Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bob Hoskins

"This is a diabolical liberty!"
- Harold Shand, The Long Good Friday

It's quite the week for casts of huge sci-fi sequels sitting round tables in London

Sunday, April 27 - Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Tuesday, April 29 - Star Wars: Episode VII

If the cast of Jurassic World are reading, I've just bought a very nice vintage table with fold-out leaves which could comfortably seat six, seven at a push. Bryce Dallas Howard might have to sit on a patio chair from the shed. I'm busy tonight but Thursday's looking good?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Crispin Glover's UK tour is as mad as eggs and you should definitely see it

Last Friday found me at London's deeply sensual Hackney Picturehouse for the opening night of the UK tour of Crispin Glover: actor, director, writer and artist who - whether he likes it or not - will forever be connected to the role of George McFly in Back To The Future. While that role is undeniably magnificently written and portrayed, Glover has a remarkable body of other work behind him, much of which is completely and utterly batshit mental. And I'm not just talking about Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

A typical evening on his current tour (which visits several Picturehouses in the UK over the next three weeks) consists of Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show, in which he reads from obscure 19th century books which he's altered for his own ends; a screening of one of two films he's directed (which film you get depends on which venue you book) and a post-screening Q&A. It's a fascinatingly odd experience which will delight as many as it will frustrate; personally I loved it, but the gentleman next to me in the Back To The Future t-shirt was left visibly and audibly frustrated by Glover's insistence on yelling non-sequiturs in German rather than discussing fondly-remembered weekends spent skateboarding with Michael J Fox.

The slide show is the maddest part of the event: less a deconstruction of the concept of storytelling than a total obliteration and subsequent reconstruction of it by a demented force. Glover reads lengthy extracts - often from memory - of stories, manuals and textbooks from which he's removed several passages and, occasionally, added his own contributions. The pages appear behind him on screen, and are annotated and illustrated by what appears to be a deranged spider with too many dark thoughts and not enough friends. Not a second of it makes an ounce of sense, so you have to be prepared to let it happen to you, although towards the end I found myself so immersed in Glover's world that I began to appreciate and enjoy some of the readings. I remember thoroughly liking one called An Egg Farm, but can't for the life of me remember anything about it now except that it was really quite crackers.

Friday's screening was of Glover's second film in his proposed It trilogy, It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., while some dates on the tour will screen the first film, What Is It?. Part three, IT IS MINE, is some years from completion, although evidently it will continue to employ an avant-garde approach to capitalisation. It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. is a remarkable, surreal and challenging film written by its lead, Steven C Stewart, who was crippled by cerebral palsy (he died a month after filming wrapped). Stewart plays a man who deals with his handicap and his feelings for long-haired, beautiful women in unusual and occasionally troubling ways, and while it's certainly an offbeat film it's much less bonkers than Glover's slide show. A lazy person would probably describe it as almost Lynchian in its wilful weirdness, so I'll simply say that to me it seemed almost Lynchian in its wilful weirdness.
Low on production values but high on originality, It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. feels like a far braver and much more starkly honest version of last year's Helen Hunt / John Hawkes-starring The Sessions. Unrestricted by such annoyances as certification and studio approval, Glover's film dispenses entirely with cheese and goes straight for the jugular with its rage-fuelled protagonist and arguably misogynistic approach. It's probably not one to watch with your mum, but it does give you some insight into what it must be to be so agonisingly frustrated by a disease which renders your body useless but your mind lively and bursting with everyday impulses upon which it is near-impossible to act.

I had to leave the post-screening Q&A early in order to take advantage of outer London's marvellous weekend public transport timings (want to stay out past 11pm on a Friday? Then enjoy getting home via at least four varied and torturous methods, possibly by Sunday if you're lucky), but fortunately Mr Glover kindly agreed to my own personal Q&A via email. So here's a closer look at the musings of a deranged madman, and as a bonus I've included Crispin Glover's responses.


Hello Neil! One usually only says "It is fine!" when something is actually wrong.

