Thursday, August 11, 2016


Short take - Nice one DC Comics, with Suicide Squad you've now made the two most unwatchable films of the year. And you've hired the same team to make the sequel in what I can only assume is a conceptual art installation of irony. Let's cut the crap and just take a hundred million dollars and burn it on the sidewalk outside the Mann Chinese Theatre. At least we could get the side benefit of toasting some marshmallows. Just back away from the movie camera. Now.

Considered review - SUICIDE SQUAD comes on the heels of DC Comics attempts to establish a movie franchise analogous to Marvel's, where individual character movies alternate with ensemble pieces, each of which adds to the greater mythos.  The relaunch began with this year's dull-as-dishwater BATMAN VS SUPERMAN flop, and continues its disastrous run with this new ensemble piece.  The plot picks up from BvS with a world mourning the death of Superman and wary of the rise of "metahumans".  Accordingly, a government official decides to band together a bunch of both super-creatures and just insane people, and offer them time off their sentences if they'll help keep America safe.  But, in the manner of Nolan's Batman films, and basically every other superhero movie, supply creates its own demand, and the very people meant to make America safe contain within their host, one who'll destroy the earth.  What we should get from all this is a kind of DEADPOOL meets THE AVENGERS in which its the bad guys who band together to hunt down other bad guys. 

Sunday, August 07, 2016


Matt Damon is back in the fourth episode of this grungy spy thriller franchise inspired by the Robert Ludlum novels. The film is decent, if not spectacular and whetted my appetite for the next phase in the series.

JASON BOURNE can be split into four parts, shot in Athens, Berlin, London and Las Vegas.  In the opening segment, ex CIA-agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks the CIA and delivers the Black Ops files to Bourne under the camouflage of an anti-austerity riot in Athens. This is director Paul Greengrass' way of injecting some social relevance to the movie, although the post-Edward Snowden privacy vs security debate is far more relevant to the Bourne world than the anti-austerity debate.  Regardless, my putting the obligatory chase scene in a city torn apart by molotov cocktails we get some truly breathtaking visuals and cinematography. In fact, this may be my all-time favourite Bourne chase-scene. 

In the second part of the film we follow Bourne to Berlin where he gets a Snowden like hacker to open up the files so that he can learn the dirty secret at the heart of the Black Ops programme that recruited him. I'll resist saying more for fear of spoilers. But what we're really setting up here is the relationship between Bourne and Heather Lee - a CIA IT specialist played by Alicia Vikander. The  key point is that while CIA Chief Dewey (played by Tommy Lee Jones) just wants to have Bourne assassinated, Lee thinks she can bring him in from his life of bare-knuckle boxing (I kid you not).

Monday, August 01, 2016


Once upon a time there was a young girl called Laura Albert who was teased at school for being fat.  She was also mentally ill and retreated into creating alternative personalities.  They fell into two types.  The first type had more charisma and confidence and could meet the world bravely.  The second type were even more damaged and scarred than she was, and could elicit sympathy from mental health professionals.  This being the era before the internet and MTV's Catfish, Laura played these characters to unwitting victims over the phone, meticulously taping her conversations.  So far, so tragic, so understandable as a means of self-medication.

Events took a more sinister and ethically questionable turn when Laura wrote a book in the voice of one of her damaged avatars, a supposedly young male prostitute and abuse victim called JT LeRoy.  The book was a publishing sensation, and with that came fame, famous friends and backstage passes. Rather than being mortified at a lie gotten out of hand, Laura comes up with a plan to enjoy all the benefits of fame without revealing her identity - she'll get her partner's sister to play JT LeRoy while she, Laura, plays her confident British friend, Speedie, and her partner plays their friend Astro.  Altogether the three of them travel the world in the lap of luxury.  

Real people become ever more invested in, and sympathetic to, JT LeRoy's story though.  Real people have real feelings of sorrow toward made-up events. And when JT LeRoy's real identity is finally revealed they react in two ways.  The first group feel anger and hurt and being used.  The second group, decide that all is permitted in art - that Laura gets a free pass because JT LeRoy was a piece of performance art and that the fake character itself is a creation on a par with the books.

The problem with this documentary from Jeff Feuerzeig (THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON) is that it's basically a continuation of Laura's addiction to creating characters and manipulating feelings in others.  She is once again in the driver's seat, giving us her version of how she created the characters, her motives, her feelings and her justification. There's no regret, no empathy or sympathy for the people she used or hurt.  There's no counter-balancing voice of the abused and used. The resulting documentary therefore feels like part of the scam. A still mentally ill woman, probably with narcissistic personality disorder, continues to spin her web. She needs a lot of help but so do the famous poeple who won't face up to being swindled but still go on about the creative process. Because let's be clear:  many authors use pen-names, but when the adulation your books receive is to do with how they express your real life, and that's a lie, then this isn't art but subterfuge.  And when you pay people to play those avatars, and lie to people, and earn money from that lie, that's fraud. 

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY has a running time of 110 minutes and is rated R. The movie played Sundance and Sheffield DocFest 2016. It is currently on release in the UK and opens in the USA on September 9th.