Movie Review: Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained

Django-Unchained-Poster-JacksonArguably, one cannot make a film about slavery without making a comment on it, and neither can one star a black man in a white-directed, white-produced movie without commenting on race. While many may not see Tarantino as a serious director (and for excellent reasons: I refer you to my esteemed blogger-comrade Rémy) I do feel that his movies make a comment on the subject matter, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

Django Unchained is, at heart, a vengeance tale set within the Western style of movie-making with a big, fat budget of $100 million. It riffs on blaxploitation movies, slavery, violence against women, black-on-black crime, ownership, love and revenge. It has time to segue into phrenology, that terrible pseudo-science, as well as German folklore. Don’t get me wrong: the plot of Django is very straightforward. Man loses his wife under terrible circumstances, and makes deals to get her back. Like Inglorious Basterds, like Kill Bill, it is revenge. Glorious, varied and endless revenge. And don’t get me wrong: the vengeance is as gratifying as it is visceral. We want to see Django’s enemies destroyed, for they are very, very bad men. At no point in this movie are white slavers ever given an ounce of sympathy. They are given only our scorn, and our glee at their punishment. Like Inglorious Basterds, we like to see the bad guys punished, as so few were at the time.

Is Django Unchained controversial? Yes. Should it be? No. In my opinion, Tarantino says some fascinating things about slavery, but none of them are pro-slavery. He shows the violence visited upon black bodies without hesitation. It was a terrible, horrific time to be black. That anyone should be shocked by violence in a slavery setting is ludicrous. Women were whipped on the smallest pretense.

Django-Unchained-character-postersRaped to pass the time, or produce more slaves. The hot box, the horsewhipping by the preacher – these are not fantastical scenes. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of American slave history will recognise the bit, the collar, the whips, the terrible items of imprisonment and torture. If Tarantino really wanted to make a movie about just vengeance, he could have done it without the background information that was seeded throughout. Bills of sale, forced marches, familial separations, the induction of black slaves into liking/loving their masters through incessant torture and grooming. Why go to all that effort to not make a movie about slavery, in some way?

Toni Morrison’s epigraph for Beloved reads:  ‘the sixty million and more’ who had no monument, no museum, not even a bench to mark their loss and pain in America when the book was published in 1987. While the number is still not certain, it still runs into the millions. America, who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, has numerous museums dedicated to those who died in the Holocaust, but almost for the slaves who died on their land, building their country. It has been left up to authors and directors to make some kind of memorial for them. Which brings me back round to my point: Tarantino might be a bit insufferable at times, but at no point did Django Unchained pretend to be anything other than an unforgiving look at an unforgivable time. After all, there were enough scenes of horror that could only have been enabled by slavery: tearing a black man apart with dogs, whipping a woman for dropping eggs, threatening to shoot a black man for riding a horse, branding women with hot pokers. The scene with the proto-KKK (the Regulators) was hilarious, pointing out the cowardice and childishness of that movement, which continues to be ridiculous today. The evangelical overseer with his whip and corpulence was a point of ridicule rather than awe.

DjangoUnchainedOfficialPosterPTI want to look at Django himself. Hollywood still has ridiculous hang-ups about avengers and ass-kicking, and who should get to star in such movies. There’s Die Hard numbers 1-10, and Crank, any movie with Liam Neeson in it, the Bourne series and about 70 James Bond films (ugh). There’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude van Damme, Chuck Norris (UGH), Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hardy, Jeremy Renner, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jnr, Jude Law, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Chris Evans. All men as white as the driven snow in movies by Tippex-white directors. Hollywood doesn’t mind when black directors choose black actors, but it has been a very long time since we’ve seen a black man take his own vengeance in a big, serious movie that wasn’t being sold as something like Bad Boys. Look at the number of the movies with white heroes with black sidekicks. (I won’t even talk about horror movies.) The movies starring black men as action heroes nearly all star Will Smith. And more Will Smith. Even Morgan Freeman is always in a supporting role as a magical negro. Now with Django, we have a black hero who is unrepentant in his role, who can be as brilliant and heroic and sexy as the next action hero. At no point is he ever made fun of, and when people try they end up coming off worse (“The D is silent.”). If you think this is an exaggeration, try come up with a serious, big-budget movie with a famous white director starring a black action hero that isn’t Will Smith or Samuel L Jackson. (Oh, wait, and Eddie Murphy, who went on to be The Nutty Professor.)

