Posts Tagged ‘complete and utter crap’

Normally, I like to eat healthily, as befits a man of my age and lifestyle – but that doesn’t mean that once in a while I don’t get a craving for a fat-saturated nastyburger with shrapnel fries washed down by a tooth-dissolving carbonated beverage. And once in a while I indulge this craving, because, you know, it is only once in a while. The same applies in other areas of my life as well.

Looking back it did occur to me that there’d been a preponderance of quite serious and/or worthy new releases discussed here or hereabouts of late (that’s certainly how it’s felt) and that it might very well be time for a jolly good old-fashioned piece of check-your-brain-at-the-door escapist entertainment. With this in mind, like a lamb to the slaughter I trotted along to see The Three Musketeers, directed by Paul W.S Anderson – had this film been shown solely in the stereoscopic format, they could’ve called it The 3-D Musketeers. But it isn’t (thankfully) so they can’t.

The original novel is, of course, a classic of swashbuckling high adventure, written by the renowned author Alexandre Dumas. But you know, all Dumas ever did was write books, which hardly puts him in the same league as the creative genius who (let us not forget) both wrote and directed Resident Evil, Alien Vs Predator and Death Race. Paul W.S. Anderson has cast his eye of wisdom over the original text and spotted those areas in which Dumas’ writing was sadly deficient: most notably air-to-air combat, flamethrowers, and women in basques doing somersaults.

From the very beginning of the film, when lead musketeer Athos (Matthew Macfadyen) emerges from a Venetian canal rather like a ninja with an aqualung, it becomes clear that Anderson is making a few little tweaks and amendments to the story you may think you know. Well, actually, he just takes a massive dump on the original plot of the book.

Bits you may recognise do occasionally struggle to the surface – eventually we meet young adventurer D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), who’s off to Paris to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Musketeer, with said parent’s blessing and a special gift: ‘The weapon of a musketeer!’ marvels D’Artagnan as he gazes upon it. Unfortunately, the gift in question is a sword, which to me just suggests that either he or Anderson hasn’t thought the whole ‘musketeer’ concept through properly.

Even the bits which survive get mightily slapped about – the chunk of plot wherein our hero meets the titular trio by inadvertantly challenging them all to duels makes it in, but his pretext for fighting Aramis (Luke Evans) is basically that the musketeer has given his horse a parking ticket. By this point my jaw was beginning to sag open somewhat.

However, the arrival in Paris of nasty Englishman the Duke of Buckingham (Landy Bloom), by airship, really marked the spot at which my higher functions began to flatline. Any resemblence to any previous version of this story, from this point on, is marginal and quite possibly a coincidence. Okay, deep breath: Evil old so-and-so Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) wants to seize power in France (he basically runs the place already so it’s unclear why he’s bothered) and to do so he wants to foment war with England, by framing Buckingham and the French Queen for an inappropriate liaison (which has not actually taken place). This involves planting some of her jewellry in the Tower of London.

To stop the war (the ‘coming apocalypse’ according to a very silly voice-over) someone has to get the jewels back, and in the frame for this are D’Artagnan and his friends. Well, you may be thinking, none of this sounds too different. Oh, my friends! Do not be fooled! I promise you that Anderson’s interest in the plot of the book pales in comparison to his interest in airships.

Despite the idea of a gasbag-slung galleon being a self-evidently moronic one, this movie is full of them: the musketeers attack the Tower of London in one, there’s a mid-air battle between them, and towards the end one crashes into Notre Dame cathedral. The sensation of watching all this is rather as if the movie pins you back in your seat and beats you about the head with its own stupidity.

It is technically proficient but mindless in almost every way and horribly written and acted, with no attempt to make you believe this is any kind of seventeenth century. ‘Your outfit’s very retro,’ the Prime Minister of England tells the King of France. And the acting is like a compendium of woodenness from practically the entire cast. Logan Lerman plays the hero like an irritating jock, but nearly everyone else is just as bad. Special notice must be given to James Corden as the servant Planchet, a comic relief turn with all the actual comedy value of a bombed orphanage. I can’t really comprehend how anyone can be quite as unfunny as Corden is in this film. Every line falls flat, every gesture and expression is overdone to the point of mugging. I am shuddering even as I sit here and type.