How would you prepare someone who's coming to one of your current shows because they loved you in Back To The Future but know nothing else about you? I'm thinking in particular of someone like this chap:
Frankly that is quite rare. I’ve not had many people come to the show that have exclusively seen me in Back To The Future. At least not people that come up to me. I would prepare them in the same way I would prepare anyone. I prefer films that cause the audience to ask questions.

Your Big Slide Show includes some amazing slides: did you make all those annotations and illustrations yourself? How long did the process take?

I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment without the concept of publishing them. I had always written and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of that. I made most of the books in the '80s and very early '90s. Some of the books utilize text from the binding it was taken from and some of them are basically completely original text. Sometimes I would find images that I was inspired to create stories for or sometimes it was the binding or sometimes it was portions of the texts that were interesting. Altogether, I made about twenty of them. The books and films are all narrative. Sometimes people see thematic correlations between the content of my books and the content of the films.

How did you select which books to use as the basis for the Big Slide Show?

Many of the books that are in the show are specifically books that will perform well dramatically or that have a sense of humor. Some of the books that I have not used in the slide shows are books that work more as art objects as opposed to narratives.

Your presentation technique in the Big Slide Show feels like you, as an actor, playing a part. Is that fair? How much of the real Crispin Glover are we watching?

I would assess the slide show performance as a performance and interpretation of books I made not originally meant for performance. That being said I enjoy performing them.

You described It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE as "the best film I'll have anything to do with in my whole career". What is it about the film that you are most proud of?

The cinematic and subconscious emotional catharsis that happens with the protagonist / writer / Steven C Stewart in the film is central to what I am proud of with this film.

You played Andy Warhol in The Doors: as an avant-garde artist do you feel any affinity with him?

I met and spoke with Andy Warhol at the wedding of Madonna and Sean Penn. It was right after Back To The Future had come out which he had apparently seen. I did not speak with him for so long but definitely enough to get an idea about him. He was quite nice to me. After I spoke with him I stood back and looked at him and watched how he held himself and thought he would be an interesting person to play. I had met Oliver Stone previously for Platoon which I was not in, but we had a good meeting and I auditioned for the role and got it.

I would not compare myself to Warhol for a lot of reasons, but I would take any comparison as a compliment. First off, the enormity of influence of Warhol’s art is something that is extremely important to consider. Someone asked me once if I related to Warhol's eccentricities. I feel like Warhol’s "eccentricities" were very different from my own, and frankly I believe that a lot of my own perceived eccentricities are greatly exacerbated by inaccurate media myopia. I do not know what Warhol would say about his perceived eccentricities, although I would say he was much more in control of his media perception during his entire career than I have been of mine for much of mine.

You've also dabbled in music, and I love your song 'Clowny Clown Clown'. How do you really feel about clowns? The lyrics leave one uncertain.

Even as a child I never found clowns particularly amusing. I am a little confused as to why even children find clowns amusing.

'Clowny Clown Clown' by Crispin Glover. Warning: contains clowns

I recently watched Rubin & Ed, the film in which you play Rubin Farr, who also infamously appeared on David Letterman and in your video for 'Clowny Clown Clown'. Is Rubin an alter ego of sorts?
I have neither confirmed nor denied in media whether or not that was me on the 1986 Late Night with David Letterman appearance. If asked I go in to a lot of detail about it at my shows.

You own a 17th century castle in the Czech Republic where you are planning to shoot your future films. Do you know any Czech swear words?


Like me, you are an only child. Did you ever invent imaginary friends as substitute siblings? I mean, not that I did or anything.

No. I did not invent imaginary friends.

Unlike me, your father Bruce played a Bond villain's henchman in Diamonds Are Forever. Are you a Bond fan? Who's your favourite James Bond and what's your favourite Bond film?

I have not seen all the Bond films or all the actors that have played Bond. I think the first Bond film I saw was Diamonds Are Forever so I do like that one. I also like Dr. No. I love Notorious by Hitchcock with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. That is the movie that supposedly influenced Ian Fleming to write his first Bond novel Casino Royale. I did see the recent Casino Royale and thought Daniel Craig did an excellent job and liked to see the obvious structural influences on that story from Hitchcock’s and Ben Hecht's great screenplay for Notorious.