Right, moving on to production values (see, I know when to tone it down!), the soundtrack is outstanding, and very fairly priced on iTunes – particularly worth noting is Rick Ross’ 100 Black Coffins and Too Old to Die Young by Brother Dege. And there’s some extra dialogue that didn’t make it into the movie for your consideration. The settings were luscious, showcasing  the American South in all its natural glory and slavery-built opulence. Add to this incredible prop detail (notably the different slave collars that popped up in the background and on Django twice) makes this a stunning movie just to look at and listen to.

Two performances stand out in particular for me: Leonardo Di Caprio’s portray of Monsieur Calvin Candie, and Samuel L Jackson as Christopher. While Jamie Fox was outstanding and Christoph Waltz can do no wrong, Candie and Stephen took over the movie on

samuel-l-jackson-django-unchained-wallpaper

their terms, with commanding performances. Stephen interests me as a skewed portrayal of the male equivalent of the Mammy character, a character which appears so often without interrogation (like in The Help, that awful movie that pretends to be more important than it actually is). It is difficult to determine how much of it is happiness in slavery, but we are left with questions: can someone can beaten into loving someone? Is this Stockholm Syndrome? Is this what happens when one raises someone else’s children because they aren’t allowed to raise their own? Why does he seem to genuinely care about Candie? Does he hate all black people, or is it just in front of Candie? Or just Django? Again, why have such a complex character if this is just a shoot-em-up?

Django-Unchained-29And then there’s classy, greasy, sister-kissing Candie, who has the manners and heart of a Southern gentleman: he has harps playing while he signs over the life of another and uses phrenology to explain the supposedly inherent servitude of slaves with the skull of the black man who raised him, Ben. (It is deeply disturbing that they had the flesh melted off so that they could keep the skull, denying him dignity even in death.) Did he get Christopher to believe in phrenology? He has Lolita-dressed maids flitting about, a detail that plays in nicely to his understanding of the purpose of black women. But to see Leonardo play a very, very bad man was such a pleasure. He took what could have been a cringe-worthy, two-bit cartoon villain and filled him with charming, terrifying menace. That little hammer was given all the weight of a sledgehammer, all the threat of a cannon. An excellent change from his usual roles (not that he has ever turned in a poor performance.)

If you’re a Tarantino fan, you’ll enjoy this, even if it isn’t his best work. It is a bit overwrought at times, and Tarantino really, really needs to stop appearing in his own movies. I don’t know if its a Stan Lee kind of attempt to seem relevant but it smashes the fourth wall to pieces for those of us who knows what he looks like (and really wish we didn’t.) I wish Kerry Washington had had a bigger role – she is talented, and deserved more lines (though she does screaming well). She is a bit wasted here in this ultra-manly movie, but if we’re lucky she’ll appear in Kill Bill 3.

But for Django’s properly bad-ass reckoning, for Candie as the worst man you’ll see on screen this year, for Christopher and his classic “you’ll have to burn the sheets!” monologue,  this movie is still very much worth your time. And go see it on the big screen – you’ll be glad you did.

Film review of The Immortals (and all its tropes)

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect upon this movie, and align my thoughts through writing about it, I have to admit that the charm has worn off. Basically, the film is a mostly garbled account of Theseus finding the Epurian Bow, becoming a believer of the gods and eventually one of them after defeating the very evil Betty. Hyperion. Whatever. He had all the depth of a teaspoon. (I won’t even go near how this as far removed from actual Greek mythology as possible.)

The 300 influence is made very clear in the highly stylised settings, colour and fight choreograpy. Visually, the film is astounding, all credit being due where it is. The fabrics were lucious and the sets hugely detailed. I thought the gods were slightly pornographic in the Xerxes sense, what with gold being the pimp’s metal, but they were awesomely strong. For once, there was the sense of unbridled power that gods should have. Athena’s fighting style was especially sharp and fluid and the final fight between the gods and Titans was superbly handled. (It was also stomach-churning, like the rest of the movie.)