That said – and this is the faintest of faint praise – Ray Stevenson is not too bad as Porthos, and Mads Mikkelson is reasonably effective as Rochefort. Nick Powell’s fencing choreography (though not up to William Hobbs’ standards) is perfectly acceptable too, when not obliterated by Anderson’s camera movement.

Ah, Paul W.S. Anderson (the slightly unwieldy name is to avoid confusion with – don’t laugh – the director of Magnolia and There Will Be Blood). I must confess that, while I didn’t think it was perfect, I did enjoy Anderson’s Event Horizon back in 1997 and thought the guy had potential. And yet every film of his I’ve seen since has, broadly speaking, been worse than the one before. His scripts are lacking in wit, originality, and atmosphere, and as a director he seems incapable of getting a good performance out of anyone, let alone people like Milla Jovovich (whose status as Mrs Anderson must explain why he keeps employing her) and Landy Bloom.

Ah, Landy Bloom. Back on the big screen again after what feels like quite a long break. Was it really worth coming back for this, Landy? Not content with giving yet another performance you could quite easily chop up and use to keep the fire going on a long winter night, Landy chooses to do it in one of the most startling hairstyles ever committed to posterity. A striking combination of goatee, quiff, and mullet, Landy resembles a minor rockabilly star in fancy dress. I can only imagine what it looks like in 3D.

Ah, 3D. As you may have gathered, my general policy is to avoid 3D whenever possible, so I can’t really comment on how it works in this movie’s case. It does show all the signs of having been designed for the format, which may be a point in its favour, but I doubt all the miniaturised airships floating past or swords jabbing labouredly at the camera will be enough of a distraction given the utterly horrible nature of the rest of it.

Paul W.S. Anderson, Orlando Bloom, gimmicky 3D. A film which has to contend with one of these things isn’t always going to necessarily be awful. One stuck with two of them is in pretty dire straits, though. And in the case of this film the three of them form some kind of dreadful astral conjunction, an alignment of horror which sucks all the fun and life and honesty out of this classic old adventure and transforms it into something actively offensive to the intelligence and spirit.

Can we please have The Three Musketeers ringfenced against this kind of vandalism in future? It’s almost impossible to imagine a better version than the one Richard Lester made nearly 40 years ago. And it would also take a broader and more twisted mind than mine to imagine an adaptation more misconceived than this one. Comfortably the worst film I’ve seen at the cinema in many years – and I’m thinking about giving up burgers, too.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published April 18th 2002:

[Originally following a review of…]

The One may not be terribly good, but it looks like Citizen Kane compared to Michael Rymer’s Queen of the Damned. This is loosely based on two books in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, the first of which was filmed in 1995’s Interview with the Vampire. None of the same creative personnel are involved in this very loose sequel, and I’ll bet they’re counting their blessings.

Undead poseur Lestat (Ronnie O’Sullivan lookalike Stuart Townsend, who seems famous these days mainly for not being in Lord of the Rings) is roused from a century’s kip by the sound of an unsigned nu-metal band tuning up. Rather than instantly gaining the audience’s sympathy by murdering the lot of them, he decides to join the band and starts writing songs revealing untold vampire lore (as you would, obviously). All this is handled in a rushed and perfunctory pre-credits sequence, after which what I laughingly refer to as the plot goes all over the place for a bit. But eventually the bloody awful racket of Lestat’s band wakes the ancient vampire queen Akasha (yet another Romeo Must Die veteran, in the form of the late Aaliyah), who – God knows why – takes a fancy to the leather-trewed prat. Blade’s never about when you need him…

