Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random DVD Round-Up 5 - CJ7

 bully was picking on Eddie at school. Eddie just wants to massacre him.I LOVE Stephen Chow's films so much that I declared his previous movie, KUNG FU HUSTLE the greatest film ever made. The reason I made such an outlandish claim is that Chow's movie seem to distill the best of cinema as entertainment - from the slapstick and social engagement of Charlie Chaplin, to the stylish B-movie worship of Tarantino - and everything in between. Stephen Chow makes movies where reality is cartoonish but we still find ourselves crying tears of real emotion. He's a consummate entertainer and a great storyteller.

So it should come as no surprise that I LOVED Stephen Chow's latest movie CJ7. It shares KUNG FU's joyous blurring of the line between reality and fantasy - indeed, it embraces the idea that dreams can come true as its central tenet. And yet, this is a movie that is piercing in its satire of modern Chinese society with its dreams of quick success and big money.

The set-up is simple. Chow plays an honest, hard-working construction worker called Ti. Ti is one of the guys making China an economic super-power but he lives in a cockroach infested one room flat with his son Dicky, lives off plain rice and rotten fruit and works in hazardous conditions. In modern China, Ti recognises that an elite education is necessary for success, and scrimps and saves to send his beloved son Dicky to an elite private school. Of course, as all scholarship kids know, getting entry is not the same as being accepted. Dicky - with his second-hand shoes and grubby uniform - is an immediate target. When Dicky stumbles upon a cute, cool little alien he dreams of defeating bullies and winning school quizzes. It's the same dream of fantastic escape as harboured by the kids in ET and BHOOTNATH.

CJ7 beautifully balances earnest ideology with slapstick comedy and romance. Everyone can sympathise with the kid whose parents can't afford the "must-have" Christmas toy. Only Stephen Chow shows him stamping cockroaches on the kitchen wall in a game with his father as a touching act of familial bonding! Special credit should also go to Jiao Xu - who I am astonished to discover is actually a girl. As Dicky, she matches Chow in any of his roles as hero - showing real comic ability.

CJ7 was released in China, Australia and Hong Kong in January 2008; in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand in February; in the USA in March; in Sweden in April; in Japan in June; and in the UK and South Korea in August.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Random DVD Round-Up 4 - BHOOTNATH

Will Baron Greenback give up the ghost now that Dangermouse has defeated his monstrous collection of ghouls and spooks?BHOOTNATH is an earnest, entertaining, Bollywood movie about the relationship between a mischevious kid called Banky (Aman Siddiqui) and an irritable old ghost (Hindi: "bhoot") called Kailesh Nath (Amitabh Bachchan). Angry at his son's emmigration, the ghost of Kailesh Nath haunts his old house, successfully scaring off new tenants BEETLEJUICE-style. But Bhootnath meets his match in Banku, who isn't scared but charmed to have a cool "angel" who can do magic and sort out the school bullies! Of course, mum and dad (Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo role) soon realise that something's up, and in a syrupy preachy denouement force a reconciliation between Nath and his son. Still, for all that, BHOOTNATH remains a very watchable movie, ideal for family audiences. I normally have a very low tolerance for cute Hollywood/Bollywood kids but Aman Siddiqui is charming and suprisingly natural as Banku. Amitabh Bachchan looks like he's really having fun as the ghost, the special effects are great and the songs are staged well!

BHOOTNATH was released in April 2008.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Random DVD round-up 3 - HER NAME IS SABINE / ELLE S'APPELLE SABINE

Oh dear. I know I'm meant to be "deeply affected" by films like this but I just found it boring, repetitive and actually pretty exploitative. Famous French actress Sandrine Bonnaire has made a documentary about her younger sister Sabine. She inter-cuts footage of Sabine as a pretty young girl in chic Paris with contemporary footage of Sabine as a bloated, drugged woman, her life mired by autism. The film works best as an educational film on the dangers of incarceration in mental institutions. As a plea for understanding I found it manipulative.

ELLE S'APPELLE SABINE played Cannes 2007 and Berlin 2008. It was shown on French TV in 2007 and opened in Belgium, Greece, the UK, the Netherlands and Austria in 2008. It is available on DVD and opens in Germany on January 15th.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Random DVD round-up 2 - THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS aka ONE WOMAN'S STORY

Filmed after the superlative trilogy of BRIEF ENCOUNTER, GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST, David Lean's THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS is criminally overlooked. However, thanks to the British Film Institute, you can now watch it on restored DVD. Marvelous! The movie shows us what happens when two adults - passionately attracted but married to others - decide to rekindle an affair. Instead of abnegation, we have reckless indiscretion. And instead of a cuckold who patiently waits for his dutiful wife to return, we have a domineering, calculating husband who decides that he detests his wife. Moreover, he files for divorce naming both his wife and her lover. Given the period in which the movie was filmed, this would've been seen as a cruel (and yet bracingly honest?) act.

THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS sees David Lean in a quasi-Sirkian fit of expressionism. It contains a powerful central performance from Claude Rains as the cuckold and Trevor Howard is fine as the adulterer - pleading for a romantic love as opposed to a companionable compromise. If there is any fault with the film it's in the casting of Ann Todd as the wife - or rather in the fact that we never really understand how she's feeling. She remains enigmatic - a real flaw in a movie that's basically a series of character studies in extremis.

THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS was originally released in 1949. It is available on DVD, restored thanks to the British Film Institute.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Random DVD round-up 1 - A SECRET / UN SECRET

UN SECRET is an epic French true-life story set between the years of 1935 and 1985. It tells the story of how François Grimbert uncovered his family's secret past. We first meet François as a small boy in post-war France. He concocts a romantic tale of how his mother, a glamorous model (Cécile De France) and his father, an talented athlete (Patrick Bruel) met and married. He also concocts an imaginary brother who is as talented and athletic as his father, and can deflect the feeling of inferiority he feels. This issue of the imaginary elder brother provokes his parents, and François turns to family friend Louise (Julie Depardieu) for answers. She tells him the real story of his family and the movie deftly intertwines the pre-war and post-war years with "present day" footage of François and his father.