But its not enough to save a movie. Personally, I was annoyed by the whole “he was an unbeliever, but now look how awesome he is now that he believes in the gods, Chosen One, weeoo-weeoo”. Yes, I know, that stems from my own personal ideology rather than the movie itself, but it does grate a bit. It looks like easy evangelism. Now, I’ve said before that I love action movies but this one was just a bit much. Of course, no one expects action movies to be art, and I wasn’t expecting much. And yet, there are some fundamental problems with this movie that made it taste a little bitter. Let’s go through the tropes here.

There’s the typical woman stuffed in the fridge; the main character’s mother is slain before him, and all we know about her is that she was religious and was raped once by villagers. (I don’t think she was even given a name.) Later on, she becomes a Lost Lenore, in which her corpse proves useful. Its never really made clear what happened to disappeared Dad. This gives him the Orphan Power-up as well as turning him into a Convenient Orphan. He is also the dutiful son, as well as being the last of his kind AND the sole survivor. There’s the gross sidekick/follow-along guy, the Wannabe Casanova who says the kind of shit that suggests a punch is not enough, making him a straw misogynist. There’s the Noble Virgin (as you can imagine, that doesn’t last long because Nature abhors a virgin) who is also the champion and living MacGuffin. And, of course, the fake virgins just weren’t as pretty.

And its almost like the producers (who made 300) thought no one would notice if they recycled a few things. Gratuitous torture (amped up to 11 in this movie), virgins in lovely flowing dresses, action scenes shot like a scrolling platform game, gods dressed in gold, soldiers with ridiculously impractical cloaks and rousing speeches from underdogs, all done in the same copper tones. Isn’t it directors who should stamp their style like that?

Sometimes, a movie is worth it for the visuals alone. But the writing is so bad and the plot is so thin that it couldn’t be seen without Sherlock’s microscope, that its better just to watch the action scenes on Youtube. Even some of the fights were a bit stilted; I don’t know why the running looked like a sped-up shuffle.

And I so badly wanted this movie to be better. Greek mythology is rich and all that effort spent on visuals should have given me something less trite. But there’s always going to be the Ultra White Masculine Hero, the women basically stepping stones to his glory. Even Athena gets her ass handed to her. At least in 300 Queen Gorgo was given a beautiful speech and got to kick some ass by stabbing the disgusting rapist. Its something. It is sad that we have to reach so hard for a female protagonist these days. I think Salt is one of the few movies where the female protagonist fights on her own the entire way without a man stepping in (a la Kick Ass.) And at least Kill Bill offered up some decent female fighters without the ultra sexing up that usually attends such characters, like Sucker Punch did. I mean, are panty shots necessary in an action sequence?

So, I guess Immortals is great for those who enjoy gratuitous torture. Like Saw, really. But if Se7en was your pace, then this is just going prove that violence for its own sake will always be tacky.

The King’s Speech, Black Swan and The Oscars

Warning: long blog post requires coffee!

It has been a good year for movies, and for once the Oscars wasn’t dominated by shocking explosion-centric timewasters. To add to my collection of great books and movies enjoyed this year, The King’s Speech was a sublime movie, one that traded on dialogue, cinematography and solid performances rather than Megan Fox’s less than stellar looks and a brainless actor backlit by explosions on the movie poster.

The King's Speech cast

The King's Speech

Colin Firth’s performance was superbly balanced, and even though one does not normally relate to someone who has won the equivalent of the genetic lottery and never has to submit his CV for anything, he draws in the viewer with the frustration of not being able to vocalise a thought. While most of us wish to be more eloquent, at least we can spit out a sentence almost as quickly as it is mentally formed. To watch someone who has suffered a great deal of repression (including leg braces and being forced to change writing hands) attempt to overcome it through various therapies and interactions was an emotionally rewarding experience. There wasn’t so much character growth as revelation, and Geoffrey Rush is, as always, fantastically dry and charming to watch. (Pity about Pirates of the Caribbean, it didn’t really flex his remarkable talent. Shine is still his best work.)