Would playing a Bond villain be something that might interest you?


Who is your favourite Charlie's Angel?

I do not have a favorite Angel. All three of the actresses were very nice people to work with. Of note structurally, the character I played in Charlie’s Angels was somewhat similar to the character my father played in Diamonds Are Forever. They were both assassins that kept coming back to at least seem to attempt to assassinate the protagonists.

You starred in Hot Tub Time Machine, a film which examined some of the most basic elements of the human condition, such as what it is to be a man, to be an adult, to lose sight of your hopes and dreams, and to find true happiness and a peaceful soul. If you had a hot tub time machine, would you use it to travel in time or just to feel the bubbles?

Time travel would be of course amazing.
Crispin Glover's one-armed bell boy was tragically absent
from the Hot Tub Time Machine marketing campaign.

Finally, as a man who has long contemplated growing a beard, I am impressed by your very handsome facial hair. How do you decide when to grow a beard and when to shave it off, and how do you maintain it?

I have only in the last several years grown out facial hair because it has been appropriate for a number of period films in which I have played characters that it would be appropriate for. I do not grow facial hair or wear my hair for my own personal preference. My preference is probably shorter hair and clean shaven.

Crispin Glover, thank you very much for your time.

Thank you Neil!

Details of the rest of Crispin Hellion Glover's UK tour can be found at his website,

Thursday, 24 April 2014

In Your Eyes and on your internets:
Joss Whedon's missed opportunity

Joss Whedon recently took forty precious seconds out from filming Avengers: Age Of Ultron to record an introduction to one of his smaller projects, "metaphysical romance" In Your Eyes, for the Tribeca Film Festival. At the same time that the film premiered in New York, he announced, internet boffins were opening its e-cage and releasing it into the digital wild via Vimeo, allowing any old numpty to watch it for the princely sum of five "bucks" (just under three of the Queen's pounds).

Online film distribution is hardly new but it's yet to be fully embraced by Hollywood, so when a brand new Joss Whedon project pops up for you to watch immediately without even having to put your pants on, it naturally attracts attention. It's worth noting, however, that although His Jossness wrote and exec-produced In Your Eyes, it was actually directed by Brin Hill (me neither); from the SEO-friendly headlines the film has garnered you'd be forgiven for thinking it's another Much Ado About Nothingesque side project from the genial ginger genius.

While Whedon is to be commended for dipping his hairy toes into the digital water, you have to wonder if it's because without a headline-grabbing release, nobody would have batted an eyelid at In Your Eyes in the slightest. It's not that it's a bad film at all; it's a perfectly adequate, textbook romance with a supernatural twist, the script for which Whedon probably knocked out in less time than it took him to record its introduction. It's just that it's a little too bland to add much fuel to any kind of revolution in the way we consume films.
Whedon's script sees the achingly elfin Zoe Kazan, all doe-eyes and voluminous fringe, embarking on an unlikely affair with Cloverfield scruff Michael Stahl-David via the medium of unexplained telepathy: they can mysteriously hear each other, see what each other sees and feel each others' feelings despite never having met and being thousands of miles apart. He's an ex-con from the wrong side of the New Mexico tracks, she's the wealthy but unhappy wife of a prominent New Hampshire surgeon whom Whedon probably struggled not to call Dr. Douchebag. The characters are broader than a barn door plus all the barn walls laid end to end, and the plot less challenging than a battle of wits against said barn, but the parapsychological pen-pal quirk is just about enough to keep you watching.

It's occasionally eye-screwingly cringey (a spot of psychic nookie belongs in the movie equivalent of the Bad Sex In Fiction awards), but Kazan and Stahl-David are likeable enough to overcome the hurdles of playing cut-out characters in what is a predictable but - it must be said - almost flawless example of Screenwriting 101. Brin Hill's direction is workmanlike, but he's not the star here - if indeed he even exists and isn't one of Joss Whedon's pseudonyms.

