Saturday, June 22, 2013

Talking shit about movies: Valhalla Rising, The Great Gatsby, Queens of the Stone Age, trailers for Martin Scorsese films, new Mad Max and Apocalypse Now

I was watching Nicholas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising film on my laptop the other day, and the instant the film ended, something catastrophic happened to the computer. Turned out to be an irreparable failure of the hard drive, so I can only assume the thing was killed by the sheer awesomeness of Mads Mikkelsen's sneer.

The reviews for the most recent version of The Great Gatsby were painfully predictable, pointing out that a Baz Luhrmann film was all style over substance, with the film overwhelmed with glitz and swooshing cameras and an oppressive soundtrack, like that's some kind of new observation, rather than anything people were saying 20 years ago.

Those reviews may have a point, but I have the opposite problem, and wanted it to be even crazier. I'm always down for some glitz and outrageous glamour, and if you're going to go down that road, you might as well go all the damn way. Showing any type of restraint in when you’re shooting for this level of decadence is a sin.

So The Great Gatsby turned out to be a bit of a PG-13 horror film, without the gust to go fully crazy. It’s beautifully absurd up to a specific point – and that point is reached and transcended during the brilliant moment when Gatsby reveals himself, with literal fireworks in the background - but then it all shifts down a gear, and ultimately loses its bid for gaudy greatness.

I’m still glad I went, because it's still bloody Gatsby, and it's certainly better than the hazy seventies effort, and all the women I know thought it was fabulous, and all the guys I talked to about the film appeared to be actively repulsed by the idea of going to see it, so it must have been doing something right.

It might just be because I've been listening to ...Like Clockwork a whole lot lately (it's the first proper album I've bought in months), but I really wish somebody would use Queens Of The Stone Age for a whole soundtrack.

I love it when a rock and pop band comes in and does the soundtrack for a whole film, giving it a level of style that a playlist of various tunes can rarely achieve. I loved it when they used Queen for the Flash Gordon soundtrack (an album that has held up surprisingly well, and possibly better than the movie itself). I loved it when Air did all the music for the Virgin Suicides, giving Sofia Coppola's first – and best – film its exquisitely dreary and menacingly plodding sound. And I loved it when Pink Floyd fucked around out on the edge of Zabriskie Point.

And I would love it if Josh Homme and his Queens Of The Stone Age chums would do something for a movie that could make great use of their menacing growl, slow dirges, sudden bursts of frenetic musical violence and long, protracted periods of guitar wankery. That could be something groovy.

Most times, I like the trailers to Martin Scorsese films more than I like the actual film, (and I often end up liking the film a lot too). The Wolf of Wall Street looks no different, and it’s a typical bloody Scorsese trailer too, cut to that same fast and popping beats that all of his films get previewed with. Although it does looks like the film is worth seeing just to see some more sleazy Matthew McConaughey, because sleazy McConaughey has unexpectedly become one of the most entertaining things in modern cinema.

I'm still hopelessly optimistic about the immediate future of cinema and, as always, I’m hoping for the best. There are a bunch of films coming out in the coming weeks and months that I’d deeply looking forward to seeing, like A Field In England and Upstream Color and Kick-Ass 2 and Gravity and The World’s End and Only God Forgives and Stoker and even the new Superman film, which hasn't opened here yet. 

But the one film I'm looking forward to more than anything else put together is the new Mad Max film. I know that when a new movie in a beloved series comes out years after the rest, it’s not a good sign, and few can match the thrills of the original, even with the same creators on board. But I adore the Mad Max films with the power of a dirty great V8 because speed + crazy fucking stuntmen + Australians = balls-out mentalness, and I was greatly heartened by a recent article I read that said the only CGI they’re employing is the wiping of the safety wires. (The use of computer effects for stuntwork destroys all the value of the crazy bastard who does actually put his life on the line for our entertainment.)

Also, the new film is partly written by Brendan McCarthy, so they have me right there.

One of the (many) nice things about having a wife who is nine years younger than me is that even though she is pretty clued-up, I've still had a bunch of years to watch a lot more films than her, so there are a lot of movies that I assume she's seen, because everybody from my generation was into them, but she has no idea what I’m on about, so we have to sit and watch them again, and I get to see how a favourite film is seen through a new pair of eyes.

She has seen a lot of films from the past 20 years, but she is particularly dark on the seventies, so every now and then I get to whip out a French Connection or The Exorcist, and see how it stands up, after all these years. Every now and then she will surprise me by revealing that she’s never seen something as obvious as the Godfather films, and we’ll have to immediately check that out. (She usually provides the motivation for us to sit down and watch one of these films. I don’t force anything on her, even if I’m convinced she’ll love it.)

That’s what happened this week. We’re going to watch Apocalypse Now tonight. She says she’s super keen to see it, but I don’t think she really knows what she is in for.

The horror. The horror.

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