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Laceyvision Reborn

Back once again to force non-consensual criticism with Douglas Coupland-scripted indie dramedy Everything's Gone Green, NTS favourite Steven Moffats modernised Jekyll, bone-headed blockbuster Transformers, and Adam Sandler's 9/11 dentistry drama, Reign Over Me.

Everything's Gone Green

Lately I've been reading a lot of Douglas Coupland - All Families Are Psychotic, Hey Nostradamus, Girlfriend In A Coma, Eleanor Rigby - they're kind of pacy, clever fiction that make some salient points about modern life and tell a few good jokes, and lately his books have shed their contrived, embarassing dialogue for richer characters and a more satisfying emotional core. They'd make *great* films. But instead, Coupland's written an original script with much smaller ambitions than his novels. It stars Paolo Constanzo (Road Trip, Joey) as a textbook twenty-something with a succession of a rubbish jobs, constantly questioning the "bullshit" trappings of adult life in a gratingly predictable fashion. He meets a girl, falls in love, and must win her over by convincing her he's a better man than her ex - who has just coerced him into a money laundering scam involving Constanzo's job at a lottery company and the chinese mafia. And... that's it. There's a few amusing subplots that mirror the same themes of secret schemes and smokescreens in society but ultimately this is Coupland at his worst - characters are uninvolving, serving basic dramatic purpose and spending the rest of the time spouting trite, pithy one liners about the decay of morality in the middle classes, or something. Some scenes achieve a sense of dreamy wonder - like the beached whale, or the set-dressers solitary palm tree, rumoured to have appeared in hundreds of films which required Vancouver to resemble Florida - which is then trampled allover by having the characters go "you know, I think everyone was just searching for something REAL behind all the BULLSHIT" for the fifteen billionth time. Oh, and how bored am I of showing a characters "sensitivity" by just making them a fucking photographer? Enough of that, Hollywood. Watching this, it's hard not to wish they'd just used the money to adapt a Coupland novel (stylistically, the film takes place in a very Coupland-y universe, and it's frustrating that it seems to be shot the week that NOTHING INTERESTING WAS HAPPENING there) instead of letting him lumber this production with a script that rehashes and over-simplifies anything that was appealling about the novels in the first place. If you're 15, and have recently scratched LIFE SUX COKZ on your arm with a compass, watching this film might provide a positive influence for you. If you require any amount of emotional complexity in your romances or jokes in your romantic comedies, you'll be left sadly wanting. If you're a fan of Douglas Coupland, you might gleam occasional pleasure from this film, but will overlal be left with a sense of seriously wasted opportunity. 2/5.


Two episodes in, Steven Moffats modern re-telling of Jekyll and Hyde is a curious beast. James Nesbitt stars as Tom Jackman, a scientist who's started to develop an unusual split personality disorder with literary precedent - in fact, he appears to be a direct descendent (identical, too) of Jekyll, despite his having no family to speak of. As the mystery deepens, his alter-ego decides to adopt the moniker of Hyde, who is sort like a psychopathic, violent Ace Ventura. Michelle "I would" Ryan stars as the secretary with two bosses in one, and Johnstone off Peep Show plays the yank businessman with mysterious connections to Hydes past and to the mysterious black vans following him allover the place. He's even got Super Hans on his team. The fun cast is rounded out by Gina Bellman as Jackmans estranged wife (I also would, more than once if possible), and Meera Syal as a lesbo detective. As is to be expected with a Steven Moffat show, the script is peppered with clever, funny dialogue and structural oddness. It started out quite slow, and the comedic and dramatic elements of the show still jostle with eachother a bit, instead of blending seamlessly as with Moffat's scripts for Doctor Who (which, though it's been said before, are probably all of the best episodes). Which isn't to say it's neither funny or emotionally engaging - it's both, it just moves awkwardly between the two at times, which probably explains the drop in viewing figures from the first to second episodes. But the two episodes have been confident and ambitious and intermittently great (it's still a bit much when Hyde flashes his "monster face" at people, but Nesbitt perfectly captures Hydes animal mind and childish glee) enough to forgive it such relatively minor problems for the time being. 4/5.