I find it hard to believe such a comprehensively bad film could be made by accident. Probably due to the fact it’s an amalgam of the plots of two separate novels, the script varies between the silly and the utterly incoherent. We’re into a rolling expanse of silly accents, paper-thin characterisation, and rampantly illogical plot developments. For instance: the other vampires take exception to Lestat revealing their existence via his songs, so they decide to silence him – by mounting a full-on supernatural onslaught against him while he’s performing live on stage in front of a million fans. The film contains only tired old cliches about vampires and their society: the usual melodramatic goth posturings. Poor old Paul McGann wanders around in the midst of it all playing a totally superfluous character who’s a spectacularly blatant knock-off of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The film has the odd visual flourish to its credit, and there’s one quite impressive set-piece when Akasha first rises. But in the end Queen of the Damned has no focus, nothing to involve the viewer and ultimately nothing new to say. For connoisseurs of the execrable only.

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You know, I try to be a fair-minded and impartial individual and it occurred to me that I was perhaps a little premature in describing Don’t Scare The Hare as ‘almost indescribably asinine’ the other day. It wasn’t as if I’d seen the whole thing (although, because it was on immediately preceding Doctor Who, I did tune in and catch most of it simply to ensure the BBC didn’t suddenly change the schedule and start Who fifteen or twenty minutes early without warning – well, it could happen), and you know, keep an open mind.

So I i-Playered the damn thing and had another of my HWEEEAAAA-EEEEEE-AAAAAA-EEEEAAARGGHHHH moments because, I promise you, it is much, much worse than I may have led you to believe.

I'm with stupid.


The premise is that the moron pictured above lives in a studio-set forest with his animatronic hare, who loves carrots and is incredibly nervous. Teams of people with nothing better to do and/or a shameless desire to get money no matter what the cost to their dignity compete in deeply stupid games the object of which is to score points without – and here’s the gimmick – ‘scaring the hare’. If the hare is scared it runs off, a bit, and the audience (presumably of drug-addled people with no sense of purpose or self-respect left) chant ‘Don’t scare the hare’ like members of a particularly avant-garde religious cult.

For an animatronic lepine the hare is pretty bloody skittish, as it is sent into full flight by things like eggs breaking and frogs croaking. Get a grip on yourself, for God’s sake, hare. And is it even sensible for a fake animal with such obviously deep-seated psychological problems to be kept in a TV studio? Get rid of the hare and everything would be much more chilled out (and over considerably quicker, which would be the real bonus).

What makes the whole experience much, much worse is that someone involved has, amazingly, realised that it looks like a terrible day-glo kids programme with adults forced to take part and no sensible person over the age of seven would dream of actually watching it out of choice. Now in this situation you or I would scrap the whole project and make something actually possessing some kind of merit – a new run of Pets Win Prizes, I don’t know – but the great brains behind DSTH have opted to make it terribly arch and knowing rather in the style of Total Wipeout, but without the redeeming element of seeing posturing overconfident idiots made to look ridiculous, fall in water and experience actual physical injury. Sue Perkins narrates this crock. I used to respect Sue Perkins back when she was in Mel and Sue but now she’s doing this and that thing with the guy who doesn’t like to be edited and, you know, what happened to you, Sue? You used to be cool. Well, cooler than this.

I mean, if this is an attempt to cover all bases and appeal to a mass audience by making what’s to all intents and purposes a kid’s show populated entirely by adults, why not go all the way and a produce a hard-hitting police procedural about a serial killer preying on sex workers, and guarantee that vital younger demographic by casting pre-teens as all the detectives? That would be about as good an idea as Don’t Scare The Hare.

I mean come on BBC, what’s wrong with you? I didn’t give you too hard a time over Outcasts being dreadful and I’m willing to forget all the fuss you made about the Royal You-Know-What now the bloody thing’s actually over and done with, but this show is very nearly inexcusable. This is supposed to be your hook for the whole of Saturday night, the thing that lands the audience for the evening and bequeaths it to all the shows that follow. And what do we get? A poorly-conceived farrago about a bald guy who’s friends with a psychologically damaged remote-control woodland creature, almost entirely without redeeming features (well, one of the contestants was pretty cute in the episode I watched, but I doubt she’s going to be a regular feature).