It turns out that François really did have an elder brother. Before the war, his father, Maxime, was married to Hannah Stirn (Ludivine Sagnier) and they had a son called Simon. When the occupation began, Hannah and her family identified with their fellow Jews, were nervous, and grudgingly wore the yellow star. By contrast, Maxime was as assimilationist. He refused to wear the star, thought the French would never turn on their own, and only fled to the safety of a village in extremis. This conflicting attitude toward racial identity causes conflict between Maxime and Hannah, but the real difficulty is Maxime's strong attraction to his sister-in-law Tania (François' mother). The secret at the heart of the movie concerns how Hannah reacts under the pressure of political terror combined with the fear of losing her husband, and how François' mother and father eventually got together after the war.

UN SECRET is a handsomely produced, intricately constructed, well-acted drama. I was surprised by how well the film-makers managed to keep up suspense and also by just how restrained they had been. The simmering passion between Maxime and Tania is shown by glances rather than crude gestures, (as, indeed, is Louise' homosexuality), and the mental disintegration of Hannah is very subtle - and brilliantly played by Ludivine Sagnier. The only slight mis-tep was a rather bizarre final scene in a pet cemetary and the rather anonymous role for Mathieu Amalric, who barely has anything to do.

UN SECRET was released in 2007 and 2008. It opens in Germany on December 18th and is available on DVD. UN SECRET was nominated for 11 Cesars, of which Julie Depardieu won Best Supporting Actress. It was beaten in most categories by LA MOME and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Overlooked DVD of the month - RESERVATION ROAD

I'm not sure why RESERVATION ROAD didn't get distribution in the UK but the good news is that it's available on DVD. It's a beautifully crafted, emotionally charged drama about the impact of a hit and run accident on the perpetrator and the victim's family. The perp - Mark Ruffallo - is a divorced father who doesn't stop because he's afraid that the legal ramifications will result in him losing his son. It's a cowardly but plausible action and the rest of the film is about the character working up the courage to confess. The victim's family - Jennifer Connelly and Joaquin Phoenix - are alienated from each other by the death. The father takes to stalking the road where the accident took place, photographing the plates of similar cars, trying to track down the killer. Eventually he realises that the perp is his lawyer. Some people have said that this seems convenient. But I think it's eminently plausible that when a devastating act hits a local community, the ties that bind are many and various.

RESERVATION ROAD is one of those films that takes its time and patiently investigates the emotional distress of its characters. The acting is raw and powerful - the ending suitably ambiguous. I love that for once we see both sides of a story and that the so called bad character - the hit and run driver - is shown to be just a typically flawed and frail man trying to be a good father. Mark Ruffalo deserves credit for his brilliant central performance. And as a straightforward investigation of grief this movie has far more honesty about it than something like THE THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE.

RESERVATION ROAD played Toronto 2007 and was released in 2007, though not in the UK. It is available on DVD.

Monday, November 24, 2008

MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL - not to my taste, but I can imagine Dane Cook fans having a great time

From, improbably, the director of PRETTY IN PINK, comes a gross-out romantic comedy. Jason Biggs (AMERICAN PIE) is typecast as the desperate loser whose girlfriend (Kate Hudson) dumps him. In a characteristically contrived set-up, he hires his best-friend - a sort of anti-HITCH - who takes girls on piss-poor dates so that they realise how nice they guys they just dumped were and ask to get back with them. Problem is, the anti-Hitch and the girl actually hit it off. What follows is a bi-polar movie. The first two-thirds are firmly in gross-out territory with lots of non-politically correct dating humour. In the final third, the movie loses its balls and flips into a typically schmaltzy rom-com. I don't particularly find Dane Cook's brand of whacky humour funny, and I certainly don't dig formulaic rom-com's so I pretty much hated this film. BUT I can perfectly envisage fans of Dane Cook really having a great time with this film. So it's basically an alpha-gamma review. This movie does what it does. It's not to all tastes, so think carefully before you go, and hopefully you'll have a good time either way!

MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL is on release in Greece, Hungary, Russia, Thailand, the US, the Philippines, Israel, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Belgium, Brazil, Iceland, Turkey, Spain, New Zealand, South Korea, Estonia, Finland, Poland and the UK. It opens in Portugal on November 27th and in Sweden on December 5th.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

BODY OF LIES - much like BLINDNESS, the Big Idea is way too obvious and ill-developed

Ridley Scott thinks his latest film, BODY OF LIES, has failed at the Box Office, because we, the movie-going public, are superficial assholes who'd rather watch MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL than be schooled about the War on Terror. Now, he may or may not be right about the public's desire to spend £15 hard-earned cash to be depressed into oblivion, but that doesn't change the fact that even by the standards of the genre, BODY OF LIES is a weak movie. SYRIANA failed through vaulting ambition; RENDITION was earnest but poorly made; perhaps the Meryl Streep/Tom Cruise in LIONS FOR LAMBS came closest to creating an interesting and intelligent discussion of these issues. BODY OF LIES never gets close to the dramatic tension and sheer brilliance of the best scenes in LIONS FOR LAMBS.

There are two big problems with this movie. First off, the point it's trying to make is blindingly obvious to everyone except, it would seem, the Bush and Blair administrations. People on the ground know far better what's actually going on than the policy-making big-wigs in Washington and Whitehall. Moreover, we'd have saved ourselves a whole bunch of heartache if someone had actually bothered to, you know, check some facts about WMD, and just Be Competent. Frankly, I don't need Ridley Scott to tell me this.

The second problem is that while Ridley Scott really wants to make a serious film about the War on Terror, his best intentions are trumped by his instincts to make yet another slick but unimaginative and pompous action flick. So yes, we do have two fine actors - Russell Crowe and Leo DiCaprio - facing off about how to bring terrorists to justice. Crowe's character embodies the banality of evil - ordering strikes while picking up groceries. DiCaprio is the conscience of the engaged liberal. There could've been a really great movie here. But instead we see good dialogue cut short by set piece action sequences.

So, basically, I think BODY OF LIES is a waste of time, with one exception: Mark Strong's superb, scene-stealing performance as the head of Jordanian intelligence - the man who runs rings around the CIA.