So what we have is something of a curio: a script by a bona fide legend which is technically exemplary but disappointingly blunting-edge, released via a strategy that would have earned it far more column inches if only it had been, y'know, really good. In Your Eyes is destined to become, at most, a footnote in the Online Film Distribution history books, when its provenance suggests it should have been so much more. Let's see Marvel throw Avengers: Age Of Ultron onto the internet on the day it lands in cinemas; then we'll have something to talk about.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Your handy guide to the Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa's quite marvellous Seven Samurai is out on Blu-ray this week courtesy of those sexually devastating BFI types, and it's one of those films that not enough people have seen even though they know they really should. I suspect what's holding many people back is the fear of not being able to follow which of the titular septet of samurai is which, what with them all being Japanese and in black and white.

Because I'm good like that, I'm prepared to overlook the potentially racist undertones of your fear and shall attempt to alleviate it with this convenient cut-out-and-keep guide to the seven samuraiest samurai in all of samuraidom. Banzai!

(NB Do not attempt to cut out)

Kambei: Baldy Samurai

Kambei is the leader of the titular ronin, and is wise because he is old and bald. He is thoughtful and considerate, and slays people in silence and slow motion. His interests include cartography and painting.

Katsushirō: Baby Samurai

Katsushirō enjoys flower arranging and tumbles in the hay with pretty young boys. He is headstrong but naive and narcissistic; his morning routine is two hours long, and he is exceptionally pleased with the inverted boobs shape made by his hairline. He is a Pisces.

Gorōbei: Manly Samurai

Gorōbei works out regularly and can bench press a Nissan Micra. He enjoys archery, but not its western equivalent, darts, which he says is for "fat, drunk gaijin". His favourite colour is azure.

Shichirōji: Chunky Samurai

In the face of fierce competition, Shichirōji has the daftest hair of all the samurai. He was probably on his way to the hairdressers when Kambei bumped into him and recruited him, the poor bugger. Shichirōji enjoys running, building barricades and watching the EastEnders omnibus.

Heihachi: Silly Samurai

The joker of the pack (in the same way that every office has a joker, i.e. he's not very funny), Heihachi uses his humour to leaven tense situations, like awkward inter-samurai arguments about whose pubes are in the miso soup. He spends his spare time splitting logs and sewing, the big girl's macho blouse.

Kyūzō: Scary Samurai

The name "Kyūzō" is Japanese for "Do not fuck with me". He is an excellent trainer of armies but is a loner ever since he got close to one of his recruits and had his advances rebuffed. He tells everyone he got that scar above his eye when he was attacked by Godzilla, but in fact he merely cut himself shaving while distracted by a bee.

Kikuchiyo: Phony Samurai

Kikuchiyo's interests include fishing, being naked outdoors, amusing small children and near-fatal amounts of heavy drinking. Often he likes to combine all of these at once. He dislikes miserable people, horse riding and real samurai.

Seven Samurai is out now on Blu-ray in normal boring plastic case and deeply sexy steelbook hewn from the finest Hattori Hanzō steel, very possibly.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Blog post #2 of hundreds about The Rover

I'm generally loath to do marketing companies' work for them, but in the case of David Animal Kingdom Michôd's The Rover I'll make an exception. This is the film I'm most excited about this year (although let's be honest, X-Men: Days Of Future Past looks immense), so I'm duty-bound to ensure that every single person who reads this blog knows about it in the hope that both of you will go and see it.

Hot off the back of the announcement that it'll be premiering in a midnight screening at this year's Cannes Film Festival, A24 Films dropped the first, WB Yeats-misquoting full trailer today, complete with "OFFICIAL SELECTION CANNES 2014" insert, almost as if they knew. It's gorgeously moody and leaks out a little more plot than the teaser (obviously), but this is clearly a film that isn't going to be described in two-and-a-half minutes.


Fans of Robert Pattinson are going crackers for this on Twitter right now, which seems unfair when fans of Guy Pearce's facial hair are relatively silent. So here I am doing my bit: get ready for The Rover, motherfuckers. It' going to be amazing. Or possibly rubbish. Hard to say. Regardless, here's some more marketing material.


