problem stems from one thing - the script. I wouldn't say it feels like a first draft. It feels like a brainstorm with dialogue from a couple of stoners. Do not watch this film unless you want an instruction of what not to do. Unless you have seen this film. In which case..

I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. Watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to cheer yourself up.


*In case you're reading this blog and AREN'T an obsessive Doctor Who fan, Timelash is a really, really, really, really bad story with a few more reallys in which the bad guy, Magellan** is a guy who the Doctor met and supposedly defeated in a previous adventure. That never happened on screen. And is referred to constantly. 'Endlessly' constantly. Like, more than I refer to tits in this blog. I am serious.

**No, not that Magellan.