BODY OF LIES is on release in the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Canada, Indonesia, India, Russia, South Korea, Egypt, Serbia, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the UK. It opens next week in Argentina, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia and Finland. It opens in Sweden on December 5th, in Venezuela on December 19th and on Japan on December 20th.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

BLINDNESS - doesn't earn the right to include such graphic footage

BLINDNESS is an elongated metaphor for the loneliness people feel in modern society. It shows us a world, very much like our own, where people are essentially self-interested and "blind" to the feelings of others. This manifests itself in a strange plague that turns everyone blind, except for a Doctor's wife (Julianne Moore). The blind are herded into prisons, where savagery takes over. Gael Garcia Bernal's character establishes himself as a tyrant. Woman are forced to submit to rape in order to survive.

The rape scenes are, as they should be, hard to watch. I have no truck with this in principle. One of the best movies I've ever scene is Gaspar Noe's IRREVERSIBLE, which features one of the most graphic and unendurable rape scenes in film. The difference is that IRREVERSIBLE earned the right to show that scene by placing it in context and showing how it affected all concerned. It was a crucial part of a brilliant film. By contrast, BLINDNESS never really works as a film.  I didn;t engage with characters - there was no real plot - or at least, I didn't understand why characters took the decisions they did, so that the plot seemed implausible - and worst of all, the "big idea" is rather obvious.  That the director, Fernando Mireilles feels it necessary to hit us over the head with it us is simply unfortunate. It's simply a rather patronising, obvious, pedagogical exercise. 

BLINDNESS played Cannes and Toronto 2008 and was released earlier this year in Brazil, the US, Belgium, France, Greece, Mexico, Chile, Germany, Peru, Singapore, Panama, Argentina, Israel, Portugal, South Korea, Finland, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK and Japan. It opens in Venezuela on December 19th and in Italy on March 6th.

Friday, November 21, 2008

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO - schmaltz masquerading as edgy

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO is another one of those movies (viz. THE MOGULS) that uses porn in an attempt to give an edgy vibe to what is essentially your typical schmaltzy formulaic rom-com. 

In this case, it's the classic plot where two best friends only realise they're in love when they see each other mack with someone else. Of course, they could just get together at the point of mutual recognition but, oh no, there has to be some easily avoidable mix-up that requires a last reel reconciliation.In this case, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are losers who have zero money to pay the bills. Rather than get off their asses, go to college and get real jobs, they decide to make a porno for cash. There's no real suspense. Even the characters realise that once they have sex their relationship will change. The fact that matters are spun out with a bunch of petty jealousy is incidental.

ZACK AND MIRI isn't offensive. I mean, there's a lot of swearing and whatnot, but it's not a fundamentally hateful movie. In fact, it's as cuddly as a teddy bear.  And here's the thing. Porn is now so mainstream that it has become banal. There's simply not the same shock value in mentioning tits and ass.

ZACK AND MIRI isn't funny either. I mean, there's the odd patch of funny dialogue but it's never as balls-out funny as CLERKS. It's just more of the same "middle period" Smith. Hamfisted direction, formulaic plots, occasionally blackly funny dialogue swamped by sentimentality....

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO played Toronto 2008 and is currently on release in the US, Canada, UK and Russia. It opens on November 28th in Iceland, on December 18th in the Czech Republic and Finland, on January 15th in Australia and Romania, on January 22nd in the Netherlands and on April 1st in Belgium.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - CLERKS II (2006) - Look at you two whipping out her preciouses!

Randal Graves: What's the point in having an Internet connection if you're not using it to look up weird, fucked-up pictures of dirty sex you'll never have yourself?

You can find Nikolai's original review of CLERKS II
here

CLERKS II played Cannes 2006 and went on release in 2006 and 2007. It's available on DVD.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - JERSEY GIRL (2004) - in which Kevin Smith proves he can direct a movie as banal as any mainstream rom-com offering

JERSEY GIRL is a travesty - a movie in which hard-edged indie film-maker Kevin Smith jumps the shark with a movie as schmaltzy, formulaic and manipulative as the worst of the romantic-comedy genre. And no, the fact that his hero and heroine meet-cute over video-porn does not mitigate the BOMF trite denouement in which the hero has to choose between a big-shot job in New York and attending his daughter's school play. Liv Tyler's soft-spoken dead-pan certainly suits the merciful, porn-researching new girlfriend but Ben Affleck is typically wooden as the newly widowed single dad. Raquel Castro is fine as the kid, and George Carlin is heavily sanitised as her grandfather in this mainstream release. The only good thing about this movie, and I doubt I'm the first to say it, is that Jennifer Lopez' character dies in the first fifteen minutes.

JERSEY GIRL was released in and is available on DVD.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (2001) - Affleck, you the *bomb* in Phantoms yo!

Jay: This isn't fair. We came to Hollywood, I fell in love. Fuckin', we got shot at, we stole a monkey, and I got punched in the motherfucking nuts by a guy named Cock-Knocker.
Banky: You know what? I feel for you boys, I really do, but Miramax - you know, Miramax Films - paid me a shitload of money for Bluntman and Chronic. So it occurs to me that people badmouthing you on some website, is NONE OF MY FUCKING CONCERN!
Silent Bob: Oh, but I think it is... We had a deal with you, on the comics remember, for likeness rights, and as we're not only the artistic basis, but also obviously the character basis, for your intellectual property, Bluntman and Chronic. When said property was optioned by Miramax Films, you were legally obliged to secure our permission to transfer the concept to another medium. As you failed to do that, Banky, you are in breach of the original contract, ergo you find yourself in a very actionable position.
Jay: Yeah.


After the religious satire cum road movie that was DOGMA, Kevin Smith kicked back with his highest-budget movie to date, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. Although they are very different in tone and aspiration, the two movies actually share the same structure. After all, what is JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK if not a Hollywood satire cum road movie?