Sadly not an entire feature film about Lost's greatest character, Locke is in fact a fantastic slice of claustrocore with Tom Hardy in a chunky-knit sweater. I wrote some words about it for The Shiznit when it was on at the London Film Festival; why not read them? Then you'll know how good it is and want to go and see it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Abandoned idea #216

I'm sure I had a point to make when I started this, but by the time I'd finished I had no idea what it was. Sorry.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2:
Electro Boogaloo

It seems important these days to preface any discussion of a given film by outlining your feelings about that film's prequels or previous incarnations (in various media), just so that people know whether you're on their wavelength or talking out of your shitpipe. So, for the record, here are my qualifications for having an opinion on The Amazing Spider-Man 2; you can decide for yourself whether what I'm about to say in the rest of this post is likely to reflect your own views or make you want to kick me in the dick.
And so it was with the taste of two-year-old dog shit lingering in my mouth that I approached The Amazing Spider-Man 2, still cross about the premature rebooting of Spidey's barely-cold corpse and even crosser about what a colossal waste of time it was reliving his origin story for one hour and watching him piss about with an abysmal CG lizard man for another. Fortunately the great thing about superhero Part Twos is that with the origin story out of the way, we can crack on with superpowered angst, human relationship drama, villains afforded a decent amount of time and all that stuff that gets added to Part One as an afterthought, and in this case it's doubly good news that Part One is over because it was so skin-flayingly awful.

It also means that without the bits that made me want to chuck stuff at the screen last time, I can now appreciate what Marc Webb's version of Spidey does so much better than Sam Raimi's, and those things are plentiful. Most obvious is ol' Webhead himself, who, after years of clunky CG, finally convinces as he lobs himself through the canyons of New York, and who is also the wisecracking chucklemonkey from the comics - something Tobey Maguire never quite pulled off. Andrew Garfield is brilliant here, selling the comedy and the emotional stuff so well that you barely notice that the middle of the film is almost entirely Spider-Manless. The question still remains, though: how does he fit all that hair into Spidey's mask? Turns out, as these exclusive stills show, they use CGI to digitally shrink his head in post-production.
Sally Field's Aunt May and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy are also in a different league to their preboot counterparts (for the sake of argument, Stone's counterpart is Kirsten Dunst), not least because you don't want a bad guy to pull all their limbs off one by one because they're so hair-tearingly annoying. In fact two scenes, one with each of them simply sharing well-written dialogue with Garfield, caused me to get something in my eye. It was popcorn, because well-acted, well-written dialogue scenes really exacerbate my hand-to-mouth co-ordination disorder.

Main villain duties fall to Jamie Foxx's Electro, although for a main villain he too is largely absent from the film's mid-section. His character has the pathos with which Stan Lee liked to imbue many of his bad guys, and his first face-off with Spider-Man is well-handled: the Electrovision is a cool touch, sparingly used, and Hans Zimmer and Pharell have given him a bonkers theme song that sounds like Eminem having a row with Daft Punk in the cellar of a lunatic. Unfortunately he's got the world's dullest supervillain costume (except for his magically self-repairing electropants), a million miles from the lightning-masked loon of the comics, but what he lacks in style he makes up for in mentalism: his bedroom is eerily reminiscent of that of Jed Maxwell, Alan Partridge's unhinged stalker.
Once again, I find myself asking of a supervillain: how does he wank?

Dane Dehaan, who still hasn't grown into his ludicrously deep voice, borrows Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3-era emo haircut to play Harry Osborn, with mixed results. It's hard to buy him and Peter as BFFs, and he's too sinister not to turn psycho, but the Parker / Osborn mythology is given an interesting new twist to prevent another retread of the Raimiverse. When the inevitable Goblinisation rolls round, you'll have to decide for yourself whether it's a terrific addition to the supervillain canon or if it is, in fact, just a little bit too silly.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is far from perfect (it isn't even amazing); like every modern superhero film it's too long, it doesn't really add anything useful to a bloated genre and it wastes a fun hero/villain dynamic at the expense of a subplot that sits apart from the rest of the film. But it's very funny, boasts a handful of excellent scenes and performances, and delivers some first class comic book action. It's not quite the Iron Man 3 to its prequel's Iron Man 2, but it's enough of an improvement to re-pique my interest in the franchise, and frankly I imagine that was its only goal.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Happy 22nd birthday Empire magazine!

