Archive for July, 2010

Superhero Catchphrases

July 18, 2010

Grant Morrison, tense with catchphraser's block

Sorry agoraphobia fans: I have been culpably inactive on the writing front. Here’s an inadequate wisp of an entry to tide you over until Season 4 of The Agoraphobic Reviewer hits TV screens in September.

Everyone has a catchphrase these days: nuns, hairdressers, miners. I haven’t decided on a catchphrase yet, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to “Shingles!” and “Thank God it was Roger” (I’ll let you know which I settle on). But back before everyone else got on the catchphrase bandwagon, the only people keeping the noble art of catchphrasing alive were superheroes. Here are some of my favourites (write your own in the comments section):

Superman: “Satan’s horses are strong. But Superman is stronger”.

Red Kryptonite Superman: “Stick it in your ear Lois”

Spiderman: “Back to the Arachno-Pod!”

Fantastic Four: (said in unison) “No-one messes with El Cuatro!”

Batman: “Take heart, young man”

Captain America: “Here come the sanctions”

The Flash: “Hold on to my magical hamstrings, children”


Watership Down 2: Rab-bot’s Revenge

July 4, 2010

Sequels are difficult things. Will the sequel retain the pace, spirit or charm of the original? Will it be sufficiently different from its predecessor to justify its existence? Will the characters and storyline of the first be meaningfully developed in the second film?

The writer and director of Watership Down 2: Rab-bot’s Revenge has clearly pondered these questions. He has clearly lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling, deeply interrogating his motives and vision for the film. Evidently he has sat at his desk, head cradled in his hands, searching within himself for the answers.

The writer and director of Watership Down 2, searching within himself for the answers.

And then, the writer and director of Watership Down 2: Rab-bot’s Revenge has clearly thrown all of these questions into the bin (a metaphorical bin, not an actual bin as might be made of plastic, or steel, or wicker-work) and made the film anyway. I didn’t get the number 18 bus into town, where I didn’t pass through the foyer of the large multi-screen cinema, past the large posters bearing the sad, pallid, haystack face of Robert Pattison, past the popcorn (sweet and salty), overpriced bags of Jelly Babies and medium drinks. I didn’t purchase my ticket, didn’t enter the darkened auditorium, and didn’t see this film. Here is my review.

“General Woundwort was never seen again. But it was certainly true, as Groundsel said, that no one ever found his body, so it may perhaps be that after all, that extraordinary rabbit really did wander away to live his fierce life somewhere else and to defy the elil [enemies] as resourcefully as ever” (Richard Adams, Watership Down (London: Penguin, 1974), p. 477).

So reads the Epilogue to Watership Down, and so ends the first film. No one ever found Woundwort’s body. But what if his body had been found? Such is the premise of Watership Down 2: Rab-bot’s Revenge.

Woundwort’s injured body is discovered by a renegade veterinarian who takes him back to the laboratory and, through many hours of labour, painstakingly rebuilds him. So much the better to defeat the elil, the veterinarian rebuilds him as stronger, faster, more fearsome than before. He creates a cyber-rabbit. A rab-bot, as the title punningly states. This rabbit has legs of steel, lasers for eyes and craps grenades.

Woundwort returns to the now-thriving and co-operative Watership-Efrafan warren. He looks about with disgust and disdain at the cheerful scene. A young buck lops by, happy in the warmth of the sun and the verdant grass. Woundwort powers up his lasers. Pew! Pew! Within seconds, the young rabbit is a small heap of smouldering carbon. Woundwort moves on towards one of the many entrances to the warren. He positions himself strategically, and fires a couple of grenades into the opening. Holy cow! Soil and the corpses of dead rabbits fly up into the air.

