The Guard

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So the other night I’m watching TV and The Guard comes on and as it’s on my movie list I thought ‘just watch it’. Who cares about doing things in order anyway? Not me apparently. Plus it was on a channel that drops out and doesn’t record properly so, yeh, decision made. I have no idea what number it is on the list because its quite a few pages in (yes, pages) and I’ve counted that list once and I don’t intend to count it again without good reason. Maybe if someone threatened me with a piece of processed chicken (I’m allergic) at processed meat point, maybe then I’d count it again. Maybe.

So The Guard is an actually excellent film that contains most of my “that’s an excellent film” requirements. There’s funny, touching, mysterious, bad guys, good guys, in-between guys, sad, and … action!! The only thing missing is female characters. Two prostitutes and a wife do not make a Bechdel Test passing film. Damn. Admittedly the film did play on the ‘it’s still a man’s world out here in the Irish sticks’ a lot, so I won’t dwell on the Bechdel Test.

At times I found the Irish accent a little hard to understand but it didn’t ruin the film. (Having a whole pile of Irish DNA does not, unsurprisingly, make the accent easy to understand.)

The star of the piece is the grumpy garda (Irish Gaelic for cop – sort of) (Brendan Gleeson – glorious) and the straight man to grumpy garda’s wit is the American CIA agent, so straight it hurts Don Cheadle (glorious). The two are teamed up to find an international drug smuggling operation working through an out of the way port in Faraway, Ireland (not the town’s name at all).

Grumpy garda is grumpy and has his own offbeat ways of doing things. CIA agent is not and does not, he plays by the rules. This sounds like a classic set up, and it is, but grumpy garda is so understandable and strangely likeable (all down to the gloriousness of Brendan Gleeson I am sure) that I ended up wanting them to like each other and learn from each other and get the bad guys. Their interactions are very honest and at times hilarious while making me feel like I may have inadvertently learnt something by the end of their conversation. Nothing pans out quite as I expected and I like that.

Grumpy garda is a fully developed character and that kind of development is unusual for a film. There’s just not enough time in general. I felt like I knew him at the end and I wanted him to make it through all the baddies and the failed stings and the grumpiness of his everyday life. He is naughty and old and fat and lonely and jaded and he knows it and he doesn’t care. Yet he cares about others in his grumpy way (especially his Mum, bless his cotton socks).

The baddies were a bit of a let down as they were just super mean but they were drug dealers so why be so ‘kill everyone’ bad? I think they could have been a bit more subtle and their characters a little more developed. Being a gun for hire does not necessarily make you Mr Kill Everyone And It Makes Sense Because I’m Being Paid By The Boss. Basically they are classic baddies that you don’t care about because they are bad and they deserve badness.

Also, there is a gunfight and a big explosion. Action in an independent film that also has feeling and learnings, woah! Glorious!

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Bubba Ho-Tep

from imdb

‘The King vs the King of the Dead’ – Yeah!

Bubba Ho-Tep is a very cool little film. Who knew Elvis impersonating an Elvis impersonator (or is he?) could be so charming?

This film kind of feels like it started out as a short film concept that got expanded to feature length because there was a lot of fun to be had. There is a noir-ish feel throughout which gives it a quirkiness especially considering the whole thing is set in a nursing home in Texas and the main characters are two old fellas who may or may not be delusional.

The story is very silly with a cursed Egyptian mummy being involved in a train accident and ending up in the swamp behind the nursing home. The mummy dubbed “Bubba Ho-Tep” by our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) decides to munch on the souls of the old folks. (I wrote ‘soles’ in that sentence the first time, not the same thing at all. Disturbing really.)  When the old folks start dropping like flies nobody really notices because they’re old.

Our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) realises something is up and with the aid of JFK (or is he? well, no, he’s not) goes on the hunt for BHT. (JFK is now an African American man, the CIA dyed him black so nobody would know he was still alive, and he has a sand bag for a brain because everyone knows JFKs brain went missing – apparently it’s quite hard to formulate a plan with a sand bag for a brain, fair enough I say.)

This movie is hilarious in parts with our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) using a walking frame throughout, will he or won’t he use the bedpan, aargh the suspense!, and JFK thoroughly charging his wheelchair for a nights’ hunting. These two are possibly the nicest old folks ever. Our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) frets about his breakup with Priscilla and wonders how LisaMarie is doing without her Dad in her life.

There's an action figure! With walker of course!

There’s an action figure! With walker of course!

The backstory of the Elvis ‘is he or isn’t he’ mystery is told in flashback and I’m pretty convinced the King’s not dead (or am I?)… It all makes sense when you think about it (or does it?).

While the macguffin of this story is fighting a mummy, the delight is seeing these two guys reminisce about their past and finding their mojo through the hunt. It is impossible not to like our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?).

There’s a mummy but this ain’t no horror film it’s definitely all about the laughs. If Bubba Ho-Tep was made now it would be directed by Wes Anderson. It’s that kind of film. I’m glad this one was on the list. I obviously had good taste in movies that day.

Also our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) is played by Bruce Campbell. Woot!

Thank you very much.

The Triplets of Belleville

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This is absolutely gorgeous! The animation is old fashioned and quirky which gives the film a warm huggy feeling. Worst description ever but I’m going to leave it there…

It starts out with a really ye olde style of animation in black and white referencing original Mickey Mouse and very early cartoons. Watching and listening to the triplets do their thing in ye olde burlesque Paris is grande. It’s a lot of fun to pick the homages being made to the Mouse as well as others such as Josephine Baker who was so loved in Paris.

There isn’t really any talking in the film so subtitles are not needed. I think they would be annoying and take away from the experience of falling in love with an old lady and her dog. There is little talking needed to pick the characters of these people as so much is portrayed by the way they are animated. There is an hilarious fawning waiter at one point who is almost falling over himself with the fawning – no words needed – I know who he is.

The triplets don’t really feature a lot but it really is a catchy title so I suppose that’s how they got top billing. ‘Old woman and her dog from Paris’ doesn’t trip off the tongue with quite such ease. In the French release it was call “Belleville Rendezvous’ which is the song the triplets are famous for and is oft repeated during the movie – good thing it’s damned catchy.

(According to my musical hubby there is a Bach refrain repeated throughout in different styles (jazz etc) as well, although I cannot confirm this…)

You should see this one. And watch it with the older kids. Miss 14 really liked it but Miss 11 thought it was boring. Apparently she doesn’t like to think too much while watching animation. And there is a lot here (because of the non-talking aspect) that you have to decipher for yourself. There is also quite a confronting reference to horse racing and what happens to the poor horses who collapse on the track (it’s bad and involves a gun). It is a bit depressing explaining that to a youngster. Although it nicely packages why I really dislike horse racing – surely there’s something better to be done for an injured horse? Is our society really that money over life obsessed? – oh, wait, yes it is.

The movie was produced by Quebecois folks and it shines through in their portrayal of the Americans encountered. It’s both a put down and a compliment (is that a French thing perhaps…). The Americans are all giant (tall and wide), hamburger guzzling idiots, however, they are also incredibly friendly at the same time (to the point of annoyance for the dear old lady).

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There’s also a bit of mystery here as the old lady tries to find her grandson after he dissapears during the Tour de France (of course because they are French they cycle). It does take a while to work out why he was kidnapped at all and that worked really well. Again, the non-talkiness meant that we weren’t told everything through horrible, horrible ‘everyone watching this is stupid’ exposition.

It’s short too so just watch it already.