The plot of the movie is, once again, very simple. Jay and Silent Bob realise that Miramax is making a comic book movie based on characters based on Jay and Silent Bob. So they head to Hollywood to get their cut of the proverbial phat cash. Along the way they engage in a bunch of shenanigans that allow Kevin Smith to have a giant love-in with all his favourite actors. As such, any hope of actually satirising Hollywood is neutered. It's hard to land a sucker-punch when you're fisting the head of the studio.

For all that, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is arguably more entertaining than DOGMA insofar as it panders to the fans' desire to be part of the "in-joke" and namecheck the cameos and movie references. Some of the skits are genuinely hillarious - not least the early scenes with Jason Lee in Brodie mode and later scenes with Jason Biggs. And, as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too much of Jason Mewes' inspired pot-head stylings. But, unlike MALLRATS, which is also a flawed but occasionally extremely funny movie, I haven't revisited JAY AND SILENT BOB in a long while. It's the classic problem with parodies - no matter how well done, they age horribly.

Or maybe I'm just playing into Smith's post-modern move with my rancid stylings?!*.

JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK was released in 2001 and 2002. It is available on DVD replete with extras.
*Banky: That's what the internet is for. Slandering others anonymously. Stopping the flick isn't gonna stop that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - DOGMA (1999)

After CHASING AMY came Kevin Smith's most intellectually ambitious movie yet, DOGMA. The budget was back up to 10 mil and with it we got the same problem as with MALLRATS - poor quality professional actors unused to handling Kevin Smith's particular brand of dialogue. The bigger and more fundamental problem was that DOGMA was simply too ambitious a project - trying to satirise organised religion, specifically the Catholic Church and its apocryphal beliefs.

The plot is actually pretty simple. God speaks to an abortion clinic clerk and lapsed Catholic called Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) in the guise of Metatron - the voice of god (Alan Rickman). This sarcastic British angel tells Bethany to go to a church in New Jersey and stop two pissed off fallen angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) from bringing about Armageddon. Bethany will be helped by two prophets aka Jay and Silent Bob and will meet a muse (Salma Hayek), a disciple (Chris Rock), and various evil guys (Jason Lee et al).

The result is basically a road movie upon which Kevin Smith hangs various skits that expound upon his beef with organised religion. There are no great insights here - the usual teen angst stuff most Catholics go through - and for every clever gag that raises a laugh there are nine others that don't. (It's telling that the funniest line in the movie wasn't written by Smith but was ad-libbed by Chris Rock). There's just too much going on and too little feeling of a strong hand organising all the material. In addition, Smith isn't helped by a weak and uncharismatic centreal performance from his leading lady, or indeed minor players such as Hayek. Then again, it's hard to feel any sympathy for a man who casts Alanis Morisette as god.

What can I say? DOGMA is just a complete failure as a film, as far as I'm concerned. It was all the more disappointing because it was the first Kevin Smith film that I watched on the big screen - the brilliantly bizarre Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford. Still, I'd rather see a movie fail through vaulting ambition than through sterile cliche.

Bethany: Then - I don't mean to sound ungrateful - but what are you doing hanging around?
Jay: We're here to pick up chicks.
Bethany: Excuse me?
Jay: We figure an abortion clinic is a good place to meet loose women. Why else would they be there unless they like to fuck?


DOGMA played Cannes and Toronto 1999 and opened in 1999 and 2000. It is available on DVD.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - CHASING AMY (1997) - Your mother is a tracer!

After the high profile flop of the 6 million dollar budgeted MALLRATS, Kevin Smith's next feature was a dialled back 250k drama called CHASING AMY. The limited budget may have caused producer Scott Mosier a head-ache but it enabled writer-director Kevin Smith to create a movie as funny as CLERKS but darker, more emotionally real, and more affecting. To this day, I think CHASING AMY is Smith's best film and also his most unique. It's his most profound and adult movie - the most bittersweet - the furthest away from the comic-book stylings of JAY AND SILENT BOB - and yet the movie most firmly embedded in the comic-book community. Once again, we're back to the paradoxes.

The movie could share the title of Simon Callow's autobiography, "Love is where it falls" - the story of a passionate friendship between a gay man and a straight woman. CHASING AMY is about a straight man called Holden (Ben Affleck) who has an affair with a lesbian woman called Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) invoking the jealousy of his apparently straight best friend Banky (Jason Lee.) The first half the film depicts Holden's attempt to persuade Alyssa to try a straight relationship. The second half depicts his attempts to reconcile himself with his best friend's feelings for him and his feelings of sexual inadequacy and latent prurience when confronted with Alyssa's sexual past. The movie shows real insight and bravery in dealing with slippery sexual (and indeed racial) politics. It has its moments of real emotional intensity - the declaration of love by Holden to Alyssa is beautifully written - but it also manages to avoid any mawkish sentimentality, especially in its brilliantly ambiguous ending. At the same time, the movie is as brutally, honestly funny as anything Kevin Smith has ever written - and best of all, the comedy is grounded in real life rather than relying on ludicrous and implausible situations.

For me CHASING AMY is the perfect Kevin Smith movie. It's laugh-out-loud funny, but we're laughing at real situations. It's emotionally involving without being hokey. It's speaks honestly about sex and love. And if Ben Affleck struggles at times with Kevin Smith's dialogue and the weight of the emotion he has to portray, this is more than compensated for by the strong central performances from Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee and from Dwight Ewell's scene-stealing supporting role as the camp, militant comic book creator, Hooper:

Hooper: Always some white boy gotta invoke the holy trilogy. Bust this: Those movies are about how the white man keeps the brother man down, even in a galaxy far, far away. Check this shit: You got cracker farm boy Luke Skywalker, Nazi poster boy, blond hair, blue eyes. And then you got Darth Vader, the blackest brother in the galaxy, Nubian god!
Banky Edwards: What's a Nubian?
Hooper: Shut the fuck up! Now... Vader, he's a spiritual brother, y'know, down with the force and all that good shit. Then this cracker, Skywalker, gets his hands on a light saber and the boy decides he's gonna run the fuckin' universe; gets a whole clan of whites together. And they go and bust up Vader's hood, the Death Star. Now what the fuck do you call that?
Banky Edwards: Intergalactic civil war?
Hooper: Gentrification! They gon' drive out the black element to make the galaxy quote, unquote, safe for white folks. And Jedi's the most insulting installment! Because Vader's beautiful black visage is sullied when he pulls off his mask to reveal a feeble, crusty, old white man! They tryin' to tell us that deep inside we all wants to be white!
Banky Edwards: Well, isn't that true?

