Tag: British

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Avengers

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/avengers_98.mp3]

When Marvel Comics set out to create an uber-film bringing together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk (and SHOULD include the Wasp or Ms Marvel at the very least), there was something standing in their way. It was not the worried, furtive glances of fanboys or the daunting task of condensing decades of continuity into what amount to two-hour snippets. No, the problem was that another film called The Avengers already existed. Thankfully, most of the civilized world seems to have forgotten about it. I wish I could.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

Based on a 60s spy-fi series of the same name coming to us from the BBC, The Avengers introduces us to John Steed, shining star amongst the good dozen or so secret agents we see in the employ of ‘The Ministry’. He is tasked with finding and questioning Dr. Emma Peel, an eminent meteorologist, on some strange goings-on in the atmosphere and the fact that she’s apparently killed someone. Mrs. Peel, since we’re not being quite so formal, is understandably curious as to how she could be in two places at once and thus joins Steed in tracking down the true mastermind behind the atmospheric shenanigans, a graduate of the Blofeld School for Evil Geniuses and recipient of the Dr. Evil Impractical Domination Plot Award, Sir August De Wynter. … No, it’s not a clever nom-de-plume.

The TV series was sadly before my time. I recall my father gushing about it from time to time, how Steed’s cool demeanor under fire lent a sort of tongue-in-cheek aspect to the action and intrigue, and Diana Rigg in a black catsuit was nothing to sneeze at. From what I understand, however, the premise of the show began somewhat grounded but eventually grew to incorporate some of the more esoteric aspects of the James Bond films while simultaneously delivering subtle parodies of eccentricities of the contemporary British lifestyle. For some reason, the writer and director of 1998’s Razzie contender seemed to be under the impression that all of this idiocy was to be played 100% straight. Maybe this confusion was caused by the apparent fact they need to share a brain.

Courtesy Warner Bros.
BEEP BOOP WE ARE EMOTING – CURRENT STATE: DULL SURPRISE

‘Straight’, by the way, here has the meaning of ‘straight as a length of rebar made from indestructible space metal and about as pliable.’ The actors tasked with modernizing these icons of their age, Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, seem to be so mechanical and uninvolved in their actions and delivery that I had to wonder if I was actually seeing the actors or some very advanced animatronic doubles who had been programmed to emote by mole people who’ve only seen human beings through fractures in the earth’s crust, most of them under Madame Tussaud’s. Even Sir Sean Connery isn’t having fun in this thing, and he gets to preside over a meeting of evil masterminds while dressed in a bear costume. And before you think that’s a bit odd, let me expand on the scene by saying they’re ALL in bear costumes. It’s like they decided part of their world domination plot included cosplaying as the mascots for the Grateful Dead.

As for the British influence, I think the only things the monobrained writer-director superstar tag team know about the Brits is that they drink tea and have accents. It seems that every single opportunity they get these people are having tea. Steed even has a fucking spigot in his Bently for the stuff. With cream already added. Red phone booths, double-decker buses, no anachronistic, staid and trite Britishism goes unreferenced because that’s funny, right? Oh, this isn’t a comedy? It’s a big-budget blockbuster? Well, the action is at least engaging. At least it would be if there was ever the vaguest hint of danger, suspense or even excitement projected by our cast. I know it’s a lot to expect for a movie like this to verge towards realism, but last I checked lightning striking a metal rod extended in a man’s hand did not lift him into the air as if the gods of Olympus decided they wanted to raise the villain up just to personally dismember him with their immortal nectar-stained hands. But by then I’d pretty much given up on the movie making any sense whatsoever.

Courtesy Warner Bros.
Did you think I was kidding about this?

It only runs 90 minutes long but it feels a lot longer. It takes itself far too seriously to be campy and goes for too many idiotic laughs to approach the quiet desperation of truly British films like Trainspotting. Attempts at innuendo or chemistry fall flatter than the deck of an aircraft carrier and have about as much subtlety. The plot makes absolutely no sense and skips around without warning, the special effects are bland and uninspired and I couldn’t help but think you should be getting a lot more entertainment or at least some fucking fun out of Voldemort, the Bride and James Bond himself all being in a spy-fi movie together. It’s no wonder Marvel steamrolled this macaroon-smelling turd on its way to production. The Avengers from 1998 is best left forgotten. Find the TV series if you’re curious, and hopefully the movie of the same name coming out next year will be a better time at the movies overall, even if the inclusion of only one girl is a bit perplexing. The ’98 flick had a few more, including double Uma Thurmans. And if nothing else, at least Eddie Izzard got to wear some fabulous shoes. But when executive transvestite fashion’s the highest compliment you can pay the picture instead of just an amusing observation… you get the idea.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Snatch.

Logo courtesy Netflix.  No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/snatch.mp3]

I’ve stated in some previous reviews that Jason Statham is a badass. I’ve also mentioned him in his work with Guy Ritchie, of which Snatch is the prime example. It’s also arguably Ritchie’s best film to date, often compared to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels the way Pulp Fiction is compared to Reservoir Dogs. But before I start drawing parallels between two directors and lose what few readers & listeners I have, let’s talk about Snatch. The movie, not anything else. The film stars Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Alan Ford, Stephen Graham, Dennis Farina, Rade Serbedzija, Mike Reid, Vinnie Jones, Lennie James, Robbie Gee, Ade and Brad Pitt.