The film continues in this vein, and is by all accounts a worthwhile action flick if somewhat lacking in depth and profundity. The animation, being CGI, is more polished than the original, and lacking some of its wistful charm. However, the kick-ass SFX more than make up the difference. You want explosions? You got explosions. After all, isn’t shit being blown up what any movie-goer asks for in a film? Indeed, the original starts to look inferior for its sheer lack of red-hearted, smoke-billowing detonations. Sure, the plotline of Watership Down 2: Rab-bot’s Revenge is a little weak in places, and by that we mean it is entirely non-existent, but this takes the very essence of the original and boils it right down to the bare bones. It doesn’t sugar coat it, nor (thank God) include any instances of the Brillo-haired Art Garfunkel singing ‘Bright Eyes’. This is a film about survival and about having balls. Balls made of reinforced concrete. Balls you could cut diamonds with. It doesn’t pull any punches. It defies the inevitable wrath of the animal rights activists, some of whom have already delayed the film’s release by beating the writer and director to a pulp outside his home (an ironic event, given that the writer and director is in fact a chimpanzee – see image above).

All in all, this is wholesome family entertainment, and sure to be a hit with the kids and grandma alike. I give it conkers out of ten.

The Colour of Money

July 2, 2010

Yesterday someone asked me if I’d seen Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Colour of Money’. I said yes, then ran away. The joke was on them, though. I hadn’t seen it at all. Tee hee hee. I do love a good prank. Here is my review of ‘The Colour of Money’:

‘The Colour of Money’ belongs to the noble tradition of ‘Rain Man’, ‘I am Sam’ and ‘Forrest Gump’. It stars Tom Cruise as an endearingly handicapped man, who, in spite of his handicap, or perhaps because of it, succeeds in brightening up the lives of the normal people around him. Dustin Hoffman provides support as Cruise’s brother, Brucie, fulfilling the clause in the Rain Man contract stipulating that he would have to ‘play the normal’ in his next film, and that Cruise would ‘get to be the disabled [sic] this time’.

When we meet Cruise’s character, Teddy Redbrown, in the first scene, his condition is undisclosed. Through the subtle inclusion of understated cues by the director, however, we begin to suspect that there is something compellingly wrong with Teddy. Note his khaki shorts pulled up to his ribs. Mark his child’s combover. Observe the way he says “Hi I’m Teddy” and sticks his hand out rigidly in a sort of actor’s approximation of a child’s approximation of an adult greeting. See how he squints at traffic lights in anxious perplexity. Teddy seems to tick every box on the movie checklist: he is really shaping up to be a Classic Hollywood Savant! I can’t wait to see what kind of scrapes he will get into! (contd. below the picture)

Tom Cruise's acting in 'The Colour of Money' was reputedly inspired by Al Jolson's performance in 'I am Sam' (pictured)

Sadly, the viewer’s (that is, my) high hopes prove (that is, proved) to be premature. Teddy’s handicap is decidedly underwhelming. He is colour blind. Screenwriters take note: this is really scraping the barrel as far as disabilities are concerned. Teddy’s distinct lack of a severe behavioural disorder and/or genetic condition make it very difficult for me to sympathise with him. A harsher critic might say that he is just a normal with defective eyes.

The plot of the film concerns Teddy’s quest to perceive the hue of an American dollar bill. “I got to know what colour that note is, Brucie” he implores, “I got to see the Colour of Money”. Brucie and Teddy set off on a road trip. Teddy finally gets to experience the vernal greenness of the dollar bill. But at the very moment that he learns what it is to be a normal, he loses all of his innocence. “We gotta go back, Brucie” he says. So they get in a time machine and go back to the time before Teddy was able to see the colour green. His innocence is successfully restored. The conclusion is somewhat confusing and inconsistent, but these are the vagaries of time travel, no?

I was very disappointed by this film. It promised to do a full Rain Man but it did no such thing. Who cares what the colour of money is? No one. Who cares how many matches fell on the floor? Everyone. Tom Cruise has the acting ability to play a convincing challenged person, but he is wasted on this film. His heart-rending squinting does little to render Teddy interesting to the sensitive and broad-minded viewer. The sensitive and broad-minded viewer knows that Teddy’s problem is only eye-deep, and so the sensitive and broad-minded viewer is thwarted in his attempt to feel sorry for him. The sensitive and broad-minded viewer deserves much better. Give us a savant we can get our teeth into, Hollywood.