CHASING AMY played Sundance 1997 and was released over the next few years. It won a Special Recognition prize from the National Board of Review, and Jason Lee and Kevin Smith won Independent Spirit Awards for their acting and writing respectively. It's available on DVD.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - MALLRATS (1995) - I love the smell of commerce in the morning!

After the dream-come-true distribution deal for CLERKS, Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier were given a bigger (remember the base level) budget and professional actors for their full colour follow-up MALLRATS. The basic concept was the same - a day in the life of two best friends talking about sex, bumping into old high school friends, and getting up to shenanigans. Both have gone to the local mall to try and win back their respective girlfriends who are tired of their slacker antics. 

There are two problems with MALLRATS. First, it's just not as tightly scripted as CLERKS - both in terms of the individual scenes of dialogue and in terms of the way in which the scenes stitch together to form the film. Without the constant on-the-button black humour the ludicrous events in MALLRATS seem, well, just ludicrous. There are no earthy insights to pin them down to reality or to make us care. The two lead characters - Brandi and T.S. are earnest but dull and there isn't a rich deck of minor characters to distract us from that. Finally there are no deep emotional insights - no sense of catharsis - as at the end of CLERKS. CLERKS was crude but also clever. MALLRATS is just a low-rent teen sex-comedy.

The second big problem with MALLRATS is that the acting is almost universally terrible. Admittedly, the acting sucked in CLERKS but that just made it seem more charming. On the other hand, you don't shell out money to see professional actors - Shannen Doherty, Claire Forlani, Jeremy London - three out of the four lead actors - uttering lines with all the feeling of my coffee table. 

For all that, I still watch MALLRATS, though less often than CLERKS. I watch it mainly for Jason Lee's performance as Brodie, the smart-talking Randal Graves-esque side-kick to the hero, T.S. and for the occasional flashes of brilliance that were so evident for the full run-time of CLERKS. And let's face it, even a bad Kevin Smith movie is still funnier and more original than most generic teen comedies out there.

T.S. Quint: How is it that I go from the verge of hot Floridian sex with Brandi to man of steel coital debates with you in the food court? 
Brodie: Cookie stand isn't part of the food court. 
T.S. Quint: Of course it is. 
Brodie: The food court is downstairs. The cookie stand is upstairs. It not like we're talking quantum physics here. 
T.S. Quint: The cookie stands counts as an eatery, eateries are part of the food court. 
Brodie: Bullshit. Eateries that operate within the designated square downstairs count as food court. Anything outside, of said designated sqaure, counts as an autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking.  

MALLRATS went on release in 1995 and 1996 and is available on DVD but without the fanfare, whistles and bells of the CLERKS ten year anniversary re-release.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - CLERKS (1994) - Did he say "making fuck"? (spoilers)

The mythos about how Kevin Smith financed, shot and got distribution for his debut feature, CLERKS, has entered movie legend, not least because Smith has written a book about it. It's the film student's ray of hope - that you can make a movie financed with credit cards, exhibiting zero production values but still get picked up by the Weinsteins and become a cult classic. CLERKS is the indie circuit's American Dream.

Once you strip away the hype, what you're left with is a movie that's full of wooden acting and looks terrible, but for all that stands the test of time because of it's brilliant dialogue, intricate plotting and the audacity of its central premise - to talk about the shit that we all talk about - failed relationships, careers that never quite get going, people who annoy the frack out of us at work, and the stupid stuff that happens in movies.

Like most people I first watched CLERKS years after it was released. It was like a potty-mouthed dirty secret, passed on from one friend to another on rented VHS tape - a student bonding moment like listening to DEREK AND CLIVE tapes. In my case, it was Fast Jimmy who rented it from our very own local video store, about as crummy as the one in Clerks and manned by a similarly permanently pissed off clerk. At first I was unimpressed. What was this crappily shot black and white nonsense? But as soon as we got to the first argument between our protagonist, Dante Hicks, and his girlfriend Veronica, I was hooked. It became, and remains, one of my all-time favourite films. You see, the whole shining path for indie film-makers mythos is pure sentimental bilge. Kevin Smith made it against all odds not because Sundance has forged a path to the then-Miramax but because Kevin Smith is a bloody brilliant writer who trains his byzantine plots and ear for the black humour on our every day lives.

Dante Hicks: I'm stuck in this pit, working for less than slave wages. Working on my day off, the goddamn steel shutters are closed, I deal with every backward ass fuck on the planet. I smell like shoe polish. My ex-girlfriend is catatonic after fucking a dead guy. And my present girlfriend has sucked 36 dicks.
Randal Graves: 37.

And that's basically it. CLERKS is about two best friends, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves who work in a convenience store and a video store respectively. Randall knows his life is stuck in a rut, but languishes in the petty victories of a life amidst the inane. By contrast, Dante is caught between a misplaced sense of responsibility for running the store and his hatred for his loser existence. His deep sense of dissatisfaction manifests itself in the fact that he wants to trade in his loyal girlfriend Veronica for his unfaithful high school sweetheart Caitlin, who's engagement to an Asian design major triggers her arrival in town and many of the events of the story. The point of the movie is that Dante needs to stop bitching about the stuff that happens to him and make some hard choices. It's a message that cuts home to anyone in their early twenties, clinging onto their teen years and reluctant to slide down the razor blade of life.

Given that the movie is set entirely in a convenience store, it's amazing how much action Kevin Smith manages to pack in and how all the seemingly ridiculous and implausible events seem to tie up and reinforce each other in creating a richer universe that underlies the action shown in this particular film. I seriously don't think it's too far to compare this movie to something like LORD OF THE RINGS where we feel that there is a rich back-story of characters and lives and that we're just seeing a slice of the potential craziness that could be depicted. And there's the paradox of CLERKS. By talking about normal neuroses with such complete honesty, Kevin Smith gets away with ludicrous plotting. And that in shamelessly depicting in belly-laugh-inducing profanities, Smith sends out a pretty moralistic, conservative message.