Astute readers of monthly movie waffle merchants Empire magazine cannot fail to have noticed that this year it celebrates 25 years of active service. Like a lady made of paper and words, Empire has been menstruating film chat every month for quarter of a century, and its menopause is, thankfully, nowhere in sight. Long may it continue to discharge the blood and mucosal tissue of its smart and witty reviews, exclusive features and crap photo captions into the sanitary towels of our eyes, and may it forgive this unpleasant metaphor which I began without fully realising the horror of its inevitable conclusion.

As far as I'm concerned, Empire is in fact a mere 22 years old, as I didn't start reading it until early 1992. I still remember the day Empire and I first met: bored shitless during my lunch break from a Saturday job at Lloyds Supersave chemists in my home town of Whitchurch, Shropshire, I ventured into WHSmiths in the hope of finding something to take my mind off an impending afternoon of stocking shelves with IZAL medicated toilet paper. Browsing the magazine rack, I was alarmed to be confronted by Kevin Costner gurning handsomely at me from the cover of Empire issue 32. I didn't care much for Costner at the time, so the thought of paying money for something with his face on it gave me pause, but I was a big film fan and it certainly appeared that this magazine might just have something about films in it.
I must have flicked through it in the shop, because nothing on the cover of that issue could possibly have convinced me to part with what probably amounted to half my weekly salary from Lloyds Supersave. Frankie & Johnny? BORING. JFK? BORING. I was 17 and excited about The Last Boy Scout and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, not free cardboard posters of two films I'd never even heard of. But inside were reviews of The Last Boy Scout and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, so while Empire may not have had me at "hello", it certainly had me at "take your shoes off and make yourself comfortable".

I've remained more or less faithful to Empire ever since, although I should confess that I've cheated on it with Total Film, Hotdog and Neon (the latter of which was by far its best companion and I mourn its loss to this day) for a while, and I downright deserted it for about six months some time in the late 1990s. I can't remember the cause of that temporary separation, but I'd stayed true throughout those long years of every article ending with a maddening ellipsis, so whatever it was must have been serious. Maybe it was those paltry three stars for The World Is Not Enough, so clearly a four-star film, right?
Shut up.

In 2009, faced with another house move involving lugging several tons of magazines from one postcode to another, I donated my 17-year collection of Empires to a recycling bin. It was a tediously practical decision, and while I don't regret it (I don't think I ever looked at an old issue once the new one came out), I do regret dumping issue 32. I could buy one on eBay for 99p but it wouldn't be the one I fondled so vigorously that Saturday lunchtime over a turkey sandwich and a cup of instant coffee that tasted like IZAL medicated toilet paper.

In my final year at university I had written to Empire's editor, Ian Nathan, asking for work experience on the magazine. I'd included my review of Ron Howard's Ransom, a piece of writing I now recognise as one of the most unpleasant things ever to happen to paper, and that includes IZAL medicated toilet paper. Mr Nathan, displaying the kind of judgement which has kept him at the magazine for so long, did not reply. But fifteen short years later I circumvented him by pestering reviews editor Nick de Semlyen to let me write short DVD reviews, and in issue 271 Empire and I finally consummated our relationship as I penetrated its pages with my three-star review of the home entertainment release of Mr Popper's Penguins. Movie journalism had entered a brave new era.

I dip my toe into this stinking cesspit of self-indulgence because, being old and grumpy, I don't get excited about much, but being even the tiniest of cogs in the Empire magazine machine gets me all sorts of tumescent. It's been such a constant part of my life for so long that I can't imagine being without it, so helping to make it (even if I'm only helping to make it worse) feels like an enormous privilege. Who, having read it for so long, wouldn't want to write for Empire? Only last week at their annual awards shindig, Online Editor James Dyer chatted amiably with Arnold Schwarzenegger; regular freelancer Olly Richards shook hands with Tom Cruise (twice, he'll happily point out); and diminutive, beardular, subnormal Features Editor Dan Jolin felt the warm embrace of courageous, manly, distinguished icon Hugh Jackman (adjectives added at Dan's insistence). It's getting to do shit like that FOR A LIVING that makes the people who make Empire make it as fun to read as it is. They're all film geeks living the dream, and that enthusiasm drips off the pages like... well, let's not get into period metaphors again.

