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Film review: RED movie

Wherein Helen Mirren demonstrates how to fire an automatic machine gun, which is: TOTALLY wearing a white ballgown.

Now, when I first saw him in ‘Moonlighting‘, I was staunchly undecided about Bruce Willis. Mainly it was that self-satisfied smirk. What did he have to look that smug about?

Hindsight shows us that, evidently, Bruce knew something we didn’t. Possibly many things. That Demi Moore would find him irresistible, or that hair would prove over-rated.

Unlike Harrison Ford or Rupert Everett, Bruce just improves with age. Ok, perhaps the first comparison is a little unfair, given that Harrison’s thirteen years older. However, I seem to recall that in Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Harrison was giving the famous Ford pop-eye to Anne Heche who was precisely half his age at the time. I would now express myself with a moving range of flatulence had I had the personality of a 15 year old teenage boy. Let’s all be thankful I don’t.

Anyway, we like Bruce (that’s the royal ‘we’). He’s just the type you want around when hitmen are dropping into your garden from a hovering helicopter. Or when you need to defuse a bomb under your kitchen. Let’s face it: there will never be a circumstance under which you wish Tom Cruise were handy (I can point at things quite adequately myself). Or Brad Pitt, because I can’t spare the hairdryer and, happily, my husband has more raw sex appeal and if you doubt me let me just refresh your memory.

What’s that you say: biased?

Who, ME?

Ok, well . . . SO?

Wanna start a Thing?

BRING IT.

Now, over the weekend we saw Bruce’s latest vehicle ‘Red’ at Top Town Cinema. So, um, I suppose it could best be described as a comedy action thriller with some romance.

Actually, ‘loud’ would probably have covered it.

Bruce stars as Frank, a retired ex-CIA black-ops employee, whose life revolves around pointless press-ups, growing an avocado plant, and tearing up his pension cheques so he has an excuse to call the Customer Service Rep. This is Mary Louise Parker, who – I’ll be upfront about it – ranks at the Jolie end of the scale i.e. (for those who are not familiar with my Tyler/Jolie Scale of Unbearableness) annoys the crap out of me, yes, even in ‘Weeds’. Anyway, in ‘Red’ she plays another annoying character, one who is more interested in having telephone sex with OAPs than doing her fucking job yet sees no irony in bemoaning her lacklustre love-life.

This state of affairs all changes when a squad of hit-men break into The Bruce’s house to rub him out. Bruce dispatches them all within about three seconds of screen-time by strangling them with his dressing gown cord.

Stopping en-route to pick up a protesting Mary Louise Parker for her own protection (thankfully he also duct-tapes her mouth shut, presumably for the viewers’ protection), Bruce goes on the run. On the way, he attempts to figure out who’s trying to retire him permanently, the answer to which involves many interested parties including big business, politicians, and the good old CIA; and so complex as to make virtually no sense whatsoever.

Bruce also finds some spare time to get his old team together, all of whom are also classified RED – ‘Retired, Extremely Dangerous’. If the baddies had only done a little due diligence and watched Diehard with a Fucking Vengeance, they would have realized how ED Bruce Willis is.

In fact, this constitutes one of my main issues with the film. Bruce and his cohorts – John Malkovitch, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren – are apparently inviolable, which is nice for them, but doesn’t make for much in the way of dramatic tension.

Even when Bruce breaks into the impregnable CIA HQ, how about a bit of decapitation or something to demonstrate how dangerous it is? I don’t want to be TOLD it’s a suicide mission, then watch Bruce strolling around smirking at trained CIA operatives who want to kill him if they only knew it.

The other thing was, the movie should have been MUCH funnier. So much potential, but the jokes all seemed tired – in fact, exhausted would be a better word. For example, Bruce chatting up MLP on the phone, who mentions she’d like to travel, go to Chili; she asks if he’s ever been and what it was like.

Afterwards, he smacks himself around in a horny orgy of self-loathing, for responding, “It was night.” Granted, it’s not the smoothest of responses, but there are worse. “I had Delhi-belly the whole time,” for instance, or, “Sometimes I think of you licking stamps and masturbate.”

In another scene, MLP reads ‘Forbes’ upside down in the CIA staff canteen. Now, if actors are paid seven-figure salaries, shouldn’t they be required to PROJECT distraction instead of resorting to reading a magazine upside-down? At this point, I’m convinced Forbes actually prints some editions with the cover on upside down so that actors don’t have to strain themselves.

Then we had Helen Mirren settling in for some girl-chat over an automatic weapon. “If you break (Frank’s) heart,” she threatens MLP, “I’ll kill you then bury your body in the woods.”

I suppose, coming from a career assassin, it was supposed to leap off the screen with a new twist, but it just . . . didn’t.

So, as to how many stars to award Red, I’m conflicted. No doubt, the film was above-average entertainment. But with that cast – which was so awesome I forgot to even mention Karl Urban – and the concept – it should have been SO MUCH BETTER.

The execution should have been a clean kill, but was sloppy and indecisive.

The action was over-crisp, yet under-cooked.

It hurts me to do this, but I wouldn’t be doing justice to either you or me if I didn’t deduct a star for the wasted potential. Trust me. The alternative would hurt A LOT more.