Reign Over Me

Of all the noisy comedians to have a go at "straight" acting, I think Adam Sandler has been one of the most successful. Aside from Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Jim Carreys "serious" roles have succeeded either by playing to his comedic strengths within the confines of a more serious film (The Truman Show, Man On The Moon) or just been shit altogether (The Majestic). Stranger Than Fiction was an enjoyable film, but Will Ferrell looked bored through most of it. But as with the sorely under appreciated Punch Drunk Love, here Sandler inhabits the role of a man with severe behavioural problems in a convincing and endearing fashion. He plays a dentist whose family were killed in the September 11th "thing", and who has since drifted into a solitary lifestyle riding his scooter around and playing on his playstation. Until he runs into Don Cheadle, his ex-college room mate, who is feeling smothered by his wife (if Jada Pinkett wants to smother me she's more than fucking welcome any time) and sees an opportunity to reconnect with his old friend. It's fairly predictable, emotionally manipulative guff, which succeeds on the chemistry and strong performances of the two leads. And Adam Sandler looks exactly, EXACTLY, like Bob Dylan at moments. It's really bizarre. Using 9/11 is a bit of an easy way to get an emotional reaction out of an audience, and it's becoming quite prevalent since United 93 brought it directly to the forefront of modern cinema. But, I'm a sucker for all that "Hey, we's Noo Yawkers, we stick together!" bollocks so it worked on me, and usually I can't stand these "let's impress an awards panel!" big-name low-budget feelgood weepie craphouse films. I'd say it was a good "date movie", but I think it's more a good "watch-on-your-own-on-a-sunday-when-youre-feeling-self-indulgent-and-girly-perhaps-after-a-bath" films, assuming people other than me do that. 3/5, anyway.


The online concensus regarding Transformers seems to be that all it's computer generated bells and whistles are visually overpowering enough to paper over the films scattershot plotting, weak characterisation and cliche-ridden script. If I read the sentence "what else did you expect from a Michael Bay film!!!" I'll, I don't know, go out and murder a jogger. This may, primarily, be a film about big fuck off robots beating the shit out of each other, but it also spends a great deal of time with it's human cast, which is needlessly overstocked. Shia Le Beouf plays the main human, a smart-mouthed school kid who has accidentally bought an alien robot car. But this being a Michael Bay film, we also have to involve the President, loads of high up military people, loads of low down military people, a crack team of top secret code breakers, a comedy hacker, John Turturro as a weird secret agent, Shia's family, and god knows how many other extraneous and dull characters working for top secret Government agencies, Shia's family and school chums and suchlike. Added to which the robots, of which there's ten or so, are meant to have their own discernable personalities. If you want to make a dumb but engaging popcorn movie about big fuck off robots beating the shit out of eachother, why fill it with such a distracting array of characters? Why spend so long with Shia's character, set up an engaging story arc, and then basically forget about it halfway through? I don't expect much depth to the characters in a Michael Bay film, but he has usually had enough wits about him to provide some basic reason for caring about your central characters, and letting them guide the story to some extent. I'd say one fairly important thing to make clear to your audience is *who the film is about*, for christs sake. It's like three different people made a Transformers film and they cut them all together while a whore was injecting heroin into their balls.

It'd be OK if the endless battle scenes were as good as everyone's saying they are, but they're not. The effects are technically hugely impressive, with the Autobots (goodie robots) and Decepticons (baddie robots) integrating convincingly the world around them. They just spend so much fucking time actually in the process of transforming into various things (which ceases to dazzle rather quickly) rather than just BEING A CAR or BEING A ROBOT THAT SMASHES INTO THINGS that it's impossible to tell what you're looking at half the time. I don't like this new constantly-shifting look that the transformers have - in the past, while as I say I've never really paid that much attention to the property, they each at least had quite unique and recognisable silhouettes. There's at least 5 or so of them that I couldn't tell apart at all. I just wanted them to bloody stand still for a minute. The gradual introduction of the characters works well, with the early scenes with Shia containing a Spielbergian sense of wonder and scale. Once the fighting kicks off however, it's quite difficult to grasp the scale, or geographical specifics of what on earth is going on. It looks real enough, but there's no sense of awe or majesty, none of the iconic imagery that a film of this scale needs to justify the squillions of pounds it must have cost. It's a very calculated attempt to continue the lineage of huge blockbuster movies like Jurassic Park or Independence Day or Spiderman - few of which would be particularly praised for their character development, but each of which contained unforgettable imagery. From the character designs right through to cinematography, there's very little style or flair on display here. It doesn't even succeed, for me, on the one basic premise that this whole "phenomenon" has been based on - selling toys. I've honestly got no idea how toys of these new Transformers would work, but I bet they'd be confusing and stupid and wouldn't look that cool. I can quite happily live with a Transformers film this shallow, but not one that's just simply this badly made. However many fucking squillions of pounds this film doubtlessly cost should have been enough to pay for a consistency of tone, or some kind of guidance on how to effectively build tension. There's flashes of greatness here, but ultimately, this is a worse film that Godzilla. To think that it's being generally better reviewed than Pirates 3 makes me quite angry. 2/5.