Snatch, courtesy Columbia Pictures

Jason Statham is an underground boxing promoter in London by the name of Turkish. (Take notes, Dr. Boll, as he is not named “Boxer” or “Promoter”.) He and his partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) are trying to get their fighter, Gorgeous George, into the ring for a fair fight with one of the boxers promoted by local kingpin and pig enthusiast Brick Top (Alan Ford). Meanwhile, Frankie Four-Fingers (del Toro) has stolen a gigantic diamond from Antwerp to the delight of his boss Cousin Avi (Farina) and is heading to London to discuss his ill-gotten gains with Doug the Head (Reid). Aware of his arrival is Boris the Blade, aka Boris the Bullet-Dodger (Serbedzija), who taps two guys from a pawn shop to intercept Frankie before he can offload the rock. Brad Pitt is a fast-talking semi-Gypsy bare-knuckle fighter, Jones is a cold-as-ice bounty hunter named Bullet-Tooth Tony and Ade is the world’s largest getaway driver. We never learn the name of the dog.

If you’re not confused yet, I’m impressed. The film juggles these disparate plots while standing on one foot and telling off-color jokes. If you’re easily offended by foul language, particularly the word “fuck,” you probably don’t want to watch this film. Or even be in the next room if it’s playing. The liberal use of “fuck” throughout the film might be explained away by some as a lack of intelligence since smart people find other ways to express themselves, but the adept balancing of the various plots and the three-dimensionality of most of the players indicate that plenty of higher brain functions were being engaged in this film’s creation.

While some movies struggle to cohesively tell one plot from start to finish, Snatch handles quite a few, which begin on separate tracks but slowly begin to weave in and out of each other. As I mentioned, most of the key players are given depth and characterization. Turkish, in particular, shows a gamut of emotions, from grim sarcastic satisfaction to almost palpable desperation. Brick Top is charismatic and even funny while being menacing, especially in a scene towards the middle of the film. The guys from the pawn shop are trying to move a body (I won’t say whose) when Brick Top appears and instructs them on an efficient and organic way to deal with such things: feed the body to pigs. After his informative if somewhat macabre tutorial, he rises from the couch and asks simply, “D’you know what the word ‘nemesis’ means?” Despite the comical tone of most of this film, Alan Ford’s delivery can be downright chilling. We’ve seen how ruthless and unhinged Brick Top can be by this point, so his quiet, understated question has all of the bite and discomfort of a circular saw dismembering a corpse in preparation for a piggy feast.

But as much as I love the characters of Turkish and Brick Top, the film is very nearly stolen entirely by Brad Pitt’s turn as Mickey, the Pikey bare-knuckle scrapper. Pikies are modern-day nomads, living out of caravans as they move from one campsite to another. They speak in an accent that is, in the words of Turkish, “not exactly English and not exactly Irish.” And most of them speak fast. Very fast. It’s part of their plan to pull the wool over the eyes of people with whom they do business, but it has the side effect of being absolutely hilarious. And the way we are introduced to this class of people is the same man who portrayed the dead-eyed reluctant predator in Interview with the Vampire and the gritty, ambitious detective Mills in Se7en. He’s bombastic, energetic, quick-witted and funny, yet also finds time to show a range of emotion from heartbroken rage to cold and calculating. If you don’t think Brad Pitt can act, you should see this movie. Then hit yourself in the face with a cricket bat.

Guy Ritchie’s writing and direction in this film are at their zenith. The jokes are funny, the characters are believable and the stories move along just fast enough to keep us off-balance without being terribly confusing, my condensed recap of the opening act notwithstanding. The action and violence grow organically from the story and setting, rather than appearing out of nowhere. You actually have to think, as the film speeds along, about what is happening to whom as the different plots begin to mix. Even the soundtrack is pitch-perfect, from Massive Attack’s haunting “Angel” to Oasis’ high-energy rocking “Fucking in the Bushes.” We even have great camera angles, fantastic framing and some of Guy Ritchie’s trademark jarring interludes. Pay attention whenever anybody mentions gambling to Frankie Four-Fingers to see what I mean.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, the language might be a little too intense for some people. And the frenetic pace and slightly offbeat nature of both the writing and direction might be a turn-off to others. If these are obstacles to seeing Snatch, however, I consider that a deplorable shame. This is some of the best cinematic storytelling I’ve had the pleasure to watch. The word ‘caper’ doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s smart, funny, gritty, intense and awesome from start to finish. Not one moment or shot is wasted. You may have seen Snatch already if you’re a regular reader or listener of my material. If you don’t own a copy, you should, but if you need convincing, toss it on your Netflix queue. And if you haven’t seen Snatch before, you should not only add it to your queue but bump it right to the top. It’s not just brilliant – it’s fucking brilliant.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

© 2021 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