Author Archives: filmburble

They mostly come at night. Mostly.

So let’s talk about Newt.

I recently rewatched the first two Alien films after quite a few years. Living in internet nerd culture as I do, I felt deeply familiar with these movies despite my relative lack of that familiarity. Game over, man! Get away from her, you bitch! There are aspects of the films that have settled deeply into pop culture. And one of the things that everyone knows, so much so that it makes people defend Alien 3 (ugh), is that Newt is apparently really annoying.

So sitting down to watch, I was expecting the kid to be shrill, or whiny, or badly-acted. Any of the things that can happen to make children irritating in film. And I was completely surprised. She’s well-acted, she’s amusing, she’s about the only rational actor in the whole film and she’s certainly less whiny than Hudson, brilliantly played by Bill Paxton as a combat veteran so completely unmanned by the failure of firepower that all he can do is cry about how they’re all going to die this time, really guys, he means it.

If the Sulaco’s marines had taken Newt aside and asked her how she survived for weeks without getting caught, maybe they would have been luckier. All I can suppose is that the ‘nerd narrative’ on Newt was written by people who, when they saw Aliens, were little boys. And there’s not much that reads as annoying to little boys as little girls. Would the child be so disliked if it had been the brother who survived instead of the sister? I doubt it, even if the girl does have a scream that can shatter glass.

Also, considering how powerfully feminist¬†Aliens is, I’m amazed nerds like it as much as they do. The finale is two women fighting over a little girl, the men rendered helpless. You don’t see a lot of that.

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Now Zydrate comes in a little glass vial

The not too distant future. The coastline is choked with corpses and nine-tenths of the island on which our main city’s based is given over to a gigantic graveyard. A plague of mysterious organ failures looked set to wipe out the human race, until the company Geneco invented a quick, foolproof way of transplanting organs. Almost everyone in this society is now in heavy debt, with surgery being pushed as the solution to all life’s ills, and all money flowing towards GeneCo. Default on your payments, and the Repo Man will come to take back the organs you can no longer pay for.

That’s the setting for Repo: the Genetic Opera, a rock opera that was made into a movie in 2008. The plot has several strands, which is honestly part of the problem with the film. There’s Rotti Largo, the CEO of GeneCo, who is a cheerfully unrepentant murderer and torturer and sends his Repo Men out to butcher those who owe him money. He killed a lady because she left him for another man. There’s the other man, Nathan, who used to be a doctor but fell apart after his wife died, and now works as a Repo Man. He keeps his sixteen-year-old daughter prisoner in a room of their house, claiming she has a ‘blood disease’. There’s Blind Mag, a singer with GeneCo eyes who’s hoping to escape her contract. And there are a small host of minor characters, of whom the least annoying is probably the Graverobber, played cool and sexy by one of the creators of the musical, Terence Zdunich. He extracts a substance from dead bodies that acts as the perfect anaesthetic, enabling the surgery addiction of the rest of the populace. So he’s a drug pusher, basically, but a cool and sexy one.

The girl, Shilo, wants freedom and a normal life and to exchange words with someone other than her dad. Nathan is getting tired of murder, and Rotti is dying, trying to decide whom he should bequeath GeneCo – and thus, the world – to after he goes. His three children are collectively the biggest issue with this movie. Paris Hilton actually does a decent job with surgery addict Amber Sweet, but the boys are both dreadful, overplayed and shallow as puddles.

The rest of the cast do a pretty good job, on the whole. Alexa Vega doesn’t really have a rock voice, but she snarls out a few good tunes and fits in well with heavyweights Anthony Head and Paul Sorvino. Zdunich is a lot of fun to watch. The weaknesses of this film are mostly to do with story. It feels as if a lot was left on the cutting room floor. Moments of reaction that aren’t explained, fuzzy motivations – it just doesn’t quite convince.

Having said that, for an audience that likes musicals in general and rock in particular, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Sarah Brightman gives a remarkable turn as the blind singer and the setting is at least original, the visual style of the movie striking, if sometimes a little messy. And though the film that has no compunction about showing off scantily-clad babes heaving and panting at the least provocation, the themes of its story seem to be, at least in part, about the women of the film shrugging off the expectations and assumptions of their paternalistic caregivers to break free, in their own way. That alone is refreshing.

I actually adore this film, but my goodness, I’d be picky about whom I showed it to. A lot of people will bounce right off.

Thoughts on Les Miserables

Fair warning, before I start; I am extremely familiar with the London production of the musical, and my opinion of the film will necessarily be coloured by how well I already know the source material.

I thought this was about as good as could be expected. Musicals are very seldom subtle in any way, and a few of the clunkiest moments in Les Miserables come about because a character is centre-frame, looking sad, singing about how sad they are in direct “I am very sad” terms. That’s almost inescapable, though, given the nature of the thing. The performances were universally good, though I admit I’m a little tired of Helena Bonham-Carter’s insistence of playing Helena Bonham-Carter in every film she’s in that isn’t about a stuttering monarch. Not that she did a bad job, you understand, I just wasn’t interested in seeing her do it. By contrast, I think Sacha Baron-Cohen is a far better and subtler actor than the role of Thenardier really calls for, and I think it was a shame that ‘Dog Eats Dog’ was removed from the film.

Some changes I liked very much. I enjoyed the direct explanation of Valjean and Cosette’s time with Fauchelevent in the convent. I loved, particularly, seeing Javert trying to resign his post, something from the book that wasn’t in the musical, to my knowledge. Gavroche’s elephant was another welcome return. Moving ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ to after ‘Lovely Ladies’ was brilliant.

Some I didn’t appreciate quite so much. Eponine’s story felt damaged by the switch to Gavroche as messenger. Why did she dress as a boy when women were allowed at the barricade? There was no sense that Marius was surprised to see her. I missed the “My God – it’s everywhere” moment when Marius sees the blood on her clothing.

Anne Hathaway was remarkable and deserves her Oscar nomination. Hugh Jackman was as good as I expected, which is to say, very good indeed. My biggest surprise (and relief) was Russell Crowe as Javert. His singing wasn’t strong, but he brought humanity and depth to the character; his performance may only work as a piece of ‘movie acting’ and isn’t a musical triumph, but it does work. I enjoyed the little habit Javert apparently has of pacing along the edges of high places. He’s so sure in his righteousness, in his safety within the arms of a vengeful and stern God, that he isn’t afraid of falling.

Oh, and Eddie Redmayne was able to make Marius actually interesting. Not bad.