It was also grand to see Helena Bonham-Carter not playing a crazy person. While I always enjoy her performance in the vein of Marla Singer from Fight Club, she was dangerously close to being typecast thanks to the godawful Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. She was remarkable as Elizabeth and as devoted as anyone could ever hope for in a life partner. She also has that remarkable ability to gently nudge someone in the right direction, no matter how hard it is for them. A wonderful performance, and such a nice change from her usual.

The settings were sublime, the costuming perfect and the soundtrack was a rising crescendo of violins that I thoroughly enjoyed and am definitely interested in getting my paws on. I particularly loved Lionel Logue’s consulting room, and I suspect that style of wallpaper or pastiche (I’m not sure how they coloured the walls like that) will quickly become the vogue. A movie made all the more rewarding by background knowledge of the start of World War 2, which is covered discreetly in the background. Timothy Spall made a fantastic Winston Churchill. I would have liked to see more of him, but unfortunately Mr Churchill is one of history’s most biostorous characters and apt to take over an entire movie should he be given more than twenty lines to say.

Next on my Oscar Movie list is The Black Swan.

I was ready to lobby for a war of letter-writing should Natalie Portman not get the Oscar for Best Actress. Thankfully, she swooped it up and it was deeply deserved. In the kind of role that crawls under the viewer’s skin, Natalie Portman plays a ballerina under a great deal of pressure, both internal and external, and the director Aronofsky drags us with Nina through the looking glass and into the crushing, exacting and relentless nature of her mind. It was a movie that stuck with me for days, and the soundtrack is still my accompaniment at work.

For once, the ugly world of ballet is shown for all its difficulty and ruthlessness. It is one of those arts where one in fifty ballerinas becomes a true prima, and the rest stay in the chorus line. It is an art obsessed with thinness and perfection and not one that I would encourage my children to do. There’s blood and hunger and cutthroat competition and Nina is maybe just a year too young or a little too coddled by her mother to deal with the pressure of being the Swan Queen. I found Black Swan to be more in the line of Japanese horror, the kind of passive-aggressive, subtle terror one links to those awful haunted hospitals in Japanese theme parks rather than bland, shouting violence the Americans parade as horror. While Black Swan does not market itself as a horror, I was tempted to leave the theatre, and was begging for the movie to end if only to let Nina escape the twisted horror of her life. Aronofsky, most famous for Requiem for a Dream, is remarkably talented in making the viewer undergo the same horror. In Black Swan, this is done through keeping the camera either over Nina’s shoulder, behind her eyes or right in front of her. There is rarely any distance between us and her, and at times one begged for a long shot just to give me some space.

I do not mean any of the above as negative criticism: it makes for true storytelling. Used to the usual saccharine nature of godawful Hollywood fluff, it was a positively raw experience that has restored some credence to the venerable art of filmmaking. I have always been an ardent believer in the power of film to move, especially because it can inspire as many people, if not more, than books. While books still own a large percentage of my passion for words, I believe that films have the power to inform and inspire through their infinite capacity to put sound and image together in a way that can knock against the heart of the viewer. We are not living in an age of widespread imagination, and the very visual nature of our information and entertainment has given film a great deal of power that it has unfortunately squandered on projects like The Hangover and Twilight.

Which brings me back to my general delight with this year’s Oscar nominees. While Inception was not very new in concept (despite what people might think, it was very predictable) it was incredibly well shot and the graphics alone deserve an Oscar. Toy Story 3 was a great deal more interesting just for Andy’s off-screen growth and its exploration of the roles toys play in our lives, and how they mark the years. I, for example, have a graduation Rhodent that I am very fond of because he reminds me of how very proud my parents were at my first graduation, and how special that moment was. I will likely keep it even though its unseemly for a grown woman to hold onto toys. Toy Story 3 looks at that, though it does have the usual formula of adventure and relationships.  True Grit was divine to look at and listen to. Hailee Steinfield was superb, and  her character Mattie Ross is my new favourite female character for her true grit and unfailing strength in such difficult situations. I haven’t seen The Fighter, but I really think Hailee deserved the Oscar. True Grit is quite dark (typical of the Coen Brothers) and while it was maybe half an hour too long, it was still a bold western enjoyable for its dialogue and characters.