About this entry


>I'd say it was a good "date movie", but I think it's more a good "watch-on-your-own-on-a-sunday-when-youre-feeling-self-indulgent-and-girly-perhaps-after-a-bath" films

Fully agreed.

And, for the record, I think you're also right about Sandler being the best of the somewhat-recent batch of comic actors to branch into drama. This movie was not nearly as good as Punch-Drunk Love, but I honestly believe he gave an even more convincing performance.

What I didn't like about the film was that it couldn't even decide what to be. There were too many genres it was attempting to span. It was a film about a national tragedy. It was a film about two friends getting together. It was a film about a dentist who almost loses his practice due to false accusation. It was a court-room drama. It was a buddy film. It was a psychological drama. It was a film about a man finally seeking love outside of his dead wife. It was EVERY FILM ROLLED INTO ONE.

Kind of reminded me of when I read the original screenplay for American Beauty and found out it was originally supposed to take place in a courtroom after the events of the film. I don't know what script editor was brought on board, but that sure did the film a world of good. Reign Over Me needed someone to come in and say, "Alright, the film's already three hours long...let's forget the LA Law stuff..."

By Philip J Reed, VSc
July 05, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

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> The fun cast is rounded out by Gina Bellman as Jackmans estranged wife (I also would, more than once if possible),

Pity she can't act though. Watching episode 3 she really is the weak link of the show. I was waiting for some sort of explanation for why she was acting so weird but, no, turns out she just can't act for shit. James Nesbitt though is better than ever, and I love the sheer balls this has for a BBC drama. Should have known it was going to be different to your run-of-the-mill bollocks BBC with Moffat penning it! The best part is that he's the actual descendant of Jekyll. That makes it so much more interesting.

By performingmonkey
July 05, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

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I don't think there's anything wrong with Gina Bellmans performance - we don't know very much about her character yet, and there's a pleasant undercurrent of campness to both her performance and the programme that contrasts nicely with it's, as you say, "balls".

By Michael Lacey
July 05, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

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> I love the sheer balls this has for a BBC drama

Although it's streaked through with the cowardice of re-dubbing for a prime-time slot.

The word fuck has been remove repeatedly and re-voiced, creating much dodgy cutting. It's really diappointing. (Hilariously they couldn't remove it from the picture as easily as the audio, so the word ended up on-screen in episode three.) Presumably it was intended for a later/BBC2 slot originally...

The same thing happened with the second series of The Lakes a few years ago. Shame. You don't need it to tell the story, but in both cases it sticks out pretty badly in the cut; plus it messes with the rhythm of the lines. (See also the UK version of Die Hard 3...and apparently every version of DH4.)

> Pity she can't act though.

I find her average in this - not great, but absolutely fine. And anyone who thinks she can't act, full-stop, needs to be made to watch the 'Jane and the Truth Snake' episode of Coupling...

By Andrew
July 06, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

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Everyone in the entire world needs to see every episode of Coupling. Apart from series 4, that is.

By Jonathan Capps
July 06, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

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> The word fuck has been remove repeatedly and re-voiced, creating much dodgy cutting.

I admit I never noticed that. Don't see why the BBC couldn't leave it in. It's just a word. Fuck...fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck. Technically they can use the word from 9pm onwards in a drama without getting in trouble.

By performingmonkey
July 06, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

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Were it BBC2 or 3 they'd probably let it go, but the watershed isn't a straightforward barrier and BBC1 and ITV have to be careful. (Jonathan Ross's show still gets beeped at 10.30.)

Anyway, watch for any moments where Hyde's describing what he wants to do to women, or Jekyll's yelling in frustration - too, too many cuts at odd moments...or straightforward lip-synch hiccups.

By Andrew
July 06, 2007 @ 8:12 pm

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Worth noting the Jekyll cover art, which specifies that episodes will be on the DVD 'uncut' opposed to the broadcast versions, I'd guess. (I think The Lakes series two went the same way):

By Andrew
July 15, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

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