2/5

Insert condiment pun here

Salt is the most preposterous movie I’ve ever seen – and yes, I have watched both Lara Croft films and several of Steven Seagal’s.

No mystery in the answer to the tagline: Angelina Jolie

The entire plot is based on a plausible way of getting Angelina Jolie into a Russian costume with fur trim. Plausible, in this case, being a bendy, stretchy, logical-only-in-the-action-spy-thriller-adventure-context sort of concept.

Basically – and at first glance you wouldn’t think the word could be applied to this film but don’t be fooled – some Russian dude approaches the CIA offering information in exchange for amnesty. When CIA Agent Evelyn Salt interviews him, he announces that she is one of an undisclosed number of deadly Russian ‘sleeper agents’ sent to bring down the American government.

Is Angelina a Russian agent? Or a double-agent or even a triple- or quadruple-agent? Does anyone really care after Ange removes her knickers in the second scene?

Cue ever increasing ridiculousness.

Unfortunately, it’s perfectly clear which side Ange is on if you not-so-carefully observe whom she annihilates with a smouldering pout, and whom she merely kneecaps and smacks about playfully.

Similarly, Ange’s best friend is played by Liev Schreiber, so we all know where THAT’S going. Oh, come ON, it’s hardly a spoiler! Here’s a little movie quiz:-

GOODIE OR BADDIE:

Christopher Lee
Tom Cruise
Will Smith
Jason Isaacs
Alan Rickman
Arnold Schwarzeneger
Liev Schreiber-

EXACTLY. Liev Schreiber’s one of those actors who, as soon as he walks into frame, completely kills dramatic tension. Because you just KNOW.

The movie opens with Ange being tortured in North Korea, although thankfully she’s wearing matching underwear. She rolls around the floor wailing in her matching underwear, but later we’re expected to believe the same woman goes all ninja turtle on CIA and ex-KGB ass when she can’t garotte a couple of scrawny North Koreans with her bra? 

My credulity never fully recovered from that leap. I mean, I could understand if she didn’t want to be left with a pair of unmatched knickers, but that plot point was never clarified.

Then we’re introduced to the husband, an arachnologist, who was instrumental in getting her sprung. He’s obviously besotted with Ange because he gazes at her lovingly even though she has a fat eyelid.

In a cosy domestic scene, it is implied that Ange is smitten with him too, because she doesn’t mind him putting spiders on the breakfast table. I mean, isn’t that every guy’s dream? She also peeps coyly at him from behind a door, which is completely out of character and pure embarrassing. Her devotion would have been better established by treating him to hot, spider sex across the table.

I struggled to see the attraction. I mean, in one of a series of flashbacks that serves little purpose, he chats up Ange with the line, “I hunt spiders”. I don’t know about you, but that one never did it for me. But also, August Diehl is no Brad Pitt:

That said, he looks much nicer and probably doesn’t wear mirrored shades to check out his own reflection. 

Anyway. Ange goes on the run from the CIA to save her dog and prove her innocence while pretending to assassinate the Russian vice-president and trying to find her husband in her spare time.

When she builds a rocket launcher out of a table leg, bottle of bleach and a fire extinguisher, Ange breaks a nail and spends a couple of seconds flicking her hand around going, “Damn, I broke a nail.” And she spends less time constructing her weapon than pouting at the door in case some cute guy she wants to have hot spider sex with forces his way in.

At least she wouldn’t have had to take off her knickers, because she applied them to cover a security camera earlier. Which neatly ties up one loose end.

Then Ange returns to her apartment and has to crawl out the window in her pencil skirt when the CIA bursts in. There’s a wonderful shot from above of Angie clinging to some grouting five stories off the ground. After a lot of grunting and evading of an up-the-skirt shot, she makes it to street level, where she’s spotted STROLLING ALONG THE SIDEWALK by the guys she’s trying to evade . I mean, don’t you think she’d have concealed herself in a dumpster for five minutes? JEEZ.

There follows a high voltage chase sequence. Before filming, Ange should have watched The Bourne Trilogy, which would have taught her that, when you momentarily shake your pursuers, NEVER RUN to evade capture. Walk casually yet briskly, admiring the birds and occasionally referring to a map while tying your shoelaces if absolutely necessary. It also helps if you’re not wearing a light suit that’s marinated in blood. Also, if you don’t run like a girl.

At one point, Ange takes a course in The Superman School of Disguise by wearing a hat, contact lenses and a pair of false teeth. But even that was preferable to disguising herself as a man, which was frankly deeply disturbing.

Another time, she kills some actor eating into her screen time with a modified yoga-stretch, which was cool. But nothing could redeem Ange after she entrusts her pet to a neighbour’s kid to look after; yet has no qualms about abandoning the dog before the credits roll. Ultimately, I don’t care if she was a goodie or baddie: what a bitch.

Someone – and I’m not mentioning names – but I’m LOOKING AT YOU MarkJ, yeah YOU, that’s the prickle you feel at the back of your neck, although you also need to turn down the gas heater – raised the question whether Jennifer Aniston would be able to ‘pull off’ this role.