I watched The Social Network in bits and pieces, but it seemed worthy of its adulations. Since I am a big fan of Facebook (if only because it allows me to try keep touch with rapidly fading friendships, but that’s a blog post for another day), I was interested to see how it was created. I think I am the only person not enamoured of Justin Timberfake’s performance. It also avoided the Hollywood happy ending, which pleases me.

As soon as I’ve caught up with my Oscar viewing, I shall likely post more. For now, I am mostly happy with the Oscar results and would much rather have seen Robert Downey Jnr host it. Anne Hathaway is sweet and she did it well, but RDJ is still king. (Yes, that was vaguely valley girl, but I will not apologise for it.)

For your edification, a picture of RDJ. To make your day sexier.

Under this pillow lies the key to my release.

Movie review: Up

Without a doubt, this is Disney’s finest achievement to date, ever. The graphics were sublime, suffused with warmth and dedicated attention to detail. The coloured light refracted from the balloons, the fabrics, the pennies in the Paradise Falls jar…they were all beautifully rendered. The storytelling is something that Disney lost track of for a while, I feel. Watered down sequels and pandering to the irritation of pop culture (see Shark Tale, Pocahontas 2, Mulan 2, High School Musical and Hannah Montana) took Disney away from what they did best: telling a story that is timeless and heartfelt.

Up is the story of an old man who deals with his wife’s passing by fulfilling the dream they couldn’t quite manage during their lifetime: going to Paradise Falls. The savings jar is constantly chipped into to repair tyres, pay medical bills and keep up with life’s expenses. The story of their life is rich in detail; Ellie’s infertility (so delicately and kindly handled), their house that they spent time in as kids, their hobbies, their picnics, their aging…there has never been so magnificently handled a story as the ten minutes dealing with their relationship before the movie begins with the main plot. I was crying, and crying and crying, because Ellie and Carl are the most wonderful and profound couple to ever share their story and if anyone is lucky enough to have such a relationship in their life, then they are truly rich in a way most of us will never be.

The characters…oh, the characters. Ellie is the most wonderful woman to appear in a Disney movie since Mulan. She steals the movie even though she isn’t in it for the most part, and we share Carl’s deep love for her because of how she inspired him to follow the dream. I particularly loved her addition to the Adventure Book: “thank you for the adventures…now go have a new one!” The story also deals with the ostracising of the old, the fat, the lonely. Russell, the fat Asian kid who loves animals and the outdoors, deals with the divorce of his parents and his absentee father. Dug the dog is a wonderful character, who says things like “I hid under your porch because I love you” and who is dedicated to being the very best dog he can be. I love it when children’s movies are about loving and respecting animals, something our society really doesn’t encourage enough.

Without a doubt, Up is my very favourite Disney movie. It is sublime in its storytelling and generous in detail and dedication. I still get teary when I think about it, which just goes to show that it is still possible to make a great movie that doesn’t rely on stereotypes, big budgets and big-name directors. If Up had been drawn and done in black and white, it would still have been a phenomenal movie.

Triple Whammy Movie Review

One of the reasons why I am glad to be back in Joburg is that I do not have to wait a month until after a movie comes out to see it. So, in deference to the new purpose of the blog (ie not an angry feminist bitch blog, as it previously has been seen), I would like to offer my thoughts on new movies, and one I watched recently that isn’t new.

Clash of the Titans 3D

Overall, it was not great art, but it was in the vein of 300. Lots of well-designed monsters and landscapes. The dialogue wasn’t too painful, other than the “Someday, someone has to say ‘enough'” kind of rhetoric. The main guy was a bit of an annoyance, because if I was given the power of the gods, I would use it. Who wouldn’t? Um, Io was strange. There was a little bit of cradle-snatching going on there, but at least no gratuitous sex scenes/romance scenes etc. It is very loosely based on Greek mythology and they thieved from the Koran a bit with the Djinn, but since no one looks to these movies for great accuracy, this is fine. (Although 300 was remarkably accurate.)

