Monday, July 30, 2007

Turning the world upside down

OK so I wasn't Ingmar Bergman nor am I Barry Norman, but I do like a good movie. And 'Tell No One' is a good movie, part of the current vogue for us Brits to admire French cinema, it's a proper grown up thriller/whodunnit which suddenly breaks into action and follows Harlan Coben's novel to the letter, right down to the Agatha Christie ending where someone sits you down and tells you that everything you watched was more or less one giant red herring, or at least only part of the picture, and this is what really happened. I sometimes prefer the Columbo school : telling you exactly what happened at the outset then watching the grubby little shuffler go to work. But the world has been aflurry with French movies of late, all of them with varying degrees of excellence from The Beat that My Heart Skipped to Cache to La Vien Rose. So who am I to complain over little gripes about American-English subtitles?

The Simpsons only use subtitles for comic effect and in their movie, which is funny, they do just that. It's got good lines in it, just as good as the show in fact, and sitting in the cinema is just as good as sitting at home watching the show. In fact, it's strangely unsettling, watching what is effectively a TV show in a very very large dark room with other people wondering why this episode is quite so long.

But not as unsettling as Shrek Three, which follows on from Shrek (One, presumeably) which was very very funny indeed, and Shrek (Two), which was funny, we now have Shrek Three. Which is not funny at all. Move along.

Which brings me, funnily enough, to Transformers. The advert for those stupid toys which has been made into a movie. It's a big commercial. It's stupid. The story is insane. The Transformers are oversized, idiotic CGI lumps of metallic looking nonsense. Things which are just plain daft occupy the plot.
It's also, really, really unexpectedly top notch brilliant. In a car crash Hollywood way.
The acting is superb and the new kid on the block, Shia LaBeouf, is outstanding, delivering his lines and zingers with wit, aplomb and a general insousiance which has heads turning. He is HOT!
The script is superb as is the directing, the effects and just about everything in it. Unfortunately, it's a co-production with Hasbro, the toy manufacturer, so you can never really escape the bombardment of the message, but holy shit, is it worth the ride. The first hour is the set up, where all kinds of Spielberg type things happen (he's Exec producer here) to attach you to the characters. Cute dogs, cute kids, cute teens. You just want it to go on forever. It's witty and charming and beautifully shot (let's not get bogged down in stuff about cliches and continuity here, it just LOOKS great)
Then the Transformers arrive and you're transformed yourself to a place called sillyville the plot gets soooooooooooooooooo silly. But the script stays tight. The humour remains, the acting gets better and then - da daaa! - JOHN TURTURRO appears in some stupid cop role and acts his heart out. He's brilliant (not as brilliant as he was as Jesus in the Big Lebowski but better than his role in the French movie coming out next month "A Few Days in September").
The movie - surprise surprise - ends in a massive fight, a crazy bombing/out of this world action sequence which shows how, ahem, good Transformers can outfight Bad Transformers (zzz). But the real battle is going on in the script.
As each plotline unfolds in increasing silliness, and we get to imagine ourselves playing with some stupid toys, there will suddenly appear some awesome sequence of crashing, bombing, shooting action to distract you from "I must buy. I must buy". Once the plot has really left the building, and you don't care any more, the crafting keeps it alive to the very last moments, with excellent editing and music and real highs and lows. Actually that's not true. The very last moments are a speech by a Transformer which is unmitigated shit, but let's not be picky.
The Director is Michael Bay and if The Academy had a category for best action toy sequence he'd win hands down. Sadly he won't be up there with all the big special effects tentpole movies because ultimately this is just an advert.

But sometimes the adverts are better than the programmes.



Brennig said...

Thanks for the review of Transformers.

No, really.

I'm going to see The Simpsons.

I've been looking for an excuse to see Transformers.

Now I've got it.


GhK said...

'Beat that my Heart Skipped' - God that was good!

Bergman and Antonioni in 24 hrs - there aren't many Smiles on a Summer Night round my neck of the woods at the mo. V sad.

Still, the retrospective seasons should take the chill off the advent of autumn... (not meant callously)