BBC, could it be that you think putting this on before Doctor Who will just make people appreciate its quality more? You don’t need to bother doing things like that, I think we all know what’s what. (Although the fact the BBC1 audience triples when DSTH finishes and Doctor Who starts tells you everything you need to know.)

It does occur to me that the audience for DSTH may be largely made up of Doctor Who fans like myself who feel compelled to tune in a bit early just in case the BBC does decide to start the transmission twenty minutes early without telling anyone. In which case I expect you’re thinking that we have no-one but ourselves to blame, and I can kind of see where you’re coming from on that. Even so, it’s a steep price to pay. Thank God for the mute button.

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[Regular readers may recall that of a weekend I usually brighten the internet by reviewing a fantasy and/or horror movie.  Whether the subject of this post qualifies as such I leave to others to decide.]

Recently I have drawn some stick (yea, even from my nearest and dearest) for my determination not to watch the You-Know-What, an obsession with which is currently blighting the public life of our great nation. Thank God I don’t have to work today; viewing the proceedings has been written into the schedule and time-and-a-half is, frankly, not enough to make that worth my while. (In case you’re wondering, I spent the day watching the Ding-Trump snooker semi.)

Do not misunderstand me. I am wholly agnostic on the whole Monarchy/Republic issue, and, of course, I wish the couple all the best. I just don’t want to watch the damn wedding and feel rather insulted by the assumption that I do. (The last wedding I went to featured belly dancing, a Brezhnev impersonator, twenty drunken Kazakhs and boiled sheep’s intestines for everyone, so I can’t really imagine this one measuring up anyway.)  The Tory press and major broadcasters who’ve been going on and on and on about it in such a mindlessly chirpy way can all sod off, please, and take every inch of bunting and plastic union flag with them when they go.

However I decided to sit down and watch Mark Rosman’s William & Kate: The Movie, partly because I thought it might be cathartic, partly because I had a terrible desire to see something utterly lacking in any merit whatsoever. Well, having done so, the obvious thing to say is ‘HWEEEAAA-EEEE-AAAAA-EEEEEEEE-AAAAAAAAAARRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!’ but I feel this may not fully communicate everything which makes this American TV movie so special.

Wills is the one on the left, in case you were wondering.

Tasteful opening shots of Olde England lead to our being introduced to Wills (Nico Evers-Swindell), a likeable and well-meaning galoot who’s the scion of a gaggle of nutty old inbreds. ‘I can’t believe you’re all grown up,’ marvels Wills’ dad (Ben Cross), a particularly eccentric old buffer, as his son buggers off to university to study something really easy he has a chance of passing Art History. Quite where Wills’ mum is is not dwelt upon, but his dad clearly recalls their happy domestic life together. Hmmm.

Anyway also up in Edinburgh is spunky young Kate Middleton (Camilla Luddington, see following paragraph for my thoughts on her), latest of a long line of coal miners and air hostesses (or something, I can’t bring myself to do more than flick through the Daily Mail these days). Seemingly uniquely amongst the female student population, Kate has no designs upon Wills, although she does have a little jaw-droppy-open moment when she first passes him in the corridor. She also has an existing boyfriend, Trevor.

(I know what you’re thinking – ‘Camilla’ isn’t the most auspicious name for someone involved in this particular saga. And this actress is easy enough on the eye but she looks more like Eliza Dushku or that singer Jojo Levesque than the actual woman. I can think of glamour models who look more like Midders than this girl does.)

All the blokes wear pringle sweaters and everyone is incredibly posh, but apart from that it’s a bit like The Social Network for a bit, except that the script, acting and direction are all complete shite. Wills initially stands out in the Edinburgh crowd (this may be more due to the fact that he seems to be about seven feet tall than his Royal status, but, you know, inbreeding takes many forms) but eventually learns to blend in. The fact that all the students are visibly in their late twenties is a bit of a surprise, but, hey, it’s not as if this movie’s based on real life or anything.