The scorpions are well worth a mention for their sheer nastiness and excellent design. Charon (which they prounced ‘Karon’ instead of ‘Gahron’ in the correct Greek style) looked like the cover of a metal album. Which is awesome. His boat was superb as well. Visually, the movie offered interesting interpretations.I particularly enjoyed the interpretation of the Kraken, even though it is a creature of Icelandic and Norwegian mythology and not Hades’ demon voodoo poodle. I just wish that Ancient Greeks didn’t sound so American or Scottish. I know that we cannot be certain of what they sounded like, but they could have modelled it on a Cypriot accent. Because of its relative isolation, Cyprus speaks the closest dialect to Ancient Greek. Mind you, it isn’t the sexiest accent in the world. Neither is American. In any case, it jarred that these hardcore Greek warriors sounded like they fell out of a Hollywood studio.

The 3D, for a change, was superb. Alice in Wonderland had shocking 3D, and I have it on authority that Avatar, apparently filmed for 3D, was poorly rendered. (James Cameron is such a blowhard.) And speaking of 3D, that brings me to…

How To Train Your Dragon 3D

I watched the trailer for this and thought, ‘meh, looks lame’. But from the opening til the ending, I really, really enjoyed it. The wit was superb, the dragons stunningly rendered and the characters well-rounded and likeable. Toothless was absolutely adorable, in his looks and mannerisms. Like a big, fire-breathing puppy! Its good to see a kids’ movie returning to the relationship between child and animal. I think Disney helped encourage a love of animals in me, and I would like to see more of that in movies. The visuals were phenomenally well-rendered, Dreamworks providing the best 3D experience thus far. Garfield and Friends in 3D is next best.

Sure, none of the ideas were particularly new. Father-son relationships, being the odd one out, befriending the enemy etc, but what Dreamworks does best is inject new life into old concepts. I loved Stoic the Vast, who just dominated the screen whenever he was around with his amazing beard and breast-hat. Toothless and Hiccup were just so amazing, and often I was just so moved by the simple joy of their relationship that I came close to crying, Movies these days often don’t inspire me with just visuals alone, but HTTYD managed friendship without cliche. The movie really should have been horribly cliched but it wasn’t, and I loved it. The little accident that happens to Hiccup at the end stopped it from being disgustingly cheesy, so good work.

So, good on Dreamworks. For the fantastic design of the dragons, the DnD references, the cast, the voice work. I loved it all, and now look forward to finally watching Up.

Hancock

I wanted to see this the moment I saw the trailer. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Will Smith. Maybe its because he only has three facial expressions. Sad/kicked puppy, action man and comedian.

But Hancock put a very interesting spin on an old,and now tiring, genre. As a superhero, he is not awesome with a tragic flaw. He is just an ass. It takes work to groom him into being a relatively well-behaved superhero. He is an alcoholic, destructive, rude and sadistic anti-hero and it takes a really, really good normal guy to help him in an excellent role reversal. Because hero movies have always been about the hero inspiring others, and its nice to see the real good guy being a normal guy. The movie looks at PR, prisons, personal rehabilitation and the life of superheroes. The twist comes out of nowhere, is deftly handled and makes the movie even funnier.

The action was superbly choreographed, especially the opening car chase/car flying scene. Will Smith plays an asshole really, really well, and reluctant good guy equally well. It was good to see someone do something new with the superhero genre, similiar to what Robert Downey Jnr is doing with Iron Man. Because his Iron Man is a rich, narcissistic ass, which is unusual for a Marvel character. Tony Stark, who has an extreme intelligence, should not play well with others. The intelligent and brilliant usually don’t. That he is a man with money and attractiveness and uses it to get all the things he wants does make him unapproachable by the common person.

Hancock and Tony Stark are not supposed to be like us. Superheroes are not famous and long-lasting because they pay bills and deal with the traffic like we do. We admire them because they do things we cannot, because they are our wish-fulfilment creatures. It is why we read and play fantasy games. Most of us want to be or do more. For some of us, being awesomely good at martial arts or parkour or science is the closest we’ll ever get to being heroes. Most people on this planet will sink into mediocrity.