The answer is no.

However, I’d like to see Angelina ‘pull off’ a role where she’s required to show any motivation other than looking hot, nasty, and about three days overdue a bath.

2/5

Lank hair

And then there was Proof, during which I was mentally violated by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Proof

To avoid charges of bias, I will fess up right here. I mean, you can still charge me with bias, but since I will have admitted it, there seems little point, hmm?

Here is the basis of my bias: Gwyneth annoys the crap out of me. There is nobody else whose hair I want to pull more. And Baby CHEESES will someone ever give the woman a carb? She is critically in need of a feed of rice pudding. You can actually see her wasting away on screen.

Gwyneth evidently attended the Tom Cruise School of Acting, whereby as long as you have a minimum freaky charisma allied with plasticity of skin, you can employ one, single gesture to cover all human emotion and pass it off as acting. (In Tom Cruise’s case, this is of course the double-hand point. In Gwyneth’s, a bewildered frown with eyes crossed.)

Director: Cut, cut, CUT! Goddamit! Babydoll, get your sweet ass over here!

Gwyneth: I presume one is referring to me.

Director: Who? Yeah, whatever. Gwynnie honey. Since your features are so pale and indistinct, we need you to – what’s it called again? – oh yeah. We need you to ACT more.

Gwyneth: I can act you know. I won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.

Director: What’s that? You might want to speak up while you’re at it. I want you to EMOTE. I want to see the spit, I wanna FEEL the sweat. Set to it, there’s a good girl.

Director (aside to sub director): Stupid bitch. Needs a good feed of rice pudding.

I have no idea how she won an Oscar, although I can only conclude she must have donated many varied and nasty sexual favours to the entire Academy.

Now that’s out of the way: in Proof, Gwyneth plays the petulant, whiny, lank-haired daughter of a brilliant mathematician. She gives up her own studies when dad goes woopdewoohoo and then misplaces his mortal coil. Then her father’s student finds a notebook containing a mind-blowing proof to some theorem, which Gwyneth claims she wrote.

Honestly, it’s a stretch believing Gwyneth is capable of forming coherent sentences, never mind that she is a mathematical genius.

Gwyneth’s character is consumed by the likelihood of following her father into insanity. She appears to be crazy because she fears going crazy. Which is undoubtedly tragic but no more than, say, genocide – or any number of other things.

Her sister is supposed to be a harridan, but all I felt was sympathy for her. She turns up the day before their father’s funeral try to persuade Gwyneth to wash her hair – I completely understood where she was coming from – and Gwyneth gets all snotty about hair being dead tissue so Jojoba Oil won’t make any difference. Well, I’ve used Jojoba on my own dead tissue and the stuff is a miracle, so that shows you how much she knows.

Jake Gyllenhaal is her father’s former student, the drummer in a rock band of maths geeks. This time I suspended disbelief – hung it by the neck until dead – and then tried swinging it around and juggling it a while, but it was no good: maths geeks are just not that good looking. Trust me. I studied maths, and we were a dull looking bunch of monobrows. The best bit in the movie is the band’s song ‘i’, comprising three minutes of silence.

Disregarding all that, the movie is worth a watch.

Indiana Jones and the Big Gob of Fluorescent Chewing Gum

Look, it’s not as if I expected the classic brilliance of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, or the gory humour of ‘Temple of Doom’. It’s virtually impossible to eclipse chilled monkey brain dessert, but I expected more, I did. After all, Steven’s had 19 years to polish the wry jokes and construct a compelling storyline. What’s the man been doing?

Just after the opening credits, Harrison Ford pilots a fridge out of a nuclear blast, but the stunt evidently wore him out for the remainder of the movie. He may be 65 years of age, but that’s no excuse for strolling into a burial chamber to pick up his artefact and ambling out again. There was a tragic lack of ingenious booby traps. Where were the poison darts, boiling lava and lethal giant trundling boulders? As far as I’m concerned, if Harrison can’t roll, charge, swing or leap out of airplanes in inflatable dinghies, it’s time he retired the whip. Even swarms of killer ants failed to add menace to the picture. It simply felt like the movie suffered from an ant infestation.

On one occasion, Indy escapes a pit of dry quicksand when it’s BARELY UP TO HIS CHEST. His chest! And if he’d been left there, it might have been up to his chin by the end of the movie. The only thing in any mortal danger was the sense of drama.

I’m still not sure what the story was about. Something about a crystal skull which has to be brought somewhere or other for some reason or other. Even the skull was a disappointment; far from being a special effects triumph of glass with fully functional hinged jaw, it looked more like a gob of fluorescent chewing gum.

The arch villain, Irina Spalko, stumbled into the film after taking a wrong turn on her way to a Bond movie. In a brave career move, Cate Blanchett brings an evil pantsuit to the role which makes her arse look about three times bigger than it is. Spalko spends a lot of time and energy running around after a big gob of fluroescent chewing gum, when she could have fulfilled her vocation as a dominatrix by simply stealing Indy’s whip. I spent most of the movie fantasising about being spanked by Cate Blanchett.

Unfortunately, the fantasy was better than the film

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