CLERKS played Sundance, Cannes and Toronto 1994. It was released over the next two years and is available on DVD.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MAX PAYNE - beautiful imagery let down by transparent plot

I don't believe in heaven. I apparently don't believe in suspenseful plotting either.MAX PAYNE is a beautiful, gothic thriller that convincingly establishes an air of mystery and menace in its opening half hour. In a dystopian present, skyscrapers sit alongside wood-panelled offices stuffed with 1920s filing cabinets. Drug addicts see visions of dark angels and are tatooed with norse icons to protect them from evil. There are dark hints that the movie is going to tackle the insanity of the war on terror. My expectations were high. In the midst of this, Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is an old-fashioned detective working cold cases from a basement, not least that of his wife's murderers. He is enmeshed in a series of brutal murders - a beautiful Russian drug addict (olga Kyrlenko), his ex-partner that seem to be linked to that traumatic ur-event. These coincidences aren't lost on internal affairs, and Max turns to his mentor (Beau Bridges) - now a security guard in a spookily slick pharma company - for help.

The problem with Max Payne is that for all its gothic beauty and superficial style, the engine of the film is transparent. You can guess whodunnit and why within the first half hour and after that, the movie just becomes one beautifully staged montage after another. Some have criticised MAX PAYNE for ripping of SIN CITY and 300 in its visual style. My criticism is that it doesn't rip off Frank Miller enough. More precisely, those Miller adaptations work because they have strong stories at their heart - the action is propelled by high stakes. The writers of MAX PAYNE had a tougher job - a self-propelled video game has less narrative to crib than the Hot Gates. Still, you have to call it as you see it, and this movie, stylish as it may be, disintegrates into banal shoot-outs.

MAX PAYNE is on release in the Philippines, Serbia, Australia, Finland, Greece, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the US, the UK, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Austria, Denmark, Mexico, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Hong Kong. It opens next week in Argentina, Germany, South Korea and Brazil and the following week in Belgium and Chile, It opens in Venezuela on January 2nd.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Random DVD round-up 2: HOW SHE MOVE

HOW SHE MOVE, from director Ian Iqbal Rashid and writer Annmarie Morais, is basically an African American version of those dance movies like STEP UP, but perversely set in Canada and with art-house aspirations. As usual, these dance movies are really all about class struggle. In this case, the protagonist Raya Green is trying to lift herself out of poverty by winning a scholarship to stay in private school - thereby leaving memories of her junkie sister behind her. Raya is a survivor, so she dumps one dance crew competing for a cash prize for another crew with a better chance of winning. It's all filmed in a grim, bleached out style and that pretty much sums up the tone of the film. Rashid and Morais have spurned the typically rom-com endings of other dance films and that's okay, but there's not enough meat in the social realism that's meant to take its place. Fundamentally, I just doubt whether we can take urban realist drama seriously when it's shoe-horned into a glitzy dance-off.

HOW SHE MOVE played Sundance 2007 and opened in spring 2008. It is available on DVD.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random DVD roundup 1: WHAT A GIRL WANTS

From the writer of THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS comes a teen romance so schmaltzy and low-rent that it made both me and its target demographic (my god-daughter) cringe. All this despite its stellar cast of British character actors - Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins - and the central performance from Amanda Bynes who has real comic ability.

The story is pure schmaltz. Back in the day, American hippie Libby Reynolds (Kelly Preston) fell for British aristo Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth). They got married but after a misunderstanding, Libby left Henry to the responsibility of running his estate. Years later and unbeknownst to Henry, he has a teenage American daughter who rocks up and causes havoc. Henry's fiancee and future step-daughter are being upstaged and Henry's political career is threatened by his new daughter's gaffes. The daughter, Daphne (Amanda Bynes), decides to become more conservative to please her father, and so dumps her new British boyfriend. But in the end, of course, we learn that it's better to just be yourself.

All rom-coms contain a huge dollop of unreality but WHAT A GIRL WANTS just goes too far. There are scenes where Daphne is hob-nobbing with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip! But the really excruciating part is the final scene when the father finds the daughter again and declares that he wouldn't change her and loves her dearly. It's written as a straightforward rom-com love scene which is just icky when played between a father and a daughter.

Definitely one to avoid.

WHAT A GIRL W liver james, romance, teen ANTS opened in 2003 and is available on DVD an on the iTunes store.

Monday, November 10, 2008

PRIDE AND GLORY - tragically uninvolving dirty cop thriller

PRIDE AND GLORY is a dirty-cop thriller that brings nothing new to the genre at all. This is a great disappointment, given that it's written by Joe Carnahan - who wrote NARC - and it stars two great actors - Colin Farrell and Ed Norton. Norton plays a New York cop investigating the death of four rozzers at the hands of a missing drug-dealer. Unsurprisingly, the trail leads to his brother-in-law (Farrell), who's been shooting gangsters for pay. The whole thing is bone dry, over-wrought, boring and entirely uninvolving - and culminates in an entirely under-powered denouement in a bar. All this for a bout of fisticuffs. Do yourself a favour and chuck LA CONFIDENTIAL on the DVD player instead.

PRIDE AND GLORY played Toronto 2008 and is currently on release in the US, GReece, Israel, Italy, Panama, Peru and the UK. It goes on release in Iceland on November 21st; in Belgium, France and the Netherlands on December 3rd; in Argentina on December 18th; in Germany on January 22nd; and in Norway on January 30th.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES - if you can't beat them....

A few years before Ian Fleming invented James Bond, Jean Bruce invented his French equivalent, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, alias OSS 117. Both fictional spies travelled the world, fighting megalomaniacs, shagging hot chicks and generally saving the day in a manner that now seems hopelessly out of date. Both also inspired movies, although the Bond series was exponentially more successful. By 2006, both franchises faced the same problem. The classic spy thriller had fallen into self-parody - the gadgets and chicks formula had been discredited - and spoofs like AUSTIN POWERS were making more money. The Bond franchise responded by becoming more serious and stripped down and, to my mind, boxed itself into a corner with CASINO ROYALE. By contrast, the OSS 117 franchise decided to co-opt the critics, exploiting the camp, kitsch tendencies of the 60s spy flicks - essentially spoofing itself.