Perhaps this is why Tyler Durden is so seductive as a character and idea. The point of fight clubs is to remind men of their personal power, something they may feel robbed of in this new age. After all, they are no longer needed by Western women for anything, really. Wanted, of course, but not needed. We earn our own money, can adopt or buy children and hire specialists as needed for various tasks and household needs. Fight Club, I think, addresses this feeling of being unneeded. What the clubs do, then, is provide both group therapy and self-empowerment. So, to sum up Tyler Durden:

“Getting fired […] is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives.”

Tyler says this after he puts a note amongst the rich hostess’ perfume bottles saying “I have urinated into one of your fine bottles”. The hostess goes insane, cuts herself to pieces on the bottles filled with whale oil and pain, and Tyler is glad that this act will free him from his menial, shit job. Later:

“I am trash,” Tyler said. “I am trash and shit and crazy to you and this whole fucking world,”Tyler said to the union president. “You don’t care where I live or how I feel, or what I eat or how I feed my kids or how I pay the doctor if I get sick, and yes I am stupid and bored and weak, but I am still your responsibility.”

This is why we have superheroes. Because most of us are stuck in menial, shit jobs, or in situations we don’t know how to change, or feel we don’t have the power to change. Tyler splices porn into kids’ movies to entertain himself. Tony Stark builds machines and is an alcoholic (in the comics), and Hancock drinks enough whiskey to drown a whale. Sometimes the closest we come to being like our heroes is that we have the same flaws, except that they colossally fuck us up more.

I love Tony Stark. Because I wish I was insanely smart and rich. I wish I was Tyler Durden, because he has the guts to be the anarchist I can’t be. I love Hancock because he was left behind and wonders ‘what kind of bastard I must have been if there was no one to claim me when I woke up’. Perhaps we can relate to them, but mostly we can’t. Superman is flimsy because he is too perfect. Especially after he was turned from 30’s vigilante to Christian poster-boy during the Vietnam War.

I don’t know why a movie review ended up becoming a dissertation on the place of the superhero, but if you are interested in this kind of cheap psychology, then read Superman on the Couch. All I really have to say is that I love comics and animé and movies because, like everyone else, I have wishes I can’t fulfil and that I turn to others to do it for me.  Because most of the time, I feel like this:

“What Tyler says about the crap and the slaves of history, that’s how I felt. I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted the whole world to hit bottom. Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.”

Alice in Wonderland

I won’t lie. I was quite disappointed with this offering of Tim Burton’s.

The best word to describe it is ‘generic’. Nothing really new was done with the idea, except for Alice’s history in the beginning. The same old mushrooms. The same old characters, but only the Red Queen has been somewhat updated. Disney should not have tried to make a live action film out of something they had already animated.

And oh, Mr Depp, why did you channel Jack Sparrow for this role? Why did you not have the gleeful madness of the Mad Hatter in his original form? And there wasn’t nearly enough of Stephen Fry’s fantastic voice acting. Alice is a bit of a drip, the White Queen is bizarre in an annoying way and The Knave was slimy.

Look, there was some incredible voice acting, especially for the Bloodhound and the crazy rabbit, but I felt that not enough had been done with what was almost a blank canvas. Burton usually takes generic tales and makes them exciting…with the licence to expand on what was already a drug-fuelled fantasy, he should have created a few more ‘wtf’ moments. But he didn’t, and the gap between my expectation and his offering has made me a little depressed.

Look, it’s worth seeing on the big screen just for the phenomenal graphics, beautiful costumes and cute creatures, but the 3D version was not very well filmed and was annoyingly blurred and out of focus.

I waited over a year, despite my well-placed misgivings, for this movie. And book to movie adaptations can be amazing. Look at Fight Club, King Lear (the director’s name escapes me) The Dark Knight, The Witches, and notably Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. It can be done, but it usually isn’t, and that’s why I am distrustful of movies made from books. Considering that Watchmen and The Scarlet Letter was such horrors, I truly hope they never get round to filming favourites of mine such as Paradise Lost, Moby Dick (a new version would be shit), and The Diary of Adrian Mole.

(Yes, I’m a snob. But we all knew this.)