So without wishing to sink any further into a bog of sycophantic muck sloshed liberally over an occasional employer, I'll simply wish Empire a happy 25th birthday and thank it for everything it's given me since January 1992. Keep up the good work guys, and if you're interested, I have a terrific Ransom retrospective piece up my sleeve...

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Batten down the hatches, there's a storm a-comin': a storm of absolute batshit mentalism from which even the sturdiest umbrella won't protect you. You may as well just pop your Speedos on now and prepare to drown in the boundless biblical bonkersness of Darren Aronofsky's Noah, a film which - while no more crackers than its source material - is simultaneously completely wonderful and utter dreck. It's brilliantly awful, and I cannot wait to see what the world makes of it.
"Fucksake, God. I JUST hung the washing out."

In the beginning, Darren creates an opening sequence showing mankind turning the shiny new Earth to shit, and the audience will see that it is good. Then he said, "Let there be a clichéd prologue where young Noah, wearing a hoodie for some reason, is given a backstory as old as time." This the audience will call 'a bit ropey for a biblical epic written and directed by one of modern cinema's most singular talents, but carry on.'

Having thereby diced dangerously with audience goodwill in its opening minutes, Noah soon reveals that it genuinely doesn't care for your expectations, and ploughs on with a story that consistently surprises in the most boggling ways while churning out a low-rent melodrama of baffling banality. On a mission from God - sorry, The Creator - to build a massive wooden box, stuff it with animals and wait for rain so furious that it erupts from the ground and the sky, Noah (Russell Crowe) is aided by Watchers, huge knobbly rock-beings that resemble giant angry Nik Naks. This is the kind of stuff that makes you glad to be alive while Darren Aronofsky is making films, but it's not long before attention is focussed instead on a soppy teenage infatuation between Noah's Burberry model son (Douglas Booth) and adopted Burberry model daughter (Emma Watson).
Seriously, let 'em drown.

And so it goes on: Ray Winstone, whose character may as well be called Ant Agonist, rocks up like a faded drunk panto star, chewing up both the scenery and precious endangered species while Russell Crowe grumps about po-facedly and talks in Historical Epicish to anyone who'll listen. It's a clash of styles which typifies the film and renders it senseless.

When the flood arrives, which it takes its sweet time doing, it's suitably biblically wrought and things start to look up. By this point we've got a lead character who hears voices telling him to ensure the destruction of the human race - including those nearest and dearest to him - being thrashed about on the waves while the planet's remaining souls clamber over each other to high ground, screaming in terror at their horrific fate. All this torment should make for an emotionally devastating piece of cinema, but Aronofsky ignores the plight of humanity, directs Russell Crowe as if he's troubled by nothing more than a stone in his sandal and bimbles on with the tedious teen soap opera that should be restricted to the status of minor subplot. It's hard to get involved in one man, burdened with a terrible purpose, when his wife is conducting pregnancy tests using half a coconut and some hemp.
As wildly entertaining as Noah is, it feels like a missed opportunity for a truly great biblical epic. It's maddening that a director with Aronofsky's vision would hire such a vacuous cast (Crowe and Winstone excepted) to tell a story with such huge themes, and utterly bewildering that he would allow it to so frequently sink into comically turgid mush, enlivened only by the occasional sub-Lord Of The Rings action sequence (and, let's be fair, a truly magnificent montage of the creation of all creation). But its unique spirit can't be denied, and so it is with no small amount of confused admiration that I celebrate it. It's a one-star film and a five-star film bundled together in an insane spin cycle, and the result is a three-star flawed masterpiece. God knows what you'll think of it.