Wednesday, August 31, 2005

THE ISLAND

McGregor’s Syndrome

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johansson, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi

Tagline: They don’t want you to know what you are

What if you were not you, but a clone of you, used for organs, but you didn’t know? Would you still be you? What would you do if you found out? What if Michael Bay made a dazzling and intelligent comment on society? Ok, fuck that last one. With The Island, Bay has crafted a dystopia as expensive-looking as it is patronizing in its right-wing agenda. In this vision of America’s nearing future, Europeans are evil, black people are very slow indeed and stem cell research is not only wrong, but a charade for a cult of anti-creationist murderers operating against the wishes of the American government. Loss of personal freedom is made as alien a concept as possible; those enslaved are godless, wear white and are surrounded by unfamiliar objects.
Coincidentally, acting talent rarely surpasses that of the average iRobot. Ewan McGregor is especially inept as Lincoln Six-Echo (he frees the slaves, don’t you know), and his real-life counterpart Tom Lincoln (his Scottish accent allows McGregor to display the two sides of his talent, ach!). With Scarlet Johansson as a comparably childish escape partner, the two are free to engage in distressingly poor attempts at fish-out-of-water humour and tediously impossible peril, such as falling about a kilometer, chased by hundreds of tonnes of steel and landing safely in some netting before being told that Jesus must really love them by a bystander.
Were this film marketed at fans of The Passion Of The Christ, Bay might have had the hit of the year on his hands. Instead, it has become a commercial failure at the hands of a film about (non-CGI) penguins, and thus become this year’s Paycheck. In America’s nearing future, using pretty cinematography, big names and saturation marketing to dress up boring Republican allegories with gargantuan plotholes might just become an increasingly difficult practice.

STEALTH

It’ll be 9/11 times 2356

Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard

Tagline: Fear The Sky

Like many critics, I am unsure if Rob Cohen is aware that Team America: World Police is a comedy. When Jessica Biel goes to North Korea by accident, she almost immediately starts into a mission to invade the nation herself, pointing assault rifles at peasant children as her boss simply states “We have no diplomatic relations with that country”. As a black man, Jamie Foxx’s character development is rushed a tad as we see him sing, listen to hiphop, play basketball skillfully and read a mission brief at the same time. Elsewhere in racism, the sight of a pair of bulls lugging a nuclear warhead up a hill in a medieval wooden cart to the towering sandcastles of Tajikistan is as remarkable as the decision to fire missiles at said warheads. The incidental music is often similar to Team America’s and Josh Lucas even resembles Trey Parker.
The message that America is better than geography, physics or human life is amusing in itself, but coming from a film script containing the phrase ‘I have to go pee-pee’ no less than thrice it’s very funny indeed. Better still is the love plot. The U.S. Defence Department threatened to withhold money if Josh Lucas fraternised with Jessica Biel, and it is as amusingly bizarre to watch them avoid kissing for the duration (Rob Cohen would later claim that this made the relationship ‘more interesting’) as it is to count the number of really politically hairy scenes deemed acceptable by the execs.
“War is about tools”, declares Josh Lucas, preparing to fly with the Extreme Deep Invader to ‘penetrate’ the terrorist leaders of Rangoon, oversexed Jamie Foxx jiving mad rhymes like “prepare for penetration-detonation”. Even the film’s poster image makes with the towering phallus. Sadly the only reward Josh gets for his repeated daring escapes from slow-motion fireclouds is the flaccid music of Incubus and the assurance by his love interest that he is a ‘pussy’. Rad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

HERBIE: FULLY LOADED

Herbie learns to grind

Director: Angela Robinson
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Justin Long

Tagline: He’s Back!


In this peculiar but compelling adult drama, Lindsay Lohan plays a vulnerable college hopeful who is abused by a greasy forty-two year old male. He slaps her about, makes her do things she doesn’t want to do, ejaculates on her chest in public etc. She is surprisingly (often very visibly) turned on by such shenanigans and plays along with his twisted behaviour. Things start to escalate when the cycle of abuse gets out of control and before long, both are openly seeing other people as part of a flirty game, but Lohan takes things a little too far, letting a seedy pervert (Matt Dillon) give her the ‘ride of her life’ causing her devastated partner to try to commit suicide. She ultimately has to decide whether her debauched lifestyle is more important to her than the wild friend who started the fun.
The credit for getting this movie a U certificate (in Britain anyway, Ireland saw through it) goes to director Angela Robinson, who has worked only on dykesploitation movies like But I’m A Cheerleader, Chickula: Teenage Vampire and last year’s D.E.B.S.. I was unfamiliar with these films, but if others know them it might explain why I was the youngest but one in the cinema.
The family movie template is so thin as to be practically nonsensical, but this has its advantages. Michael Keaton is hopeless, emotionless, and unable to say anything of interest, but cameos by plenty of NASCAR’s greatest stars, such as Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson show this to be a highly successful method performance. The Daytona 500 is mercifully reduced to a very brief farce, with noone but Herb’s driving shown in any capacity. The outcome of the last race is so uninteresting that it is even revealed in the trailer, to allow for more time to promote Cheetoes, as well as both Pepsi and Coca Cola.
Whether this movie serves as a poignant comment on the hollowness of modern eroticism or simply to point out to the six-year-old boy in front of me how lovely Lindsay Lohan looks in her array of blue tops every three seconds, it has a disappointing aftertaste. Perhaps because of the casualness of the final paedo joke, or that so many NASCAR fans are made happier, or maybe just because it is left to the imagination exactly how cars do it.