Anyway Kate puts on a slinky dress at a fashion show which prompts Wills to try and cop off with her (that’s what breeding and public school do for a lad) even though Trevor is still on the scene. Soon enough, though, Kate resists Trev’s attempts to make her move to Oxford with him and he is given the shove, destined to spend the rest of his life in obscurity, watching himself being portrayed as a bit of a prick in terrible American TV movies.

With Trevor gone Kate goes down to Wills’ place for the weekend, along with all his other friends. Practically the first thing Wills’ dad says to her is ‘Can you handle a shotgun?’ Her proficiency in this department impresses the old boy no end and when Wills and Kate and the gang decide to all move into the same flat no objections are made.

Like all student flats, theirs is spotlessly clean and about the size of Heathrow Terminal One. Initially they are just good friends but soon enough their eyes are meeting significantly across the room at parties. Eventually Wills hesitantly and charmingly decides to press his suit vis-a-vis Kate by wrestling her into a hedge and sticking his tongue down her throat. Romance inevitably follows.

All the scenes of Wills and Kate, you know, at it, are tastefully done, with the real business happening out of shot. Maybe Camilla Luddington wasn’t game for anything else, in which case they should’ve gone for that glamour model I mentioned earlier. I’m practically certain she’d have been up for it.

I very rarely have noticeable physiological reactions to a movie but by this point in William & Kate the muscles in my face were cramping and something weird was going on with my tongue, almost as if it was trying to wedge itself down my throat so I would pass out.  I don’t know. Maybe this was some kind of autonomic reaction or something.

Anyway, the movie grinds relentlessly on in pretty much the same vein. Kate worries Wills isn’t serious about her when he snubs her at an official party. Wills apologises by singing karaoke to her on a skiing holiday and the relationship is made public. They leave university but Kate’s life is made a misery by the depredations of the vile paparazzi. Wills, of course, has never forgiven these scumbags for the way they treated his mum and their obsession with every detail of royal life (come on, Wills, give them a break – it’s not as like they actually made a crappy TV movie about her, or anything) and does his bit to help by getting Kate some sort of coach to help her. The coach is a bit of an Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS type (maybe it’s supposed to be Princess Michael of Kent, I don’t know), who teaches Kate important life skills like curtseying and how to get out of a car without flashing her pants.

As fate and the demands of a pedestrian three-act structure would have it, eventually Kate tires of Wills’ reluctance to commit and they part. Kate is distraught and takes to drinking red wine in the bath while reading made-up tabloid magazines. Crikey! Is a shock on the cards? Of course it bloody isn’t. All alone Wills starts to pine for Kate, especially after Kate’s mum (played, by the way, by Serena Scott Thomas, who got knocked off by James Bond in The World Is Not Enough and played a rogue Watcher in Buffy, and thus has just about the most distinguished CV of anyone involved in the whole movie) persuades her to put it about a bit.

Sure enough he turns up to see Kate and win her back. Unfortunately she is coaching some kind of dragon-boat racing team at the time and so for them to speak one of them has to dive in the river and swim over to where the other one is. Now you would expect this to be the guy in a normal romance, but on this occasion it’s Kate. Hmm. More on this in a bit.

Anyway, they reconcile, fly off to a Kenya constituted entirely of stock footage and unconvincing studio sets (rather in the style of Prehistoric Women, but I doubt this is a conscious homage), he slips a ring on her, and six months of nightmare begin for all right-thinking people of Anglophone nations. The end. Thank God.

Well, obviously it’s awful from start to finish. I sort of suspect that even the people making it knew it was going to be awful, but they weren’t allowed to do any wink-to-the-camera type stuff, probably because the people who lap this kind of stuff up (and, dear God, there are enough of them) would not be remotely impressed if they did.

And, in accordance with my standard dictum that there are no bad movies, only boring ones, William & Kate does say interesting things about a certain kind of mentality. Lumberingly handsome though he is throughout (and Nico Evers-Swindell’s hair remains apparent rather better than the real Wills’ has), our hero is presented as a sort of genial halfwit throughout. Virtually every decision he makes throughout the movie (apart from the one to win her back at the end, of course) is made in accordance with Kate’s advice to him. The big draw for him is that she seems willing and able to do his thinking for him, while the attraction on her part is… less clear. He’s tall and handsome, I suppose, and sort of endearingly useless.