The resulting movie is a beautifully crafted spoof that had me laughing out loud throughout. The plot sees Agent 117 (Jean Dujardin) sent to Cairo to investigate the murder of another Agent and good friend, Jack Jefferson (Philippe Lefebvre). In addition, 117 has to bring peace to a country riven between royalists, islamists and various colonnial powers. On the way, he'll fight with chickens, shag an Egyptian princess, face-off with Nazis and generally cause offense! The movie has a lot of fun exploring the latent homo-eroticism of the relationship between agents (not least between Bond and Leiter in the novels.) But the most fun comes from the film's recreation of the shooting style of Dr No era movies: period costumes, dodgy fight scenes, rubbish back-projection, jazz-filled sound-tracks...!

Jean Dujardin is absolutely perfect as Agent 117. He looks like a young Gallic Sean Connery in his 60s suits and brilliantined hair. But he also has a real talent for physical comedy and several scenes are up there with the best of Inspector Clousseau. Just keep an eye out for a scene where he dances the twist at an Embassy ball. I can't wait till the next 117 movie. Absolutely perfect for a miserable Sunday afternoon!
CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES / OSS 117: LE CAIRE NID D'ESPIONS was released all the way back in 2006 in France, Belgium, Greece and Russia. It was released in 2007 in the Philippines. It was released earlier this yaer in Spain, the US and Brazil and is currently on release in the UK.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

GHOST TOWN - surprisingly okay!

Ricky Gervais is a brilliant comedian but I had trouble imagining his brand of squirm-inducing humour working within the trite romantic-comedy genre. The good news is that David Koepp's new film, GHOST TOWN, somehow pulls it off. The strengh of GHOST TOWN is that it doesn't over-play it's hand. It knows that Ricky Gervais is the world's most unlikely rom-com hero, partly because of his looks and partly because his brand of humour is all about being obnoxious and off-putting. So they dial-down the romance. By the end of the film we know his character - an uptight dentist called Bertram Pincus - is on the edge of a relationship with Tea Leoni's archeologist. But all we've really seen is the establishment of trust and friendship.

The motor of the plot is that Pincus has died for seven minutes in the midst of a routine colonoscopy, and a result, can now see ghosts. These ghosts beg him to finish their unfinished business, but he's too selfish to help until Greg Kinnear's character asks Pincus to break up his former wife's new relationship. Once again, the film-makers don't push on the ghost stuff too hard. It's there and it's funny but they don't sacrifice the character development - the real meat of the story - to cheap gags.

So all in all, GHOST TOWN is a romantic-comedy that manages to be genuinely funny and involving despite the fact that it has, on paper, the corniest of stories. You should also watch for SNL's Kristen Wiig as Pincus' surgeon, in a scene-stealing cameo.

GHOST TOWN played Toronto 2008 and is currently on release in the US and UK. It opens on November 27th in Israel; on December 11th in Russia; on December 26th in Australia; on January 29th in Germany; on February 4th in France and on February 27th in Spain.

Friday, November 07, 2008

OF TIME AND THE CITY - cheeky? Miserable more like.

OF TIME AND THE CITY is a mean-sprited, curmudgeonly, visually uninspiring documentary from British auteur Terence Davies. Over the years he has produced beautifully framed, highly personal movies about his youth as a homosexual Catholic working-class boy in post-war Liverpool. But where DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES finely balances fond memory and grim reality, OF TIME AND THE CITY is simply a litany of snide criticism of his native city, a city he describes as "anus mundi".

Funded by public money, this documentary was meant to be a thoughtful work about Liverpool past and present - a crumbling industrial town, with a staunch Catholic population, recently regenerated into a vibrant regional centre. How perverse, then, to pick a director who seems to have a deep-seated hatred of both the old and the new Liverpool. Old Liverpool is, according to Davies, a city of crumbling terraced houses; garbage gathering in vacant lots; ration books; religious intolerance and sexual frustration. He sneers at the Beatles - drowning them out with classical music - just as he drowns out his upbringing with his ludicrously affected RP accent. I have rarely heard anything as hateful as his contemptuous "yeah, yeah, yeah". As for contemporary Liverpool he is similarly sneering. He uses the beautifully uplifting lyrics from the Mahler 2, words of hope and ressurection. But against this music he juxtaposes images of modern city life that he evidently finds alienating - multi-story car parks, shopping centres, aerial shots of polished civic architecture cut off from the city by multi-lane highways.

At first I didn't understand why critics had poured praise on such a sour film. I went back and re-read the reviews and realised that they hadn't found it sour at all. Here's Peter Bradshaw - a great critic, writing in The Guardian. "Terence Davies' new film....is a heartfelt and even ecstatic study of Liverpool... the sweetness of its temper...." Sweetness of temper? I'd sooner call her mother a wit.

Don't believe the hype. OF TIME AND THE CITY is no Liverpuddlian
MY WINNIPEG.

OF TIME AND THE CITY played Cannes, Toronto and London 2008 and is currently on release in the UK. It is released in the US on January 21st.

*Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen,in heißem Liebesstreben werd'ich entschweben zum Licht, zu dem kein Aug'gedrungen.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Especially for Nikolai - a late review of ZOO - an intelligent look at inter-species erotica

One of Nikolai's favourite arguments is to question why bestiality is illegal. Why should it be illegal for you to pleasure, say, a cow? "Oh, but the cow can't consent!" I hear you cry. But Nikolai would respond that the cow can't consent to being killed and eaten either. So why is it worse to pleasure a cow than to kill it? Is society being hypocritical or at least inconsistent in its attitude to different types of human-animal relations? Finally, Nikolai gets a documentary that makes his case. It's intelligent, sophisticated, and extremely careful not to be lurid and unintentionally funny.

