One of my favourite things to do when I’m travelling or on holiday is to go to the cinema, which isnt terribly surprising given that films are my main bag. Yet many of my friends and peers (including cineastic ones) see this as a waste of time, ‘why go to the cinema when you’re on holiday, you can go any day of the week?’. Well fair enough, but from a 90 year old wooden theatre in Maine and a hidden French arthouse cinema in Hanoi to the gigantic fluorescent booming bonanzas in Bangkok, Istanbul or Tokyo, I like to get my flicks fix with a bit of local culture thrown in. It’s not just that all of these places are considerably cheaper than London, but that apart from the film itself (unless highly edited) – everything is different – from the snacks to the atmosphere in the audience. The chattery hubbub from the residents of Saigon through Guardians of the Galaxy was an interesting contrast to the silent respectful reservations of the Tokyo crowd during Edge of Tomorrow, even waiting to the end of the credits which is unusual even in the most sober of arthouse destinations. To me it’s as fascinating to observe the people at the pictures as it to immerse yourself in a local market or touristy temple.
Of course, sometimes I just want to watch a film and have a sit down, so whilst on a recent trip to the Big Apple, I managed to squeeze in two recent releases at the rather cool and modern Williamsburg Cinema. The tickets were a mere $12 and after walking around Brooklyn and Manhattan for miles upon miles, it was a tempting prospect to rest our sore feet and while away a few hours, chomping through a ludicrously large bag of popcorn (slopped in butter and salt, USA style).
“Squint at the grandeur!”
Our first sojourn to this little local was to see Hail, Caeser! the latest release from the Coen Brothers and something I really wanted to catch upon first release, especially as it was not yet out back in the UK. The Coens are in that small group of directors of which I will always, always see their newest work. Like most of my peers; film fans growing up on a diet of dudes and white russians, worshipping at the indie alter of Buscemi and Bridges, Goodman and Turturro, the Coen Brothers made the films that got us into films and then they just kept going. There’ve been a few duffs but on the whole they’re reliably good and usually great.
Hail, Caeser! is very good, but not great. It has all the usual Coen tropes; a shaggy dog tale, those old familiar faces from McDormand to Clooney, the slightly surreal scenes leading nowhere but always with intelligent dialogue and their offbeat unique humour. I love films about film making and the old nostalgia of Hollywood; from Sunset Boulevard and Singin’ in the Rain to Adaptation and The Player, and the set pieces here evoking Hollywood’s golden era are hugely entertaining and beautifully crafted. All the cast are excellent, but Ralph Fiennes is particularly hilarious and brings to mind his performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is actually a better and funnier film. There were other scenes in Hail, Caeser! that reminded me of Mr Wes Anderson and his visual flair, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it did make me think that this is definitely not their most original work. Yet after A Serious Man, True Grit and Inside Llewyn Davis maybe they just wanted to let off steam and play around a little.
Next up was Marvel’s Deadpool.
I don’t know why but I find myself drawn to the Marvel world. I’m not teenage boy or a comic book fan but I’ve always watched the latest comic book superhero releases from a time before the comic book genre was even a genre. When it was just a bit of Burton’s Batman or even Singer’s X-Men, I’ve always liked superhero films. I’m not into Spider-Man but I’ve seen them all, Superman is a dull old dude and I didn’t really enjoy Man of Steel but I’ll head along to Dawn of Justice like everyone else.
But it is getting silly now though isn’t it? This sprawling Disney machine, spewing pretty turgid crap over us all? I can’t keep up wth the TV spin offs anymore and the greatness of Whedon’s Avengers fades further away with every other visual effectsy smashy bangy crashy mediocre release. I wanted Deadpool to be hilarious and anarchic. I wanted the violence and rudeness of the independent Kick-Ass and the fun charm of Marvel’s surprisingly excellent Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately Deadpool reeks of smug, unfunny pap. I genuinely don’t mind anything, however offensive it is, as long as it’s funny and this just isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. There are only so many in jokes one can take before the gags grow tiresome. I love it when films go meta or when there’s a smattering of fourth wall breaking, but it gets very old very quickly and it’s been done before, and better. Deadpool, dead poo, dead disappointment.
I still can’t wait for the Doctor Strange though…