Brainythoughts: Inkheart

Here’s a relatively simple question I’d like you all to answer. When confronted with a fantasy movie, would you rather it be a) unrelentingly grim, completely humourless and sickeningly self-regarding, like what Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was, or b) actually watchable? There’s a subset that’s absent, which is “fantastically well-made and a joy to discover”, but I can’t actually think of any fantasy movie that fits that bill, so I’ve left it out.

But that second subset, with its easily attainable remit of not being irredeemably awful, is the one we’ll be focusing on for now, as that’s the one Inkheart succeeds in fulfilling. The story of Inkheart is this story: a man who can bring fictional characters to life must undo the damage he did 12 years ago when he brought an arch-villain out of a fantasy novel and into a giant megalomaniac’s castle in Italy. Or something. It makes more sense in the movie, but only marginally. But! Its cheerfully aware of its own silliness, thus making all the awkward plotting in the world easily forgivable in the face of Helen Mirren exclaiming “What in the name of Thomas Hardy?” Yes.

Full review, yes?

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Ham Sandwich – Whelan’s, Dublin (7/11/09)

This looks like something at a modern art gallery. It is not. It is some rock stars.

Ham Sandwich once more rocked my socks right out of my shoes last night. According to the Laws of Sock Rocking Beats, I documented it for ZME. It starts with words resembling the following:

And to think that some people are still deluded enough to believe that U2 are Ireland’s premier live band.

I don’t know if it’s sheer media saturation that’s perpetuated that myth, or just widespread ignorance, but it needs to be stamped out post-haste. Bono can take his impossibly huge stage monstrosities and stick them where the streets have no name; Ham Sandwich have claimed the crown so wrongly placed on Hewson’s overinflated noggin, and painted it neon. Let me make myself perfectly clear: a Ham Sandwich gig is a splendid thing to witness.

I may come across as less of an objective reviewer, and more of a preening fanboy with a dictionary. In reality, both are true.

Brainpurge: Moon

Probably the worst movie poster ever. It looks like a broken magic eye picture from the 1970s.

The moon’s a bit rubbish overall, really, isn’t it? I mean, America spent the better part of the 20th Century trying desperately to reach it in their rocketships, and when they got there, all they did was plant a poxy flag and get misquoted by hundreds of millions of people. The moon is like a really huge, fancy rollercoaster in a big, empty theme park: sure, being on it is dizzying and weightless, and it’s novel to be up there for a little bit, but then you realise there’s nothing else to do here once the ride’s over, and you’re actually feeling a bit sick, and you want to go home now. If Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin were  here, they’d tell you the same thing, no doubt.

Anyway: Moon. Moon manages, wonderfully, to be different. (Some mild spoilers beneath the cut, m’dear.)

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Transformers Soundtrack: The Non-Review

The cold, unyielding, mechanical eyes of the marketing machine.

I reviewed the album accompaniment to the new Transformers movie over on ZME. I say “reviewed” – what I really mean is I pointed at it and mocked it mercilessly, then said something overwrought about how it’s not really an album. Good stuff all around.

I would love to give this CD a horrible review. I’d really, genuinely enjoy ripping apart its poxy devotion to dated post-grunge sludge rock. Or better yet, going on a bloodthirsty, rampaging rant about how the Transformers franchise as a whole has gone from being a treasured reminder of an entire generation’s youth to encapsulating everything that’s wrong with modern cinema (”Cars! Robots! ‘Splodes! Wait, where brain go?”) It would be easy – not to mention fun – to tear down, to mock, to deride this soundtrack: it’s the soundtrack to a couple million overgrown children literally wetting themselves over Optimus Prime. Idiots.

I could, for example, point out that Nickelback appear on this soundtrack. Forget how singularly awful, soul-destroying and suicide-inducing the band’s albums are, and instead notice that they appear on the soundtrack to every sub-par summer blockbuster, dating back as far as 2003’s Daredevil. Although at least on that soundtrack, all they did was slaughter an Elton John classic – here, Chad Kroeger infests the album with his own particular brand of empty-headed, poseur ass-ery. I’m not a big proponent of the word “douche-horse”, but whatever image the word conjures up for you, Kroeger undoubtedly defines it. (Actually, I lied a little there – I love the word “douche-horse”.) But no! That’s not important. Not now.

And yes: I’m bringing the word “douche-horse” into my work now. Thanks Straub! Thaub! (Taub?)

Star Trekkin’: Doin’ It With (Lens) Flare

He's no Shatner, but he'll do just Pine. Ahahaha?

I like to think that I walk that fine line between “watching Star Trek” and “being a Trekkie”. So while I may glean a great amount of enjoyment out of watching even the worst episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, you’re not likely to see me debating the transwarp capabilities of a new kind of Borg vessel; I might be nerdy, but I’m not quite at “full-scale USS Enterprise reproduction in my living room” levels of geekdom. Star Trek, basically, for all of its intricately detailed mythology and universe, is impossible to take seriously as straight science fiction. It’s just far too ludicrous. And I suspect that Gene Rodenberry knew this better than anyone – the original series was played with a wink-and-nod mentality that was nowhere to be found in any of the subsequent iterations: for all of Jean-Luc Picard’s brilliance, he was far drier and stiffer than Kirk’s testosterone-driven, adventure-seeking philanderer. And the Treks‘ tolerability generally works in inverse proportionality to their seriousness: the original series was bundles of carboardy fun; The Next Generation was less so, especially when Troi did her “I sense anger in the bellowing alien” schtick; Deep Space Nine and Voyager were variable – sometimes fun, sometimes unbearably solemn; and Enterprise was the most misguided, stupid, flappy prequel series since, well, the Star Wars prequels.

So when I heard that Ray-Jay (JJ) Abrams was in the director’s chair for the canon-resetting prequel-sequel not-your-father’s how’s-your-father Star Trek movie, I was less than enthused – Abrams being a high-calibre “cuss-magnet” as far as quality narrative goes. Cloverfield was an effective enough monster movie, in that it had a pretty cool monster, but it also featured a cast of repugnant 20-something idiots, all of whom you wished would die within the first ten minutes of the movie. Lost was, and continues to be, a mystifying success, marrying incoherent plot to a cast of unsympathetic skanks – you have to believe that anyone who’s still watching it does so out of a morbid need for an ending that would somehow give meaning to the countless hours they’ve sank into watching and dissecting every last minute of footage that exists. The only thing Abrams has been attached to that I’ve even remotely enjoyed has been Alias, and that was only until it changed from a nonsense spy drama into a nonsense family drama. Was there even the slightest hope that Abrams could make a Star Trek movie that wasn’t the most incredibly awful thing ever?

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