Nevertheless the film comes down pretty firmly on Kate’s side, as the spirited commoner struggling with her love for, like, an actual prince, in the face of oppressive Royal protocol and the general awfulness of British public life. I suspect this is because this film is made for a) girls and women of limited emotional and/or intellectual capacity and b) Americans.

The Royal family hasn’t had a great record in the marital department of late (then again, who am I to criticise) and while I’m not actually hoping for unpleasantness between the Cambridges, part of me almost wants to suggest everyone keeps a copy of this movie on hand just in case, so they can watch it then and feel suitably chastised for going so soaringly over-the-top about the whole business in the first place. At least then William & Kate: the Movie might justify its existence – I can’t really think of any other way it might manage that, to be honest.

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From the Hootoo archive. Originally published 26th February 2004.

More evidence of the British Film Council’s unerring instinct when it comes to investing millions of pounds in complete crap is provided with the release of Andy Humphries’ Sex Lives of the Potato Men, which I unhesitatingly award the title of Worst Film I’ve Seen Since I Started Writing For The Post. It possesses all the wit, charm, and entertainment value of being harpooned in the scrotum.

This plotless shambles revolves around the doings of a quartet of Birmingham spud delivery men. Johnny Vegas (who’s mainly notable, filmically, for failing to get the part of Sam Gamgee) plays Dave, a lazy drunk who’s just been chucked out by his wife and is now desperate to play the field a bit. Mackenzie Crook (from Pirates of the Caribbean, although come to think of it he could probably have played Gollum without the need for CGI) plays Ferris, who’s giving his former mother-in-law personal services in lieu of rent. Sam Kisgart (from The League of Gentlemen) plays Jeremy, who’s hilariously stalking his ex-girlfriend. And Dominic Coleman plays Tolley, an enthusiastic w**ker (in every sense). They are all obsessed with sex, one way or another.

And that’s pretty much the entirety of the movie, which is pretty consistently squalid and unfunny for the duration of its (thankfully brief) running time. There really is not any plot to speak of, just a series of sketch-like vignettes with a few running jokes linking them together – I use the word ‘joke’ both broadly and charitably. Humphries, the auteur responsible for this wretched farrago, is under the impression that ‘I’d be a workaholic if I wasn’t so lazy‘ is a passably witty line, and his idea of a sight-gag is a close-up of a gob of snot on the end of someone’s finger. So Ferris is nearly fellated by an octogenarian, Jeremy kidnaps his ex’s dog, Dave turns up for a threesome only to find he won’t be the only male participant, and the audience remains stolidly untroubled by the urge to laugh.

To be fair, to begin with it just looks like Sex Lives is going to just be charmingly awful like many British comedies before it, but the truth soon sinks in: this is really determinedly worthless and awful, a film which treats both its audience and its characters with utter contempt. That said, it would take even less talent than Humphries possesses to make a film with this strong a cast (as well as Crook, Vegas and Kisgart, Julia Davis and Lucy Davis also appear) that doesn’t raise a few smiles. And so it proves: there is the occasional mildly funny moment, but – tellingly – most of these spring from broad physical comedy, where the film manages to tear itself away from its schoolboy obsession with sex. But these moments are very few and very far between.

Humphries’ direction is almost completely artless, his sole good idea being to make copious use of classic pop and rock (Motorhead, the Coral, Carl Douglas) on the soundtrack in order to hide how ropey the rest of the film is. As diversionary tactics go this is marginally effective. But I really wonder if it’s worth even trying to have a domestic film industry if the best we can come up with is total crap like this. Clearly inspired by all those mid-70s Robin Asquith sex comedies and late period Carry On films, Sex Lives Of The Potato Men fails to meet even their risibly low standards. For pity’s sake, avoid.

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