Director Robinson Devor' explores these issues by interviewing zoophiles living in North America. He manages to get breathtakingly candid footage of men describing how they came to realise they were attracted to animals and how they reconciled that with their preconceptions of "right" behaviour. He also explains how you go from thinking about it to actually doing it. The men would meet via the interent, find increased confidence among like-minds, and then finally meet on a ranch to, basically, have sex with horses.

When a zoophile died from a perforated colon, the police were called in, the zoos activities were exposed and the law was quickly changed to make zoophile activities illegal in Washington. Ironically, a well-meaning vet put down the horse to prevent it from being "abused" again.

ZOO played Sundance and Cannes 2007 and was released in the UK in May 2007. It is available on DVD.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Random DVD round-up 5 - JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM THE PLAINS

Jimmy Carter is a man of faith, integrity, and experience in negotiating peace in the Middle East. It has been decades since he was President, and he could easily retire, but he remains passionately engaged in the political debate. This documentary from Jonathan Demme follows Carter on his recent book tour to promote "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid", a book that provoked controversy simply for drawing a parallel between South Africa and Israel. The documentary is on one level a portrait of Jimmy Carter, but it's a lot more than that too. It's telling to see a man making a sophisticated argument confront a media machine used to glib sound-bites and Manichean positions. It's also telling to see the sort of ire he attracts for daring to criticise Israel. It's pretty tragic to seen fine minds spend their hours crawling through transcripts to find any hint of prejudice rather than engaging with the macro arguments.

JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM THE PLAINS played Toronto and Venice 2007, where it won the Biografilm award, the EIUC award and the FIPRESCI prize. It went on limited release in the US in October 2007. It went on limited release in the UK in August 2008 and is now available on DVD.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Random DVD round-up 4 - WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS

Malcolm D Lee may be kin to Spike Lee but he produces movies that are diametrically opposed to his cousin. Spike Lee joints are politically engaged, technically accomplished and audacious - sometimes to their detriment. Malcolm D Lee, by contrast, produces disposable commercial movies devoid of artistic vision. WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS is just such a movie. The story is pure romantic-comedy formula - nice guy (Martin Lawrence) with bitch-girlfriend does mean things to alienate warm-hearted friends before epiphany leads to apology, dumping bitch and dating childhood sweetheart. It's all very glossy and slips by easily enough, that is until you start choking on the crude racial stereotypes, blatant class-politics and generally stale contents. According to this movie, African-Americans are either assimilationist, materialistic sell-outs or obese, violent hicks. Formualaic plotting and racial stereotyping could be forgiven if this movie were actually funny. But it's not.

WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS opened in the US, France, Turkey, Egypt and UK in Spring 2008 and is now available on DVD.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random DVD Round-Up - THE LAST MISTRESS / UNE VIEILLE MAITRESSE

Catherine Breilliat's French period drama is a beautifully played tragedy that never feels starchy or staid although it sometimes feels just plain bizarre. Okay, so maybe this is 1850s French high society but how many people do you know who talk in intimate detail about previous liasons with their future mother-in-laws? Such is the implausible framing device of Barbey d'Aurevilly's novel and this new movie. A young rake is sitting in his future mother-in-law's salon explaining his entanglement with a prostitute called Vellini. As a young man, Ryno (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) had dismissed Vellini as old, crumpled and vulgar, but no sooner had he said those words than, Mr Darcy-style, he fell into erotomania. They conduct a ten-year affair until Ryno throws Vellini over for a diametrically opposite, virginally pure, rich young girl. Soon after the wedding, Ryno spirits his bride away to the coast in order to escape temptation. But temptation follows him, with tragic consequences. Desire cannot be fettered.

THE LAST MISTRESS works because it balances attention to period detail and visual flair with an apparently modern take on sexual relations, not to mention solid central performances from Fu'ad Ait and Asia Argento in a role that seems made for her. It's a costume drama for people who prefer LA REINE MARGOT to Jane Austen, with none of the austere trauma of NE TOUCHEZ PAS LA HACHE.

THE LAST MISTRESS/UNE VIEILLE MAITRESSE played Cannes, Toronto and London 2007 and was released last year in France, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Russia, Australia and Turkey. It was released in the UK, Brazil and South Korea earlier this year. It is now available on DVD.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Random DVD round-up 1: KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS

KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is a hillarious documentary that contains real-life people so ludicrous it feels like a Ben Stiller movie. Centre-stage is Billy Mitchell, a Ronald D Moore look-a-like egomaniac who thinks the whole world worships him because he's good at playing a 1980s arcade game. This is a man who has the ego of Gordon Gekko and absolutely no sense of irony. Mitchell basically spends his life being superior and schmoozing his fawning acolytes. Chief among them is Brian Kuh, a particularly weasally pretender to the title of "King of Kong". But Kuh aside, the amazing thing is that apparently very nice people are willing to give Mitchell so much time, and to envy his lifestyle so much. Take Walter Day, the referee of Donkey Kong competitions: "I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame. I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, "Hi, I see that you're good at Centipede"." Because the hot girls so OBVIOUSLY go for guys who are good at arcade games! Seriously, you couldn't make this shit up!

Then one day, Mitchell's little racket is blown up by the appearance of a nice-guy-loser called Steve Wiebe (rhymes with "dweeb"). Wiebe is such a non-entity he's endearing, and he so evidently gets up the nose of Mitchell, Kuh et al that you can't help but be swept up in his journey to FunSpot to take on the world title. Evidently, Wiebe is brilliant at Donkey Kong. Mitchell is also, presumably brilliant. But the humour comes from Mitchell's complete cowardice in facing down Wiebe in public. It's positively embarassing watching the defending champion wriggle out of public competition and losing the respect of his peers.

Now, you could accuse Seth Gordon of using the slippery old Final Cut Pro to make Mitchell look like an idiot and Wiebe look like a hero. But how do you edit to create lines as Pure Comedy Gold as this: "I've pointed out to Steve that he's the person he is today because he came under the wrath of Bill Mitchell." I mean, who talks about their own wrath in the third person?

You HAVE to watch this movie. Don't wait for the feature film remake. Hear it from the horse's mouth!

KING OF KONG was released last year in the US and in June in the UK. It is available on DVD.