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Dogs make me cry

I don’t cry at movies – apart from Finding Nemo because doesn’t everyone? Also anything starring Tom Cruise, but that’s a visceral rather than emotional response.

I’m much more susceptible to an intense, emotionally manipulative advert. Like the National Bank ad showing at cinemas here that always made me choke on my Malteser, and this one  from NZ Post always mists me up – although more light condensation, really.

However, when I was back in Ireland, there was an advert on telly that showed frequently. In it, the camera shows a Labrador, slumped in a small, bleak cell with bars across the front. He’s bored and lonely and quite obviously hasn’t chased a ball for what might be DAYS. Suddenly, his dull eyes spark; the ears prick; he jumps up, mouth falling open, tongue lolling; he darts to the front of the cell and sits eagerly; tail thrashing; he strains to see past the bars.

As People approach his cell, he looks up hopefully. And as they pass by barely breaking stride, his little ears sag, the tail wags ever more feebly; and as they walk out of frame, his whole body droops in defeat.

Sorry; did you say, what was it FOR? I have no idea. It seems reasonable to assume it was for K9 Friends or cell manufacturers or some such.

Every time this advert showed on telly, it reduced me to tears. One moment I’d be sitting there cynically monopolizing my parents’ Sunday Times magazine; the next choking back seismic sobs on the sofa.

I suppose it might have had something to do with missing my dog at the time. Also because Jed strives so hard to please me (when he isn’t distracted by a moving tennis ball); and looks at me like I’m the most wonderful thing in the world. I mean, Andrew stopped looking at me like that long ago – around the time he discovered me biting my toenails in the kitchen.

(Well, most of my boyfriends were TURNED ON by that.)

ANYWAY, I am grateful I no longer have to see that advert because it was pure embarrassing.

Then the other day, I was reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. It’s an AWESOME BOOK, and I would recommend it unreservedly but for the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger and now I’m completely stressed that the sequel is out on loan at the library until NOVEMBER.

So the protagonist, Todd, has a talking dog called Manchee. The villain, Aaron, is trying to kill Todd and Viola, when Manchee attacks him and gnaws his face long enough to allow Todd and Viola to escape in a boat. This is the relevant passage:

“Manchee!” Viola yells.

“C’mon, boy!”

And Manchee looks up from Aaron to see me calling him-

And that’s where Aaron takes his chance.

No!” I scream.

He grabs Manchee violently by his scruff, lifting him off the ground and up in one motion.

“Manchee!”

 “Todd?” Manchee yelps.

“Let him go!” I scream.

“Last chance, Todd,” Aaron says, no longer sounding so calm.

“Todd?” Manchee’s still yelping. “Todd?”

And no-

“I’ll kill you,” but my voice is a whisper-

And no-

And there ain’t no choice-

And the boat’s out in the current-

And I look at Viola, still rowing against it, tears dripping off her chin-

She looks back at me-

And there ain’t no choice-

“No,” she says, her voice choking. “Oh, no, Todd-“

And I put my hand on her arm to stop her rowing. The current takes us.

“I’m sorry!” I cry as the river takes us away, my words ragged things torn from me, my chest pulled so tight I can’t barely breathe. “I’m sorry, Manchee!”

“Todd?” he barks, confused and scared and watching me leave him behind. “Todd?

“Manchee!” I scream.

Aaron brings his free hand towards my dog.

“MANCHEE!”

Todd?

And Aaron wrenches his arms there’s a CRACK and a scream and a cut-off yelp that tears my heart in two forever and forever.

Well, I wept for a good ten minutes. When I finally unwracked, I was compelled to track down my own dog for lots of extremely reluctant cuddles.

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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

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